Or perhaps the more accurate question I should ask is…
“Can I do it”?
2015… the year I turn 40 – the traditional time for a mid-life crisis. January 1st – the traditional time for making bold statements about how we are all suddenly going to be different people. Resolutions are the best sort of goal – ones that we set ourselves and that no-one really expects us to do.
“I SHALL forgo all takeout and only eat healthy foods!” we lie to our friends after midnight. “I SHALL finally stop watching reality TV and learn to paint!” we weep into our gin and tonics at 3am as the Proclaimer’s 500 miles comes onto the iTunes for the third time this night. “I WILL learn the guitar and stop looking at Facebook at work and scale Mount Everest and tidy my desk at the end of each day and so on and so on and…”. All these bold life-adjusting claims are easily made, and easily forgotten.
In the spirit of my mid-life crisis new year resolutions I have determined that I SHALL write at least 5,000 words every week this year.*
260,000 words in 2015
Two largish novels worth of words. The most productive blog in history of the internet (maybe?).
Who the hell are you kidding, this is a pipe dream…
Well, actually its not. In this article, by (surprise surprise) Chuck Wendig (the writing guru of the disaffected and disgruntled writer) outlines that he is writing about 3,000 words a day. That’s right – over one-million words a year.
Sure. Chuck pays this bills this way – you have a job KT. You write nights after the spawn have settled back in their pods for reenergising.
True enough yes, but realistically my target is only 1,000 words a day, with two nights off (Monday nights is PlayStations night with my mates, Thursday night is dinner at the in-laws). If I count every word I type against this goal – blog posts, flash fiction, short stories, novel – then I think I can achieve this. That said, I have an ace up my sleeve.
I firmly, solidly believe that …
Failure is an option
If I don’t get 5,000 words one week, the world will not stop spinning. If I don’t get 5,000 words in any week during the year, my kidneys will not fail, my wife will not divorce me, my children will not hunt me for sport and build a fort out of my skin. Failure on a weekly basis is an option, regularly falling short is likely, ‘shit’ will inevitably ‘happen’, and in happening will prevent me from typing.
Sure, I could set my goal to a smaller level – last year I did. I managed to meet that goal most of the time – of course I did, it was pathetically small. And the problem is that by setting a small goal, I only worked until I achieved it, then I relaxed. By setting a goal that is a real challenge, I hope to push myself – if I don’t make it (for whatever reason), it doesn’t matter.
The problem with most resolutions is that when a person fails once (to lose weight, to play the guitar like Clapton within a week, to write the great Australian novel in a single sitting) the person’s view shifts from enthusiasm about a goal to the pain and misery of failure. And we stop working towards the goal, on the basis of a single setback. As Homer Simpson once said:
Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.
This of course ignores the lessons that failure can give us. If I miss 5,000 words this week – why did I fail? Did I spend too much time editing while I wrote? Did I not plan enough? Did life get in the way? If so, is there something I could have changed during the year? The old cliché about getting back on the horse is true; a single set back or even consistently failing every single week shouldn’t discourage us. We should be grateful for the experience we have received, and head back to that ornery horse – or keyboard.
This year, I expect to fail, and expect to fail often. I also hope to learn from my failures.
And if I shoot for the moon and only get half way – that’s still 130,000 in a year – a decent novel.
So, did you set writing goals this year? Word count? A fixed number of hours? Pages, chapters, posts?