Goal Setting for a Chaotic (Yet Hopeful) New Year

a road twists through rolling fields
(Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash.)

As a lover of lists and goal setting, I’m generally excited at the shift into a new year as a new opportunity to consider the road ahead an make some plans. Over the past several years, however, how I approach the process of setting goals has been evolving — and with this new year dragging forward a continued sense of uncertainty, I’m considering things from a new angle.

Over the years, I’ve continued to reassess how approach my goals for each new year — shifting from massive detailed lists with every tiny little thing to more shorter more refined goals, and eventually to reaching a sense trepidation about goal making, as in last year. (Although, in the end, the uncertainty I felt then turned out to be well matched to the overall hellscape that was 2020.)

I find value in looking back on the past year (and what I managed to achieve) and then considering the road ahead and planning out the journey I’m going to take. However, at this point I’m not sure that setting specific goals for an entire year is a useful approach for me — especially considering the fact that 2021 is already presenting its own challenges. It’s hard to know how to plan for December, when I don’t even know what February will bring.

If I unfold the map and lay it out in front of me, I know the destination I have in mind (published novels, poetry books, etc.). Sometimes it all just seems so far — unreachable. It can be disheartening.

Setting up points of interest and rest stops along the way can be vital. Which is why, for 2021, I’m focusing more on the stretch road immediately ahead of me, assembling goals that I can accomplish within a month, week, or even day — while keeping the ultimate destination in mind.

For example, for the month of January, one of my goals is to finish adapting one of my short stories into an interactive fiction game (a project I start in December), with a secondary goal of writing one new chapter in my novel. These are attainable goals in bite size pieces, and finishing them will provide me will move me forward on the next stretch of my route.

When the next month rolls around, I’ll assess the landscape, adjust my plans, set some new goals.

My hope and my plan is that by focusing on smaller, short term goals, I’ll be able to put energy into what I’m passionate about, enjoy the journey more, and be able to adapt to any roadblocks or detours that come my way during the course of the year.

Where are you aiming your focus in the new year? What roads (metaphorical or real) are you hoping to travel?

(Photo by Jesse Bowser on Unsplash.)


Good Reads

An Xiao Mina shares insights and a meditation for times of heartbreak: “Why do our hearts break? This past year, I’ve had many conversations with heartbroken friends, and the best reason I can come up with this: that the story we held for ourselves, the life we thought we had, has fallen apart.”

Erin at A Poem Miasma writes about the generosity of endings: “A burning could be a celebration, an exorcism, or a clearing of space. Of course I am also, often & always, thinking about trees. How the scrub burns so the tall hardwoods can thrive in the sun.”

The Annual Experiment of Renewal: Thinking About My Goals for 2020

Photo by Christian Joudrey on Unsplash.

I’m an optimistic soul. I tend to be flooded with ambition at the beginning of each new year. THIS will be the one, I tell myself. This is will be the year when I will do better, be better, accomplish all the things. In past years, I’ve set clear goals — sometimes massive lists of things I’d like to achieve, sometimes a single goal (as with last year).

There is value in taking stock of where you’ve been and envisioning a path for where you want to be. The way forward is sometimes confusing, and it helps to come up with a roadmap.

Figuring out how to shape that map is a form of experimentation in and of itself — setting up resolutions, goals, or habits, and testing them out to see what works. Maybe it’s a single word to embody the year. Maybe it’s a specific habit you want to create. Maybe it’s a new area of learning or craft you want to pursue. Maybe it’s a list of specific things you want to get done.

Coming into 2020, I’m feeling a little more tentative about my goal setting. The single goal that I set for last year locked me into path that caused more confusion and frustration than pleasure. I learned a lot from that experience, though it left me a little tender.

I could list off any number of writing projects and personal objectives that I would like achieve in this year — but after carefully meditating on the year to come, a single phrase comes to mind: Follow Your Passion.

For me, this means working on the projects that feel alive and inspiring for me,

Maybe that’s why I’m feeling more tentative in my goal setting for this year. I’m still a little raw from the fallout of last year, even though it all ended well.

In thinking about what I wanted to achieve this year, I could list off a number of projects and things that I would like to do and achieve — but what really comes to mind when I think about the new year is a single phrase: Follow Your Passion

What this means for me is bringing focus to the projects and work that I’m excited about, rather than just out of obligation. Finding space to connect with the things that move and inspire me, such as reading poetry, visiting rivers or the ocean, connecting with other humans.

My path toward following my passion has started by trying to establish some morning routines, essentially a groundwork the will provide a foundation for the passions I want to pursue. I get up at the alarm, stretch, do a short meditation, write a quick morning poem, pull a tarot card — all simple actions, even one or two of which help to center and prepare me for the day ahead and the tasks I’m need to get done.

How are you approaching the new year? Have you set resolutions or goals? What is your focus?


Announcements

My short story “How Bluebeard Ends,” which was published by Corvid Queen, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I’m so honored to have my work acknowledged in this way, especially for a story that was rejected numerous times before finding a home.


Book of the Month

When the Tox — a disease that turns the body strange — strikes the Raxter School for Girls, the site becomes quarantined, the girls who remain alive struggling to survive with a lack of food and resources. Outside the fence, the forest is infected and twisted as the girl’s bodies have become, full of things that hunger in the shadows.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a stunning body horror story, offset by a claustrophobic sense of isolation. Trapped and hungry and virtually alone (with most of the adults dead), the girls of this school are fierce, strong, and passionate, banding together into tight-knit groups of friendship and love. With little hope of outside rescue and the threat of impending death hovering over each new dawn, Hetty and her friends Byatt and Reese fight to determine their own fates. A thrilling read.

Check out the rest of my Culture Consumption for the month of December, with all the books, movies, TV, games, and podcasts that I’ve enjoyed.


More Good Stuff

Every Noise at Once

“The world can be monstrous for women. Those of us who write horror invent monsters to fight and defeat because we’re often powerless against the real ones. In doing so, we change the expected shape of the genre, making it bigger. Making it better,” writes Damien Angelica Walters in How Women Authors Are Reshaping the Horror Genre

Lisa Marie Basile discusses her forthcoming book, The Magical Writing Grimoire, which I can’t wait to purchase and read.

33 Photos Of Weird & Rare Flowers That Look Like Something From A Fairytale

Finish THE NOVEL: My Writing Goal for 2019

Writing Goals 2019

As arbitrary as the start of a new year is, I enjoy goal setting and, really, I just love making lists. So, I’ve done many kinds of resolution and goal setting over the years — I’ve kept it (fairly) simple, and I’ve made massive lists of ALL the things. Each of these has met with mixed results, although I’ve found in general that a simple set of concrete goals usually works best.

This year, my goal making boils down to one thing:

Finish THE NOVEL

In some scope or another, THE NOVEL is always present in my mind. It haunts me that I have never even completed a full draft that can be properly shared. So, it was quite a shock a few months ago when I realized that the brief break I took in working on THE NOVEL had turned into almost five years.

I kept telling myself that I would get to it — I need to finish this thing here, so I can get back to THE NOVEL. I’ll start work on THE NOVEL next month. No, the next after that.  — and then time passes, because that’s what time does. In some form or another, I’ve been putting Finish THE NOVEL on my annual goals for the past five or six years.

I’m tired of this pattern. So, this year, I have one goal — Finish THE NOVEL. That’s it.

I’ve set out a plan for doing the work and have even switched around my day job schedule a a bit to provide more dedicated time to writing. It means that I’ll probably have to say no to some of the kinds of collaborative work I’ve been doing in the past year.

BLOG BADGE 2019 Poetry Blogging NetworkIt also means that some of my shorter projects will be back-burnered.  Even though there are other things I’d like to get done in 2019 — Finish any or all of the short stories and poetry projects I have “in progress,” Blog at least once per week at part of the Poetry Blogging Network, Attend a reading or open mic at least once a month, Return to a regular running routine, etc. — all of these things by necessity will need to be secondary to may main task for the year — working on THE NOVEL.

This is an achievable goal. All it requires is the focus and effort to make it happen.

The Year of Finishing THE NOVEL is officially underway.

What are your goals for 2019?

A Footnote on Bullet Journaling: Last year I tried out Bullet Journaling as a means to help me stay organized and focused. I always meant to provide a follow up on how that went, but never got around to it. I dove fully into it at the start of the year and found it extremely helpful toward my productivity. It let me calendars and lists that suited me (I may have mentioned that I love lists). 

However, about mid year, the benefits of the Bullet Journal (creating your own calendar) became the struggle. Around that time, I started to feel too overwhelmed with keeping up with the weekly or even monthly layouts, so I slowly stopped doing them at all. 

So, I would say that I found Bullet Journaling to be a bit of a mixed bag. It was useful when I had the focus to use it, less useful when I was too overwhelmed to keep it going.

That said, I’m putting starting off the year with a Bullet Journal again — this time will an even simpler design. Hopefully that will help me keep the journal going, and in turn, help provide me with the focused tasks to meet my goal of finishing THE NOVEL.


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Goals for 2018

new year meme

During the month of December, I had a vast number of projects and deadlines going at once. What kept me from collapsing into a quivering mess from being so overwhelmed was taking out my physical notebook and writing down every necessary item that needed to be completed that month. That list, which I was able to return to daily, helped me focus my attention in order to actually get things done — not to mention the absolute pleasure of scratching a line through an item once it was accomplished.

This experience has prompted me to try out a Bullet Journal, essentially a system of tracking and planning one’s daily life in a way that’s entirely adaptable to one’s specific needs. There are hundreds of tutorials and inspiration posts about bullet journaling throughout the internet, all with their own unique way of approaching the system. If you bullet journal, I would love to know about your process too.

I’m not starting fresh with a shiny new book the way most people do. First, because I hate leaving a notebook only partially filled (it makes me twitch). Second, because this is kind of an experiment and I want to see how effective it will be for me.

Essentially, I’m hoping it will help me with the tracking of my goals throughout the year, as well as with breaking down the bigger goals into bit sized bits for progress on a day to day basis. So far it’s going well, which brings me to:

My Goals for 2018

1. Clear My Schedule Enough to Be Able to Focus on THE NOVEL – I would love to be able to put “Finish the Novel” on here, but I know down in the depths of my wailing heart that would not be practical. I can’t seem to focus on the novel, while I have a number of projects going that need my attention right now. The plan is to clear the handful of things that are most important to me, with the aim of launching into novel revisions by July 1st.  These things include:

  • A Kickstarter project to create a chapbook of erasure poetry that I’m launching this month.
  • Finish story/chap based on the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale
  • Write all of the episodes of a webseries that I’m working on with some filmmaking buddies (probably most important on this list since it involves obligations and deadlines and other good things like that)
  • Finish and submit various poem and story things (though some of these could be put on hold once the noveling recommences)
  • Prepwork for the novel (a bit of research, outlining, and so on that will be helpful when I get to the editing)

The trick is going to be not piling on more projects in the meantime, which is going to take some self control.

2. Return to THE NOVEL – Assuming all goes well, I’ll spend the second half of the year focusing on the novel. Just doing that — digging into the work and making progress — would be amazing.

3. Run a Half Marathon – This has definitely been on my list for a couple of years, and I refuse to give it up. I’ve run 10K races before, so running a half marathon should be doable. The key is sticking to a running schedule (4 times per week) that allows me to accomplish training goals.

4. Blog At Least Once a Week – Donna Vorreyer and Kelli Russell Agodon have started up a blogging challenge for poets for the year, in which every participating poet agrees to post something about poetry (craft posts, reviews, interviews, etc.) at least once a week. Since I’m always trying to make sure this blog stays active, I jumped on board. If you want to keep up with my posts without having to think about it, you can subscribe in the sidebar. The list of participating poets is here. 

5. Other Goals:

  • Attend an open mic or author reading at least once a month
  • Obtain 100 Rejections – in other words, send out oodles of submissions
  • Sketch, poem, and/or journal daily
  • Bring journal everywhere (because it doesn’t help me if it’s sitting on the couch)
  • Meditate every night (10 minute min.)
  • No hitting the snooze button (which is how I get more time in the day to accomplish all the things here)

I have a tendency to want to go very detailed on my goals for the year, and this seems like plenty… and fairly achievable.

What goals or resolutions have you set for yourself? What are you hoping to achieve this year?

The 15 Minute Rule: Goals for 2017

GIVE ME JUST

This is the second year in a row that I’ve been hesitant to set forth concrete goals for the year, paranoid perhaps that if I set down anything specific I won’t complete them (a strange paranoia, since I’ve been known to accomplish at least a goal or two in the past). This feeling is mixed up with the general sense of feeling overwhelmed by life, the universe, and everything, not to mention my writing. But I think I’ve settled on an idea that works for me (at the present moment, at least).

Writing Goal: The 15 Minute Rule

In my writing lately, I feel like I’m being pulled in a hundred different directions — with numerous poems and short stories and even a novel all halfway drafted or needing a rewrites. The pileup of things to finish (not including all the ideas that haven’t even been started yet) is so tall that I’m not even sure where to begin.

It reminds me of having to clean a cluttered room — clothing piled on top of papers piled on top of other random things, covering every surface and the floor, the things you need on a daily basis lost underneath the junk. When decluttering a room, I’ve sometimes used a technique recommended to me by a friend. Pick a small section and spend just 15 minutes clearing that out. The next day, pick another section. And the day after that. Until the room is clear.

This year, instead of trying to set specific goals, I’m going to try to apply the 15 Minute Rule to my writing — 15 minutes everyday working towards finishing or editing a draft, sending something out on submission, or drafting something new. Or a total of 1.75 hours for the week.

Rather than trying to nail down the goal of finishing a specific story (or the novel glaring at me from the corner of the room), the 15 Minute Rule will allow me to refocus as needed without feeling guilty about working on something other than what I initially planned.

So far, I’ve been fairly consistent about getting work done, with some editing accomplished and some submissions sent out. As a result, I’ve already received my first rejection. Yay?

Other Goal Stuff

I’ve set myself a goal of reading 70 books for the year, a bit more than the 57 books I finished last year. At some point, I’d like to get back to reading an average of 90 books, like I used to, but keeping myself above 50 still feels acceptable.

My one other concrete goal is to complete a half marathon (finally). I’ve signed up for a gym near my work, so that I can get some runs done in the morning before work. My sisters and I are registered for the She is Beautiful 10K in March, which is a good starting point. If I can keep up the training, getting to a half marathon will be entirely doable.


Do you have goals for the new year? Share them in the comments.