2006-01-16

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH 2006

Finally back at work after a long holiday / travel hiatus. In the interim, I’ve bought a fabulous wonderful amazing new horse; packed up my childhood bedroom in preparation of pending sale of my childhood home; turned 30; and traveled all over Kenya and Tanzania for 5 weeks with Husband. All in all, not a bad way to ring out 2005.

But it’s now firmly 2006, and time to consider what I’d like the New Year to bring.

First step for setting this year’s goals is a look back at last year’s successes and failures on the same front. So, a quick re-cap of 2005:

Complete shitty start-to-finish draft of novel.

Reality check: Didn’t finish the draft. Did, however, write more than 200 pages of a draft I expect to run somewhere in the 350-400 page range. So that mitigates the disappointment of not finishing somewhat. Another consolation: I made it that far without once looking behind me and/or starting over, so that’s a big step, too.

Complete collection of stories.

Reality check: Didn’t finish the collection. Did, however, complete and submit one story from the collection, and complete a first draft of a second. Plus I brainstormed all the other stories for the collection, and have a working contents list.

Publish in three places.

Reality check: that didn’t happen at all. Which is not to say I didn’t make an effort—“Dirty Darlene” went out to forty-five venues over the course of the year. Still awaiting word from more than twenty of those publications, but my hopes for “Darlene” finding a home are not that high. It’s a pretty dark story. That said, the more high-profile magazines among my submittal list showed the most interest in “Darlene”—I had lovely personal notes about it from Agni¸ Zoetrope, and Esquire—so that’s something. Anyway, the lesson actually learned in this category is that I need more product if I want to publish, plain and simple.*

*That said, I did attempt to produce more than these goals make clear. Over the course of the year, in addition to my other work, I also wrote several drafts of a travel essay that it now seems clear is meant to be the germ of a short story, plus a novella-length story about a young acrobat struggling to fly free of her domineering dad.

Conclusions from 2005.

The failing on all counts is none of my projects progressed as quickly as I’d hoped. Mostly that’s because I let life sidetrack me over and over again at the cost of my work. At the end of the year, I had lots of good work in pieces, but no product.

Which is why I’ve decided 2006 is The Year Of Putting It All Together.

Putting the novel together.

I’ll complete that shitty first-draft.
Then I’ll complete the second draft.
Then I’ll hand out that second draft to friends and colleagues for critique.

Putting the collection together.

I’ll complete the collection, story by story.
And I’ll submit each finished story for publication.

Putting the miscellaneous pieces together.

I’ll finish the acrobat story.
I’ll finish the honeymoon story.
And I’ll submit both pieces for publication.


Obviously, to do all this, I need better work practices and strategies this year. As usual, I’ve gone looking for them in the GTD / Productivity websphere, and found a pretty cool framework I’ve decided to adapt for myself this year: David Seah’s Printable CEO.

What I like about the Printable CEO is that it’s big-picture organic to Seah’s larger career GOALS—the list of activities he deemed “Worth Doing” are all STRATEGIES that contribute to reaching his ultimate career goal. Even better, he took this list of things “Worth Doing” and assigned point values to each thing, so he could track the energy expended towards his goal—each day, he has to earn a set number of points pursuing things “Worth Doing.” And it gets even cooler than that! He’s even created a TACTICS tool, the Task Project Tracker, which breaks down those things “Worth Doing” another level. Now I can track my work by PROJECT and by WORTHY ACTIVITY! I told you this was cool.

So I got right to work brainstorming on his system. Here’s what I came up with:

MY LARGER GOAL

To answer the questions “What do you write? Have you written anything I’ve heard of?” with a confident, “Well, I’ve published here, and here, and here.”

HOW TO GET THERE

In order to publish my work, I have to write it. That means a lot of time alone at my desk. It also means a good deal of time face-to-face with friends and colleagues who can help me perfect my work. (Offering critique is also helpful in terms of honing my own work, and even better if I’m paid for it!) Ultimately, it means making sales by submitting to appropriate venues, which, of course, are made infinitely more “appropriate” by making myself known to them by previous, positively received work or social connections.

THUS, WHAT’S WORTH DOING?

[10] Words-on-the-page work
[10] Pen-in-hand editing

[5] Pen-in-hand brainstorming
[5] Submitting work for critique
[5] Submitting work for sale
[5] Reading / editing for money
[5] Posting to my blog

[2] Doing my morning pages
[2] Taking an artist’s date
[2] Reading / editing for friends
[2] Furthering social / business development

[1] Reading lit mags to find homes for my work
[1] Other market research to find homes for my work
[1] Maintaining old or making new relationships

So, as of today, I’m setting myself a minimum of 15 points daily, Monday through Friday. Any week I earn less than 75 points, I have to make up the points on the weekend. Any week I earn more, I get some sort of prize.

1 comment:

wgl said...

Glad to see you are home and blogging. Your point system is fascinating. I will be interested in how it works for you. Frankly and laughingly if all your 2006 plans come to pass you won't have time for any of this because LIFE will interfere. Life interferance is very cool. I've been there and done that and doing it right and write now in fact. lol