2020 Writing Goals: Finding My Enough
It’s been a year since I returned from my writing retreat in the mountains where I finished a draft of my fifth novel, Tangled Up in You. As with any first draft, I give myself a break for a few weeks before tackling revisions. During my “down time” (and I say that in quotes because I still haven’t mastered the art of relaxation), I work on things I’ve put on the back burner. Last year, it was redesigning my website and launching this blog.
A year has come and gone and, thankfully, I have a lot to show for it. Not only did I land a literary agent and attend my first writing conference, but I also finished writing three manuscripts and published my first novel! I’m so proud of all I’ve accomplished. It’s been the most productive writing year I’ve had to date. It almost made up for my three-year creative slump while living in Boston. Almost.
But as I reflect on all of this progress, I realized something that’s kind of a downer. In the pursuit of hitting my ambitious goals, I didn’t stop to appreciate what I had actually accomplished.
It compelled me to write this blog because I know I’m not the only writer in the world who has felt this way. Nor am I the only writer in the world who has run herself ragged. The world moves fast. There are so many things to learn, so much advice to consider, so many other authors’ successes we strive for ourselves, and so many readers we need to connect with. I was sprinting before I could walk. I was trying to catch up to an ideal, and that meant I wasn’t taking time to appreciate the journey.
You would think I’d be ecstatic that I had completed three stories and published one within a 12-month span, especially since there’s a stat floating around saying 97% of written stories are never finished (not sure how true that is, but it’s interesting if it is). Of course, I was happy to hold a physical copy of my first book in my hands. And, of course, I was happy to build my skills so I could write a first draft in less than three months. Yet, the happiness was quickly replaced with the thoughts of what I had to tackle next on my to-do list and, soon, I was moving onto the next project without appreciating what I had achieved in the present.
I’m a person prone to burnout. I know it. I recognize it. And I’m working on it. A few months ago, I wrote a book review for Dear Writer, You Need to Quit and it’s something that has been top of mind but not practiced.
That is, until I decided to quit my traditional job to start my own business. To prepare, I spent the end of 2019 still working full time and using my free time to juggle writing goals and getting my new business off the ground. If you would have looked at my Trello board, you’d have probably fainted. After a couple months, I felt my brain turn to mush and the pressure of getting ALL THE THINGS done started working against me until it paralyzed me. Too many conflicting priorities meant I couldn’t figure out what to do next.
Thus, the inevitable burnout. Even hitting that point, I still pushed through.
It wasn’t until November, when I was multitasking walking my dog and listening to a Goal Digger podcast, that I learned about the “your enough” concept. In the podcast, Jenna talked about how the "hustler life" works against a lot of us. When we only focus on our ambitious goals, we don’t leave room to breathe. Instead, she suggests writing another list that identifies what your enough is. Even if you don’t hit all your goals, what would you be content with?
So, what does that look like for me?
Writing less: sounds kinda ridiculous as an author, right? However, not if writing too much is compromising the quality. This past year, I learned I could realistically write 3-4 novel-length stories on top of working. Rather than kill myself with that pressure, especially since I’m transitioning work, my goal is three but my enough is two.
Not giving into rapid release: yes, rapid release has a ton of benefits, like boosting sales and readership. I technically have enough books in my backlog I could queue up for rapid release. However, there’s a lot that goes into it than just hitting the publish button. It’s a big undertaking to hire editors and designers, edit the books (usually several times), approve changes, format, market, and so on. Not to mention the cost to do all of that. Therefore, my goal is to self-publish two books, but I’d be content with one. (And if I get a traditional publishing offer through my agent, even better!)
Being thoughtful about social media: it’s easy to get sucked into the idea of being wherever the potential readers are, but every platform is different. If you’re trying to be everywhere, you’ll either spread yourself too thin and won’t make an impact or you’ll take away precious time for writing (or self-care). For me, I love Instagram, so I’ll likely focus more on that. But I also know Pinterest is great for driving traffic, so I’ll probably work on building that out. Sorry, Twitter. I’m just not that into you. (Side note: check out Digital Minimalism if a digital detox sounds good to you.)
Focusing on the right skills: as much as I like to make pretty pictures for Instagram and learn about design, it’s not a skill I should put all my attention on. That’s why I hire designers, right? Instead, I should focus on something I have more control over that would make a bigger impact, such as email marketing. It might not be as fun, but the skill is important and something I can scale.
Produce less, but be more thoughtful: when I first started this blog, I was trying to put out a weekly post. That quickly became a time suck. Rather than producing so much, I’ll focus on creating better content to connect with readers and writers, and repurpose it so it gets more mileage. Less effort, more impact!
Be okay with breaks: instead of rushing to start the next book, I should embrace the downtime (as much as my characters will hate it) to concentrate on building skills, managing my author brand, or generally taking a mental break. The world won’t end if there’s a little gap between new releases or if I don’t post a certain amount of times on social media. It might feel like it will, but I learned most people aren’t paying enough attention to care :)
So I unloaded a lot here, but I wanted to provide real examples of how I can still make progress toward my goals but do it in a way that’s healthy. Will I be perfect with this? Probably not. This level of hustle and perfectionism and Type-A is an ingrained part of my personality. But it’s something I’ll actively work on getting better at. I hope in doing so, I’ll give my brain the much-needed break so my creativity soars when I’m writing.
What are your 2020 goals? Does the “enough list” concept sound like it would benefit you?
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