Personal Log: Changes (a 2022 Planning Blog, pt. 1)

Sitting down to write as the last thing that I do before bed isn’t great. I’d rather be doing it first thing. Somehow, I keep letting that habit slip away from me. It’s something to work on as we approach the new year. I can take 15 minutes or so early in the morning and write. Then I can go about the rest of the day secure in the knowledge that my writing streak has continued even if I don't write more. Instead, it nags at me.

Today, for example. It was a work day and I updated visualizations, answered employee questions, and edited the website. I also spent time on my breaks working on courses and learning. Despite all of that, the day felt more incomplete because I hadn’t written. I want to address that. I’m happier if I write.

What I often find, though, is that my thoughts go to other things that I need to do each day. Often that’s work. I’m a fulltime librarian. For most of my career, I’ve been in supervisory or managerial positions. Now I'm making a big change and moving over to the IT side of the library. It means giving up pay increases and the status of my current position. In return, I’m gaining an increased focus, less stress, and so many opportunities to learn and serve the library patrons and staff. Even though the job remains mentally demanding, I think it’ll also free up my thoughts enough to make more room for my writing, learning, and other projects.

I love learning. That’s often a distraction from my writing. I have a ton of courses that I want to work through right now. I’ve purchased many of the courses. Many of the creators use Teachable as their platform. Others are on Udemy. I also have courses that I’m doing through library-offered platforms like LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com).

One course that I’m working on right now is Learning Python taught by Joe Marini. I have some experience with Python and have posted a bit about using Python before on my blog to generate titles. I haven’t gained mastery of Python and decided to work through the Python Learning Path on LinkedIn Learning. If you haven’t checked, I recommend you see what online learning options are offered by your local library for patrons. Many do offer access to such learning platforms covering a wide range of topics.

Many of the courses I’m taking are on digital art, 3D modeling, and writing. I’ve also got courses I’m doing to improve my data and visualization expertise. And other developer courses. A focus on learning is a key part of my 2022 plan. There’s always more to learn.

I’m reading a book recommended at work, Think Again by Adam Grant. “The power of knowing what you don’t know.” Even when I’m doing well at something, I don’t cease in striving to learn more. There’s no end. That's the fun. Whether it is through books, courses, or working with mentors—I continue to learn and rethink what I'm doing.

The last two years have been the first two parts of the COVID-19 trilogy. We ended 2020 with the bright hope of vaccines. Hope that crashed down in the long middle of 2021, which now ends with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly in our communities.

I don’t know what 2022 will bring. Maybe there’ll be a second trilogy that follows the first. Whatever happens, I want to share what I’m learning and my progress in my journey as a librarian who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and more. I hope you’ll join me.

A Writer’s Introduction to Life Rolls

The view out my window shows gently falling snow and frosted fir trees. Pretty, so long as I'm sitting here looking out the window. Less so when I head out later to pick up my sick dog from the vet. What does this have to do with life rolls? What are life rolls?Continue reading

WPM Gauge

The 5-Minute Guide to Goal Setting for Writers

Writing doesn't take much time. If you figure on a 1,000 words per hour pace, you can plan how much time you need to write a novel. If it's an 80,000-word novel—80 hours. At a 17 Words Per Minute (WPM) typing speed. You could cut the time in half simply by typing at a 34 WPM rate. The bigger question isn't how fast you can type. Without deliberate practice and focus on your typing speed it probably won't change much. The real question is when can you fit in the 80 hours, 40 hours, or 120 hours it will take to write your novel? That comes down to goal setting.

The Double-Edged Goal

Goals cut both ways. They can help you slash through distraction—and they can gut you when you fail to meet your targets. It gets even worse when you consider that most of us go through our days juggling dozens of different goals. If you're like me and have a career outside of writing, you'll have goals for that career. It may take up most of your time and energy. You may have goals around your family. Your health. And goals related to your creative practice. Often we don't think about all of these as goals. We might consider some to simply be tasks that need to be completed. A task might be mowing the lawn because it is the first sunny day we've had in weeks. You could even say that your goal is to have a lawn that looks good and the task of mowing is just one of the things that you do to reach that goal.

That's fine. Taking care of the lawn is one of those never-ending goals, same as taking care of your own health, and it is evaluated at any moment when you ask yourself if you are meeting the goal.

People also like to talk about projects as larger efforts that might contain many goals with related tasks. You might consider writing a novel a project. Whatever term you choose to use—your life is full of things to do.

External vs. Internal Goals

Your boss giving you an assignment is their way of accomplishing a goal (or several goals). In turn, you create goals based on that assignment, e.g. don't get fired for not getting the work done. Often we have less resistance when given external goals that are tied to “work.” We get up and go to work each day. We work to reach our goals as well as organizational goals.

Often it isn't the same with our creative practice. For one thing, it runs into other goals, ours and other's goals for us. I might want to spend the day writing and working on illustrations but I also need to do our taxes. I have other chores to do. My family also has goals for me. My son wants to play or code together. Our families understand that our jobs will take a great deal of our time. Naturally, they want to spend time with us when we're home. That's great! I definitely want to spend time with my family too, and I'm endlessly grateful that I have a family. I'm also fortunate in that they are also creative and artistic people. They have their own creative practices too.

Setting Our Goals For Our Creative Practice

With that in mind, I need to set realistic (and challenging) goals. I can't compare my productivity to someone else. What they're doing doesn't matter. I need to figure out what works for me. I might want to write a new novel every two weeks, spending 40 hours per week. That's not going to work with everything else in my life. Instead, I need to work back from what it will take to write a novel. If I need 80 hours to write the book, how much time can I spend on it each day?

Let's say that I figure I can manage a half-hour on my lunch breaks to work on the novel. That's about 500 words or 2,500 words during my work week. If I don't do any extra on the weekend it'll take 32 weeks to write the book. If I don't take days off I can finish it in 23 weeks. Figure that I'm bound to miss some days and call it 6 months to be safe. That gives me confidence that I can meet that goal.

Write a novel in 6 months by writing 500 words per day, 7 days per week. 

That also lets me use streak-tracking to help with my motivation on the book. I'll need to change parameters if I want to complete the book faster. Write more than 500 words (either by spending more time or increasing my speed). I need to keep my other goals in mind, things like blog posts, short stories, publishing, marketing, and illustration. Plus everything else in my life. I don't write in a void.

What About You?

What tips do you have for setting goals? How do you balance your career and creative practice? Share in the comments.