The Busy Writer’s Burnout-Free Goal Setting Guide

It’s almost the new year, and you might be making a list (and checking it twice) of writing goals for 2020. We all know publishing is a tough biz, and we’re told to only focus on what we can control.

Don’t set a goal of signing with an agent this year, you can’t control that!

Don’t say you’re going to sell two books, you have no idea where they’ll fit in with the market!

Set goals YOU can achieve: writing a new draft, tackling a revision, coming up with five new picture book ideas!

This is, of course, great advice. But allow me to suggest a scenario: you’re planning to draft a new story this week, when suddenly, one of your coworkers gets the chicken pox. Your boss asks if you can cover the big meeting instead. Sure I can, Boss! You tell yourself you’ll get some writing done from 5-6 a.m. and after the kids go to bed at night. This draft is happening! But then… Sally wakes up with pink eye. Bobby reminds you that you promised to bake three dozen cupcakes for his class party on Friday. You realize you’re out of clean socks, and for that matter, so is everyone else, so you need to wash sixteen loads of laundry—ASAP. And your writing time? POOF! Gone like Cinderella’s magic carriage at midnight.

When life gets crazy, it can feel like you’re simultaneously juggling while running on a hamster wheel: spinning away, but not actually accomplishing anything, and at least one of those balls is bound to get dropped. So what happens when even the goals you CAN control feel unreachable?

As we approach 2020, I’ve been thinking about quick, achievable goals I can set during these busy times—whether I know I’m heading into a busy month, or a full moon and Friday the 13th fall in the same week and stuff just gets wacky. They don’t involve a lot of butt-in-chair writing time, but they’re still things I can do to further my career, stay in the writing zone, and avoid going totally stagnant.

Interact on Twitter- Sure, there’s the fun, social side to Twitter; but it’s also networking. When I comment on a tweet, share a blog post, or retweet advice from that awesome agent, I’m putting my name out there. Pat on the back!

Interact on Instagram- Same idea, different platform. One of the things I like about IG is all the great illustrators I can follow. Hello, gorgeous art! If you don’t have an author Insta, I highly recommend starting one. Not sure what to post? On my account, I share books I like, quotes that resonate, and snippets from my life. (Okay, snippets from my life = cookies).

Watch a writing-related YouTube video- Sometimes there isn’t time to watch a full webinar or do a bunch of reading for research, but a quick YouTube video can provide valuable writing tips and keep me motivated. I love the BookEnds Literary YouTube channel. (Cough, cough please excuse this shameless plug for my agency.)

Start a new draft- Notice the emphasis on start. If I tell myself I’m going to write an entire draft during a busy time, it can feel overwhelming. A WHOLE draft? Like, all of it? But if I tell myself I’m just going to start a new draft, that’s a lot easier to accomplish. And if I get 100 words down in a doc—hey, I’m a quarter of the way done! If this were NaNo, I’d be on fire!

Make the easy edits- Revising takes a lot of time and effort. But sometimes, there are simple issues I can fix in just a few minutes. Maybe a critique partner noticed a typo, thinks I can delete that third art note, or suggests cutting some unnecessary words here and there. Making these changes doesn’t require the brainpower of tackling a huge, transformational revision—but it still puts me one step closer to being on the right track.

While these goals might seem like small, simple things, they still count. Each one is forward movement, and all those little things add up.

So just for good measure, I’m going to add one last goal:

Take it easy on yourself. I work hard at my writing, and it’s 100% okay to take the time I need for the rest of my life. After all, the world doesn’t stop just because Freddy the Chess-Playing Frog needs more agency. (Unless, you know, deadline. Then Freddy’s my main squeeze.)

In 2020, I hope you’ll give yourself permission to be a little less hard on yourself, know that even the smallest accomplishments are still steps in the right direction, and celebrate each little victory. Publishing is a long, hard game. Take care of yourselves out there.

2 thoughts on “The Busy Writer’s Burnout-Free Goal Setting Guide”

  1. “So what happens when even the goals you CAN control feel unreachable?”

    This is exactly the funk I’m stuck in. Appreciate your post and the reminder that any step, no matter the size, is a step of success.

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