Friday, March 9, 2012

Walking The Plank: Setting The Worst-Case Scenario Goal

Big Thanks to 2nd Chance for changing days with me! Lifts tankard of rum in salute.

It's officially March. That's three months into the year and three months away from when many of us set new writing goals for this year. They looked so shiny and attainable and full of promise in January but as the days ticked by, they lost a little of their special shimmer didn't they?

It happens to all of us, this slow fade from a promising new year of writing highs to a harsh dose of reality that although you might WANT to improve your writing, it takes more than just setting a goal to affect real change. So here is some great advice for lighting the fire under your goals again and making them work for you!

First, focus on what does work for you. I know you've had that day where the words just flew and everything came together perfectly. Why was that? Was it the setting, the time of day, music choice, setting? Maybe it was because you planned your scenes or even relaxed before starting to write? Pay attention to these small things so you can find what works for your prefect writing environment. How can you recreate those things when you are having issues getting words down?

Secondly, what are your strengths as a writer? And I don’t want to hear you just suck at all of it. We all know better. In fact, I did a blog post not long ago asking you to sing your own praises on something you know you do well. Think back (or better yet check out that post again) and anytime you find writing a challenge or that your story just isn't working, move to a scene that will play to that strength.

Is your strength planning, plotting, etc? Don’t get bogged down in it, but take a few minutes to plan or plot your next scene. Step away and see if it helps to get the juices flowing. Likewise, if character banter is where you shine, skip ahead to a fun scene you can really let your characters go at each other. Let your writing strengths inspire you!

Next, step back from your goals. Yep. I know this is about how to reignite your writing goals but for right now just toss them aside. Instead let’s focus on a new concept, the worst case scenario goal. Set yourself a bare minimum goal for the day or week. Seriously, maybe 50 words a day?Think about that as the absolute worst case, life shot to hell goal. And meet it. Achieve that bare minimum goal and feel great about it. That bare minimum goal is going to surprise you one day with how close its getting you to that BIG GOAL without all that angst and drama that hangs over your head with a big goal. Oh, and make sure you are celebrating these worst case goals. Hell, I’m celebrating BICHOK the past few weeks!

Finally, never forget that basic thing that speaks to you about writing. Why do you love it and what drew you to writing in the first place? Don’t lose those feelings. Find something physical to keep around you to make you smile or give you that nostalgic lovey-dovey feeling for writing all over again. Is it a sticker on your laptop that reminds you of something? Is it a copy of your favorite book placed on the shelf next to your writing desk or the cover of your first book hung on the wall? These physical reminders of your passion for writing can help you focus on even the crummiest of days.

Today I want to hear any tips on how you stay focused on your goals or how you pick back up and refocus after time off. Do you let your goals just drop, or do you redouble your efforts? Will you set a drop dead goal and are you brave enough to share it? Are you someone who's fantastic with goals? Tell us your secret! Let’s talk it out and discover where we can help find the keys to making our goals cry out for mercy.

39 comments:

Maureen said...

Glad ta help out. Let me fill that tankard up fer ya...

Now. I hate goals with a passion. But I recognize the need to consider them. I generally figure if I set a goal I am guaranteed to ignore it. It's the contrarian in me.

That said...I do set goals. But I set them pretty low. 150 words a day...or 1500 a week... Used to be that would shoot out of me in a day and sometimes, it still works. But mostly, it don't. So, I go it slower and easier and make sure whatever words I manage are good words.

I look back on when I was putting out 1500 a day and wow, lots of revision necessary. I'd like to think that what I put out now isn't that far below finished. And that is what keeps me pushing forward on those days that I'm lucky to get out 50 words. Because they are a good 50 words! I focus on that and try not to moan and groan about what I didn't write!

Marnee Bailey said...

Good post Sabrina. :)

I am a very "make a list" and cross things off kind of gal. That's why I think I'm a good plotter and why I work off outlines and synopses so well. I sort of think of it like a big writing to-do list. I need to write my way through that outline/synopsis.

As to remaining focused.... I'm not sure this is going to make sense (or maybe all of you do this and it's pointless to mention) but when my mind has idle moments, when I start to worry about things in the RL I can't control or stress about choices or whatever, I just go directly to my characters. Maybe it's a coping mechanism or whatever. It's relaxing to me because it keeps me from stressing about things out of my control in RL (because for all intents, I CAN control my characters) and it helps me to keep ruminating and remain locked on to my story. A day rarely goes by when I'm not thinking about the story (since lots of things stress me in RL) and then it's hard to stay away from the actual file on my computer.

So that's how I stay focused. I will say, it wasn't automatic. I didn't just always think about my story when I had a free minute. I had to kind of train myself to go there (not that my mind needed much coaxing) when I had a few moments of spare, random brain thought.

Does everyone else do this?

And goals? I set goals, but I'm pretty forgiving of myself. There's lots that happens in my life that's out of my control. So I let that not stress me out. But I wanted to have these first set of revisions done by the time we went to Disney. I'm not done. I'm almost done, so I'm better than I was before I went. But I still have about 50 pages left. So I wanna do that these next couple weeks. :)

Then I want to start something else. I'm over this story.

Have you tried writing "with" someone? I found that when Hal and I were sort of touching base every week to give word counts through our rough drafts that I would push to get her something to read. She's not a horrible taskmaster (hee hee *waves at Hal*) but I would set it as an internal weekly deadline. "Write so Hal has something to read Fri night."

Scapegoat said...

Hi ladies - thanks for stopping by!

Mo - I like that you are focusing on quality and not quantity. It's such a foreign concept to me right now since I'm fast drafting and half of it will probably be useless.

What do you think makes an ideal writing time for you? I know Starbucks, but is it a time of day or a mood you are in? Can you identify certain actions or steps that help you?

Marnee - That's a fantastic way to get more time in with your characters. I can't say I can do that yet, but I'm going to start giving it a try. :)

As for the writing with someone...I do have two lovely ladies who I check in with each week, but we focus on our small goals and don't share work. I'm at the point where since I'm just putting words on paper that I'm not sure it's in any shape to share!

Hmmm...I'm wondering about maybe seeing if they (hey ladies!) would be interested in doing an online chat every other week to brainstorm and actually talk through some of our story stuff? Will have to contact them after I think on it some more. :)

Scapegoat said...

I'm committing to a worst-case scenario goal of 50 words a day - 7 days a week. That's worst case, not what I really hope to accomplish!

In fact, I'm taking on a challenge that if anyone else is interested in joining you can check out the details at http://www.briaquinlan.com/ - Basically it's you set your own challenging goal from March 11th -April 1st.

I'm committing to 2 pages a day. That's a stretch for me, but I've been meeting my bare minimum goal so I want to ramp it up a little.

TerriOsburn said...

I can skype from kiddo's tablet (says one of the two ladies) so I'm in! So long as you don't mind hearing "Stop it, Macie!" and "Bumbles, get down from there!" constantly. :)

Let me get this stack of envelopes off my desk and I'll be right back.

MsHellion said...

My worse case scenario is "write something writerly everyday" regardless of what it was--pre-writing (i.e. from craft book assignments to set up book) or a page or more of your novel. Or planning out the next few scenes with sketched ideas.

Unfortunately for the last few weeks, the wheels have fallen off that cart. (Last few weekends have been sorta busy and out of the ordinary, so it's left the week to catch up and I haven't been planning ANYTHING: not eating (WW), exercise, cleaning, or writing. Not even crafting. The best I've done is keep up with blogs and reviews.

This weekend is a free weekend (except for that SPRING FORWARD crap), so I'm planning/hoping/attempting to catch up on my last 3 weekends with some of the normal stuff that needs to be done. Figure out what I can do and make a plan for the next three months. :)

Scapegoat said...

I love free weekends Hellie - I hope you get your 3 months planned out!

When you think back on your best writing, are there places, scenarios or a frame of mind that you felt helped?

Anything physical around you that reminds you why you love writing?

Mine happens to be a photo of me and my mom when I'm about 5 or 6. I'm acting a fool and she's hamming it up - reminds me all the time how supportive she was about just putting yourself out there and enjoying life.

TerriOsburn said...

Those sounded like small goals until you got to "plan for the next three months." LOL!

I've finally learned something about myself. If I set a big goal (i.e. buy a house) then I immediately go into planning mode and I want it NOW. Patience be damned. The summer (2010) when I decided to buy a house, I thought I'd just look now and then until I found one but I'd still do the writing.

Wrong!

That entire summer was eaten by looking at houses, picking a house, putting an offer on a house (condo), pulling the offer back, finding another place, putting in an offer... You see where I'm going here.

And all that time I was planning what I'd buy and who would move me. I purged EVERYTHING and packed and planned and plotted and no writing got done.

So what I've learned is to stop setting BIG goals. Which "get published!" qualifies as. Not that I no longer have that goal, but I can't let my brain go there. At least not often. Though you'd think that would make me get this writing thing done.

Huh. Now I've talked myself in a circle and realize there are some major holes in this new theory. Never mind. I need to go figure this out and come back. LOL!

Sorry for the stream of consciousness... Or however you say that.

MsHellion said...

When I did my best writing, it was like what Marn described--having someone to write to. Someone who gets my writing and begs for more. I'm sadly a person who begs for approval. So if I get demoralized it's because I or someone else has said this story isn't going to work out (either) and I go into a tailspin. But when I was getting stuff done, I was writing for someone else. To entertain them and make them go, "You're so clever!" *LOL*

It's not a place...or surrounding. It's people.

MsHellion said...

I'm sooooo tempted to say, "I told you, Terr" but I won't because I'm a bigger person than that.

But now you've got your home and it's awesome! (Okay, it's got one current issue, but that'll work out soon--and NOW you've been writing and editing like mad. So...when you do get yourself in the right place, you do get shit done!)

TerriOsburn said...

You told me so about what? LOL! I didn't come to any conclusions! Unless you mean buying a house was going to be a PITA. I really should have expected that. But I blame my first realtor. She was a total twit.

MsHellion said...

That's exactly what I'm talking about. The house buying. You and your pollyanna.

Scapegoat said...

I hear you Hellie - I think having to give pages to someone would really be inspiring for me. Even though I can take harsh criticism there is still a huge part of my personality that needs approval. My writing isn't there yet, but on the next project I'm hoping to do this.

Scapegoat said...

Terri - See it sounds to me like you set a big goal - buy a house - and you did it by breaking it down step by step...

Sounds like the whole small writing goals will get you to the finish line to me... :)

TerriOsburn said...

I don't break things down, Scape. I dive in under the illusion I can swim against the current and make things happen on my own time. Demanding, stubborn, impatient control freak. That's me. *sigh*

I'm using this same approach with revisions. Under the illusion it's all great, just needs a few more active verbs and the sentences cleaned up a bit. Hahaha...I'm so in denial.

BUT, Crusie has been posted awesome-sauce blogs about structure and revising and figuring out all your subplots, looking at them together and making sure it all works. I'm now tackling my MS using some of her techniques and was very happy last night when I realized I'm better off than I could be. LOL!

I can't share rough draft work. Just can't do it. And now I feel guilty for not having the time to read Hellie's pages.

MsHellion said...

What pages? I haven't written in anything.

Maybe this is God's way of saying I shouldn't seek other's approval before getting the draft down. *shrugs*

TerriOsburn said...

You could try fast drafting with Scape. I thought those craft book exercises were working? You've been writing. Maybe not in the last 2 weeks, but you've been writing.

MsHellion said...

They were. This has just been a sucky week for me. I want to curl up in a blanket on the floor and die. And it's not like a tornado has ripped through my neighborhood or someone put a basket of dead kitten on my doorstep. I just don't feel good.

Scapegoat said...

Okay Hellie I think it might be time to sic the monkey on you!

No moping about the writing today - it's about how to restart your engines! So, why do you love to write? I want to hear it and then I'm going to ask you to think about that all this next week - write - and then send me whatever you write. I really want to see it! No matter how rough. :)

I won't offer a critique if you don't want. It's more about you knowing you have to show it to me. Evil Grin....

TerriOsburn said...

I like Scapey all pushy like this. LOL! And she's too new to be afraid to poke the bear. That's so cute. Dangerous, but cute.

Scapegoat said...

Ummm...there's a bear? Oh you mean Hellie - she's a total softy! :) LOLOLOL ...runs to take cover...

MsHellion said...

The monkey can eat my mangy decaying corpse for all I care.

Writing has always been a form of expressing my thoughts. (I realize that's a big fat duh.) I'm never going to be a great orator. There are no speeches in me like, "They may take our lives, but they will never take our FREEDOM!"

You know how you ask people what they wish their secret power is and many of them will say, "I wish I were invisible"? I don't think that. That is never a power I want. Probably because it's a power I have. *LOL* I love writing because typically is the only time I'm really noticed. People stop and go, "Who said that? Who wrote that? YOU wrote that? I didn't know you could write." Which translates into I didn't know you had a voice. I do have a voice--my keyboard is my voice--and I want to tell everyone that love is not just for the good and the worthy, that none of us are perfect or particularly worthy, but we all need love. Sometimes it's a matter of one person loving us that makes us turn a corner into a better life.

Scapegoat said...

***Standing Ovation***

Wonderfully said Hellie! Really wonderful.

TerriOsburn said...

*joins Scape on the deck*

That is pretty damn good. Not the part about the monkey, but the rest is stellar.

MsHellion said...

I thought the part about the monkey was the best part.

Thank you, guys. And thank you, Sabrina, for a thoughtful blog. It is re-inspiring to remember why you love to write. Sometimes you open a blank page and stare at it because you don't know what you want to say today.

Scapegoat said...

No problem. I'm glad if it helps someone even a little.

I'm serious though. Anything you've written from now on to me on the 17th. If I don't see anything from you I'm going to stalk you online with hugs and cheers and chirpy-ness. :)

TerriOsburn said...

She threatened chirpy-ness. Talk about zoning in on Hellie's weakness. LOL!

P. Kirby said...

Lately goals have been akin to curse. If I say to myself, "Self, you're going to write 1000 words this week," the horse will stick his foot through a fence, my car will overheat, or I'll hit one of those weeks when I inexplicably feel like utter crap.

It's kind of like when you get a bonus or notice your bank account is looking healthy, the water heater explodes, the transmission falls out of your car--KLUNK!--etc.

So I've been sneaking up on writing lately. When the muse calls, I try to answer, but I don't make a big deal about it or the Universe will notice and smite me.

Yep. I'm a whole lot of crazy. But I've cranked out 15K in the last month (lot for me), by playing it "casual."

Scapegoat said...

I love it! Sneaking up on writing - that's a great way to think of it.

15k is also super impressive so go on with your bad sneaky self!

TerriOsburn said...

I like this "sneaking up on it" idea. I want it to become the same as making dinner or loading the dishwasher. It's just something I do. Another part of my day. No pressure. Nothing difficult. I make dinner, I clean up, I go write. Easy-peasy.

(Hellie, do NOT burst my bubble.)

MsHellion said...

It can be like making dinner or loading the dishwasher, but again, those are things that are done in 15 minutes once you start. Many times our problem is we think we should be writing more than 15 minutes to make a dent in anything. This is false, but hard to overcome.

TerriOsburn said...

Eh. The time doesn't matter so much to me. I revised 30 pages in 2 hours the other night. After taking MONTHS to revise the first 130. LOL! As long as I'm achieving something and stop psyching myself out about the doing of it, I'm good.

With writing, I psyche myself out about the doing of it.

Now I'm out of here. Kiddo has a doc appt. I'll be back in an hour or so.

Maureen said...

Pat! Gods, we must be twins. That's my idea of what happens with goal setting...it's like tempting the universe to say "Oh, yeah!?"

Now, back to Scapey's question... Time of day at Starbucks... Best early afternoon, headphones on, blasting Evanesence thru my head. Sometimes something different, but lately, Evanesence. I can just forget everything and write...

I can get the DH to hook up Skype for me...Just don't look at the mess behind the computer...

Well said, Hels! I love when that happens! When someone says something in a review that shows me I totally rocked their world. Got a fab one the other day... http://www.nightowlreviews.com/nor/Reviews/Hitherandthee-reviews-The-Pirate-Circus-by-Maureen-O-Betita.aspx

Scapegoat said...

Nice review!

I so love that you've got your groove down with writing at Starbucks. :)

Ok - I'll send email later tonight about skype scheduling. This could be interesting! LOL

TerriOsburn said...

This will definitely be interesting. Especially since I haven't figured out the whole Skype thing yet. But I'll charge up Kiddo's tablet and see if I can make it work.

Scapegoat said...

So I found out you can't skype with 3 ppl unless 1 of them has the premium service which costs $$$.

I have found another option - I'll email you later!

Back to talking goals...

I've convinced Marnee to join a challenge I'm doing and I'm hoping a few more of you will consider it too...

It's a set your own challenge and I know Bria rocks these things so it should be super helpful and get you to jump start yourself and make it to April 1st.

Here are the details:
http://briaspage.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/word-fool-you-know-you-wanna/

You can also search the hashtag #wordfool on twitter for the link or more info. There are prizes!

Maureen said...

I wondered if Skype would three way... My husband does conference stuff all the time, I can ask him how they do it...

I'll check out this challenge thingy...no promises!

TerriOsburn said...

Couldn't we use IM with webcams or something? And I'm not sure about the challenge thing. I'm not good with those.

Maureen said...

Okay, I looked at the challenge...not likely... I have too much on my plate right now, with RT...
But good luck Scape and Marn!