Hi, I'm Sarah Raplee, author of surprising romances that cross genres into suspense, paranormal, fantasy and steampunk.
Last year I wasted a lot of time and effort setting yearly, monthly, and weekly writing goals. I read lots of articles on goal-setting, most of which repeated the same basic, sensible advice:
- Set realistic-but-not-easy goals
- Begin with your Big Goal and then break it down into sub-goals and sub-sub-goals so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
- Track your progress and make adjustments where needed.
Why sensible? Because it seems to make sense, right?
Then why is my success rate so appalling? Why didn’t I achieve more of those detailed, reasonably-difficult goals? They’re intuitive and sensible, right?
For me, not so much.
It’s a mistake to assume that, like a magic bullet or a secret handshake, one method of achieving goals works well for everyone: extroverts and introverts, plotters and pantsers, visual learners and auditory learners and kinesthetic learners, lefties and righties and OMG what about the ambidextrous?
There are a number of reasons the above method doesn’t work for me. I’m an analytical thinker, a left-brainer. Give me something to analyze (say, a Big Goal) and I’ll spend days breaking it down into miniscule chunks of future achievement. Analyzing gives me the illusion of control and an excuse to procrastinate rather than Do the Work.
Never forget that writing is the most dangerous profession. Words are important and risky and scary.
Doing the work requires me to anesthetize my analytical left brain and turn loose the creative right side of my noggin. Who knows how much of what that produces will be embarrassing, imperfect twaddle?
Twaddle that I’ll need to submit to my critique partners, and ultimately to agents, editors, and Susie next door. That’s a looming landslide of potential criticism, rejection or ridicule. Of course it scares me!
You’ve probably guessed by now that one of my many faults is a tendency toward self-criticism. Having lots of goals to potentially fail to achieve feeds into this negative aspect of my personality. And giving me free reign to reassess and make adjustments to the goals I spent days setting is like plugging my brain into an eternal procrastination feedback loop. It’s a prescription for failure.
This year, I’m trying a couple of new methods to help me progress toward my Big Goal. Both have shown documented results for many people.
One is Intention. Each morning, I focus for a few minutes on my intention to accomplish a small step in support of my current Big Writing Goal.
I’m also reading Robert Maurer’s life-changing (according to customer reviews) book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way.
From the blurb: “Introducing the practical and inspirational guide to incorporating Kaizen and its powerful principles into one's daily life. Rooted in the two thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching--"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"--Kaizen is the art of making great and lasting change through small, steady increments…”
My Big Goal this year is to write and publish Book 2 of the Psychic Agents Series.
My Kaizen Goal is to write new words each week. Fingers crossed achieving this small goal will lead to achieving my Big Goal.
Am I the only writer who slows down when tasked with setting goals?
Has anyone else tried the Kaizen approach to productivity? ~Sarah
*** This is an updated version of a post I first published Jan. 13, 2011, on the now-defunct MWVRWA Blog.