Each year, I set new reading and writing goals. Most years, I fail to meet them. Last year, I did something radical and set abstract goals: read more, write more, polish/submit more, and hustle more.
This went against everything I’d been taught about goal-setting. Goals should be SMART—that is, specific, measurable, achievable, rigorous, and time-bound.
It’s impossible to judge whether or not I met my 2015 goals, which was kind of the point.
Overall, I think I did read and write more. The abstract nature of the goals gave me the freedom to read and write what and when I wanted. If I felt like starting a 700-page book, I did, regardless of what impact it might have on my tally of annual number of books read. (Enter House of Leaves.)
That’s my real problem with the Goodreads goal: literary journals and magazines don’t count, reading one book (like one I’m editing) multiple times doesn’t count, nothing read online counts, reading a friend’s unpublished work—or rereading my own work for that matter—doesn’t count. The incentive created by the Goodreads goal doesn’t match my own reading objectives. (I went into this more last year, if you’re interested.)
I’d rather read 35 books I really want to read plus all of the above texts than read 50 books chosen simply because I could get through them all in a single calendar year.
But at the same time, I did find myself frequently counting my Goodreads tally even if I wasn’t aiming toward a specific goal. (For the record, I read eight more Goodreads-countable books in 2015 than in 2014 when I had a goal.) I do plan on setting a Goodreads goal this year, but I’ll make it far smaller than I have before so I don’t feel limited by book length or non-countability.
Writing is different, however. I simply can’t abide bean counting when it comes to writing. Many of my writer friends love word count goals, but it takes all the pleasure out of writing for me. Rather than set numerical goals for my writing, I’m going to focus on what I’d like to produce and set deadlines for accomplishing those objectives.
Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure I polished/submitted less. I “hustled” less in the way I meant it—maintaining an active web presence—but perhaps more in other ways: speaking at conferences, giving readings, and other important networking that goes beyond a Tweet here and a blog post there.
I like to share my goals publicly because it holds me more accountable for meeting them, or at least sincerely working toward them. So without further ado, here they are:
Read at least 36 Goodreads-countable books, plus as many non-countable texts as I want.
Follow me on Goodreads at goodreads.com/stefbt.
Write something new and/or edit something old daily. Set deadlines for each project, and prioritize meeting them.
Submit pieces that are ready at least once each week. Create a new submission schedule, and actually use it this time.
Develop new content for this website, especially resources for fellow writers.
Post on blog at least once each week, and share content on Twitter at least once per day.
Follow me on Twitter @brooktrouting.
Attend at least a dozen events that support my writing life, whether conferences, readings, or field research opportunities.
I think that’s enough to keep me busy for the next 366 days. (That’s right—we get an extra day. 2016 is going to be awesome.)
Happy New Year, and good luck achieving your own goals!