On one hand, I’m not sure there’s much purpose, at this point, in setting “goals” for the year. I frankly have no idea what to expect in terms of time, sleeping of the baby, and energy levels in the year to come. How can I set goals if I don’t even know what I’m going to have to work with? However, I think there’s value in looking forward to the year and trying to assess what can be accomplished and what I want to accomplish. So I’m going to follow the model I’ve set for myself the past couple years and look at my year ahead, and how that fits into my longer-term goals and dreams. The one caveat: this year, I’m going to focus here primarily on the first half of the year, after which time passes I’ll assess where I am again and plan going forward from there.
Thinking About Long-term Goals
My thinking about my long-term goals hasn’t changed much over the past year. Here’s what I had to say about my long-term goals last year:
I haven’t made much of a secret about it my long-term goals and dreams… it’s implicit in my blog’s tagline: “A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Fantasy Author”. By “aspiring fantasy author” I mean not that I aspire to write… but that I aspire for my writing to be published. …Now we live in a day and age when the definition of the word “published” is in flux.
On my blog I’ve been critical, and thought critically about, both the new Digital Self-publishing paradigm and the old traditional publishing model. I’ve pointed out some of the systemic problems with each, and how those problems negatively impact authors. So, for me, it seems I could go either way. There are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with either road.
But when I say my long-term goal is to be a published author, I’m really talking about traditional publishing.
I then went on to dig into some of the “whys” behind my preference for “traditional” publishing to “digital self-publishing”, but I won’t rehash those here. The reasons remain, largely, the same, though perhaps the size of my dreams has moderated somewhat in the year past. (I’m basically in my mid-thirties, now. Older and wiser. Getting “rich” off of writing no longer seems even remotely achievable, even as a stretch-dream.) But the overarching long-term goal I stated before, and the reasons for pursuing it that I give, remain the guiding star by which I’m plotting my medium-term journeys.
In the last two years, I’ve given my goals as it relates across 4 categories: how much I plan to read during the year, how frequently I intend to write, completion of manuscripts and submission of manuscripts. This year I’d like to add some new categories, while I’ll be dialing back somewhat on several of the prior four.
1) Read at least 400,000 words worth of fiction in the first half of 2014: In 2013, I was able to put over a million words worth of fiction reading under my belt. I’d like to think I could do that again. But I’m not quite ready to publicly lay down a goal that ambitious for this year, and given the total state of flux that V.R. has left our life in, I can’t even say whether it’s realistic or feasible to do it again. Instead, I’ll focus on the first half of the year. I want to try to do at least 400,000 words of fiction by July 1st, 2014. Depending on how I do on that goal, I’ll adjust my 2014 expectations accordingly at that time.
2) Find a consistent writing schedule that I can realistically achieve, and then maintain it: In the past two years I’ve set ambitious goals for myself in terms of the frequency of my writing – at least, they were ambitious to me. In both years I failed utterly to achieve those goals. Right now, I simply don’t have a clear idea of whether or not I even can keep a consistent writing schedule. So my goal for the first half of 2014 is to try and find one. This is at least partially contingent on V.R. finding his own consistent sleeping schedule. While 2013 was marked by a complete lack of consistency on his part with regard to sleep, 2014 is so far shaping up to look like it might be different. I’m not sure what happened on January 1st, but things have been normalizing quite a bit since then in V.R.’s sleep department, though we’re by no means out of the woods.
If I can make it to the mid-year point on this goal successfully, then I’ll be in a better position to gauge how much writing I can achieve, and how frequently I can write in the second half of the year. If not, it’ll be a continued search for a predictable and consistent schedule.
3) Contingent on the success of Goal #2, focus on completing a final draft of one short story: This goal is entirely contingent. If I can succeed in finding some sort of consistent writing schedule in 2014, then my first effort will be to complete a final draft of a short story, namely the same short I’d been working on previously (i.e. Story of V). Since last I put words down on Story of V, the world of that story has blossomed in my head, and it now constitutes an out-of-chronological-order “chapter” in a longer epic fantasy series of short stories. In my head, these stories are each independent stories with their own characters (with a few recurring characters) and their own beginnings, middles, and ends. But a thread runs through them that ties them together into a larger, hopefully coherent narrative. That’s the idea, anyway. But first… if I can, I want to finish this story.
4) Contingent on the success of Goal #3, submit completed story to a professional market or content: More contingency goals. If I can find time to write, and if I can thereafter finish a draft of this story, then and only then will I have something to submit. Basically: I’ll cross this bridge when and if I come to it.
5) Develop a plan to revitalize the blog: The first of my new goal categories concerns this very blog. Simply put, the site is dated and clunky. For a long time I’ve been wanting to update the blog to make it better and cleaner and update the visual appeal. The blog also lagged a lot in 2013 for posts and content. A lot of this was due to lack of time for blogging, this is largely true. But some of it was for lack of something to blog about. I believe that I need to take a broader view on what sorts of things are of value to discuss on this blog, and what I want to talk about.
This goal isn’t to complete the revitalization. It’s to set up a plan to do so. That plan will need to balance competing desires for maximum blog-beautifulosity and interestingification with minimum time input.
6) Find a consistent blogging schedule that I can realistically achieve, and then maintain it: Similar to Goal #2 in almost all respects except instead of relating to fiction, it relates to blogging. I’ve long wanted a consistent posting schedule; maybe in 2014 I can figure out what a realistic schedule might be.
7) Personal Life Renewal: You know something else that dropped off a lot in 2013? My personal life. As in the whole Husband and Father thing. I was so overtaken by being father I had to be (for little V.R.’s sake) that I hadn’t taken time to focus on being the father I want to be (for both V.R. and B.T.) Not to mention, you know, romancing Dear Wife. Of this I’ll say no more, except that I want to be very clear that these three people are my highest priority, and I want to acknowledge that here in my blog.
There. That should be enough to keep me very busy for the next six months. How do you plan to spend all that time?
As promised, I thought it would be fun to post up a review of my blogging for the year. Most of this is covered in WordPress’s automatically-generated annual Stats Report, which you can see below.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
No surprises here, but 2013 continued the annual trend of declining page views here, from a high of around 16,000 in 2011 down to 14,000 in 2012 and 10,000 in 2013. There seems to be a strong correlation with the number of posts I’ve written – from 189 in 2011 to 122 in 2012 and down to only 30 in 2013.
Yeah… 30 posts. That’s all I managed to find time for in 2013. That’s rather less than once-a-week. This goes back to the theme that prevailed in the rest of my writing throughout this year that I discussed in my last post. The realities of Fatherhood 2.0 (which is clearly still in beta) leave me without sufficient time to adequately maintain this blog.
It logically follows, then, that my most popular posts on this blog in 2013 were all written in prior years – mostly 2011 and 2012. Basically, I wrote nothing of any consequence or depth in 2013.
Incidentally… does anyone out there run a WordPress.com blog but use some other mechanism to track their blog stats? There’s nothing wrong that I could definitively see in WordPress’s stats, but I don’t have any way of accessing and performing my own data manipulations to get at anything that interests me in particular… I’d love to be able to do that. Also, after a certain amount of time, old data becomes inaccessible to me. If there’s some other way to look at the data and/or to store that information long-term, I’d love to take it for a whirl. Sound off in comments if you’ve got a way of working around WordPress.com’s stats limitations.
When time allows… I’ll start looking at my prognosis for 2014 in my next annual Goals, Plans, and Dreams post…
The fact that I didn’t find the time to post my goals for 2013 until February should have been a clue, early in the year, that this was not a promising year for achieving such goals.
Those goals, in brief, numbered 4: first, read at least 750,000 words of fiction, second, write at least 1,750 words of fiction per week (with a few caveats), third, complete the first drafts for at least two short stories and, third, to submit one completed draft in to a publishing market.
Perhaps one out of four ain’t bad, considering the year it’s been at the Casa Chez Watkins. The short rundown of whether I met my goals: Yes, No, No, and No.
Yes, I read over 750,000 words of fiction. In fact, I read over one million words this year. The things I have read in 2013: A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, The Hundred Thousdand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and most of the first four books of the “Fablehaven” series by Brandon Mull, those being Fablehaven, Rise of the Evening Star, Grip of the Shadow Plague, and about 70% of Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary. Every book I’ve touched in 2013 has been a pleasure to read, and each enjoys my hearty recommendation. Plus, I joined Goodreads in 2013 (feel free to friend me) in spite of my reservations on their being purchased by Amazon.
No, I did not write 1,750 words per week in 2013. Not even close. In truth, out of 52 weeks in the year, I actually wrote more than 0 words of fiction in only 5 of them. Of those five weeks, only one week came even close to my stated goal. Four of those five writing days occurred in the first quarter of the year. This will prove to be a relevant detail. My total wordcount for the year: roughly in the neighborhood of 4,600 words total.
Consequent to the last, no, I did not complete any short stories and no I submitted nothing to any publishing markets for consideration.
So what did I do in 2013 besides read and nothing? Allow me to reflect on the themes that the year presented to me.
Yes it really is that simple. No I don’t mean “Virtual Reality”. I mean my second little tyke.
Fatherhood, of course, was it’s own challenging transition. When I first started this blog lo these many 4 years ago, I already knew that Fatherhood was an imminent facet of my future. The blog was, at the time, an outlet for the internal pressures inside me striving to find release in the medium of creative writing at a time when life was already fairly busy.
I had thought, when we began to prepare for our second child, that being the father of two wouldn’t be substantially more demanding of me than being a father of one. More demanding, yes, but not lots more.
I was… mistaken.
Since the advent of our second precious little one early in 2013, I can now count on one hand, to some approximation, the number of nights in which I have had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. (Remember how I said that the fact that most of the writing I’d done this year was in the first quarter was a relevant detail? This is how it is relevant.) I find myself chronically sleep-deprived and both emotionally and intellectually drained. What wherewithal I have has been devoted to trying to be a good husband and parent and to doing my best to have an outstanding year in my dayjob. Being mostly – but not always entirely – successful in these endeavors has come at the cost of virtually no writing progress whatsoever in any of the several writing projects I am theoretically juggling. (“Theoretically” because in practical reality those balls have been lying gathering dust this year, and hardly a one has been picked up or dusted off this year.)
So why, in all this, was I able to do so well in reading? Two reasons, I think: first, while reading is an intellectually engaging activity, it is markedly less cognitively demanding than writing and composition. Second, relating to my writing head-space and proclivities and how that contrasts with reading: I can read in very short bursts (though I prefer not to be forced into shorter bursts) of as little as a page or two or a few minutes at a time. Any progress made during that time is still progress toward any quantifiable reading goal. For writing, it’s not so simple for me. You’ll find lots of advice out there suggesting that one should make use of every available free minute to write, be they five minutes here or ten there. Except I can’t actually do that, or at least I’ve not yet found it in myself to do so. I need enough free time and space, chunked together, to allow me to get into the story I’m producing, to delve into the characters and to feel the beats and rhythms of the plot. If I have only five minutes in which to do this, any words I write, however few in number they may be, are more likely than not going to need to be deleted later, in which case the writing becomes a game of one step forward and at least as many steps back. Not a terribly successful formula for progress. All this while simultaneously draining still more from my already meager and dwindling cognitive reserves. (A sad milestone for me this year: I believe 2013 is perhaps the first year I know of in which I felt stupider at the end than I did going in.)
Writing didn’t happen. Reading did happen. And something else happened in 2013. I did lots of fathery-type stuff. For all that my mental resources felt drained, I still have a lovely and happy family, and I’m reasonable certain that all the members of that family – both little boys as well as wife and, yes, probably even the dog – are happy to have me as part of their lives. Little V.R. may not sleep with anything remotely resembling consistency at night, but when he’s awake at the same time as the sun is up, he’s a genuinely joyful and adventuresome soul with a keen passion for the zest in life. And let’s not forget B.T., who continues to grow and develop in delightful ways, proving at every turn that he’s gifted with a bright and inquisitive mind, a sensitive and loving heart, and a strong desire to make sense of the world around him. Between the two, my own heart is so full of proud daddy emotions that the organ has undoubtedly had to increase in size somewhat dramatically in order to encompass it all.
I’m sad that I’ve had a poor year with respect to my writing – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But I think it is equally true that the joy B.T. and V.R. have brought me in return this year has been fairly just compensation of another kind.
I’ll update with a review of my year in blogging at a later date, but here’s a sneak preview: The life-altering consequences of adding a second child to our home was felt not only in the realm of fiction writing.
So that’s the year looking back, for me. How was your 2013?
V.R. falls pretty close to this category of infanthood… and hey, the things this other baby wants are pretty much mostly exactly the same things V.R. wants… Thanks to the Ugly Volvo for posting this…
Originally posted on The Ugly Volvo:
I am a ten-month-old baby and I write because my mother has been sending out my “Christmas List” to people, and her list does not in any way represent the things I really want. I could give two s#*ts about receiving stacking cups.
And I know you’re ready to make the joke about ten month-old babies and how all we want is the wrapping paper and the boxes. Touché, Santa. Touché. We do, of course, want those things. But I have a number of additional things I want very badly.
My list is enclosed below. Have a lovely holiday.
-Ten Month-Old Baby
* * *
A Comprehensive List of The Things I Want For Christmas:
* * *
1.) This Laptop Cord
I want this laptop cord more than I have ever wanted…
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It’s that time of year again. We’re 12 days into the month of November, and authors and would-be writers all around the world are cracking their knuckles and flexing their story-muscles.
So far, I’m on track this year for a perfect NoNoWriMo. That’s right: I’ve written 0 words of fiction so far this month, and if I keep up this pace of 0 words a day, I’ll be able to crack that 0 word total by the end of the month.
I’m being facetious, of course. Can you tell? In reality, if you were taking part in NaNoWriMo, you should find yourself somewhere around the 20,000 wordcount mark today.
Hey, I’ll level with you: if I had the opportunity to participate in NaNo, I would. Heck, if I could find the time to put down five thousand words, much less fifty thousand, I’d take it. I don’t really take pride in the fact that I’m not doing NaNo and that I’m not writing. I take no pleasure in the fact that it has been 3 months since I’ve written a word of fiction (compounded with another 5 months of no writing before that solitary instance of activity).
But a blog where I complain about how little I’m writing is no fun to write, and an absolute killjoy to read. So I make light, when I can. Just one of the ways I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward without losing hope that, yes, one day I will be a writer. I don’t even mean necessarily a published professional writer, though I hope one day to be that too, but a writer as in someone who writes. Right now? I can’t really claim even that designation.
But you know what designation I can claim? A dad. And not a half-bad one at that. Not always a good one, sure, but more good than bad. And I’m a husband. Maybe a middling one, but at least I make the effort. And I’m a an employee. I like to think I’m an asset to my company and that I bring a lot to the table. Right now, this trifecta takes the overwhelming majority of my time. Most of the remainder (not counting sleep, of course) goes to a fourth thing which I am: a responsible homeowner. The long-running projects Dear Wife and I have been engaged in are currently languishing for lack of energy to complete them, but I’m well on my way down another, more time-sensitive home owner’s project that’s eating a lot of time: reclaiming my yard from the unruly wild. (Okay, so, currently the moles are sort of winning. But new grass is one its way, and I’m still looking for new options on how to deal with the subterranean varmints.)
That’s the forecast for November 2013. But tell me, how’s your month going?
If I had enough free-time to write something – a blog post, something in my novel WIP, short story revisions, B.T.’s story, really anything - in all honesty, I’d probably spend it sleeping instead.
Incidentally, and I’m sure not at all related: you’ve heard, dear reader of the “terrible twos”? In my experience, the twos weren’t so terrible. The threes on the other hand… a different story. There’s all sorts of boundary-pushing and limit-testing and identity-asserting with an extra dose of want vs. need confusion. All very normal, I’m lead to believe, but no less difficult to pass through for it.
To misquote the Bard:
To Sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub.
For in that sleep of peaceful actual being asleepness and nobody waking you up in the middle of the night, what dreams may come…
No I’m not dead, though it’s been over a month since I updated the blog. But I wish I was sleeping right now. And according to good ol’ Bill that’s kind of like being dead.