In yesterday’s podcast I mentioned about my plan to set impossible goals for 2015. A goal is something that you can achieve. I’m going to link to some posts by Dean Wesley Smith, because his year end posts helped me get serious back in 2008, when I realized I needed to make changes in my approach to writing.
Although I’m going to be using writing as a lot of the examples, this isn’t really about writing. This is about goal setting, both smart and crazy goals. You can apply these same things to health, fitness, art — whatever it is that you want to do.
A goal, as opposed to a dream, is something that you have control over. Writing a novel, for example. That’s a goal. Not a very specific goal, so it helps to have some kind of a deadline, and be specific in the details.
Write a 110,000 word fantasy novel by December 31st.
That’s better. It’s specific. We know how long the novel is, even the genre. And it’s going to be done by December 31st. From that it’s possible to work back what needs to be done to achieve the goal.
Write 110,000 words? That’s about 300 words per day. Or 425 words if you take weekends off. Clear and not really all that challenging. If it takes about 15 minutes to write 250 words, that means spending 30 minutes a day, with weekends off. Spend 30 minutes a day having fun and in the end you’ve met that goal. In other words, whatever your goal is, whether it’s writing or not, you figure out what it’s going to take to achieve the goal.
What about impossible goals? Ramp it up. Something much harder to achieve. A Moon shot. The sort of goals that look as if they can’t be achieved — not without things changing significantly, and very likely not even then.
Why set impossible goals? Isn’t that terribly discouraging? Not if you keep coming back at it.
For example, in Dean’s posts he lays out a very sound method for writers to figure out how much they can write. He suggests a method of finding out how much you can produce in a perfect week, and halving that to set your goal. That’s the smart move because it’s rare that you have a perfect week. That’s the sort of thing I usually do.
Many times we shrink away from what is hard or uncomfortable. I signed up for my first Spartan Race without any certainty that I could complete the race. As hard as the challenge was, it helped spur me on. I finished — but I didn’t complete every obstacle. I had to do my burpees. And it was much harder than I imagined.
Another post of Dean’s fired my imagination — his Pulp Speed post. Pulp Speed One, by Dean’s numbers, is a million words in a year. I’ve come close to 500,000 in a year. Hitting Pulp Speed One sounds pretty impossible unless I make some significant changes to my production. Higher speeds? I canna be sure the engines can take it. He talks about planning to double his production and as soon as I read the Pulp Speed post I was already thinking about how I might hit that sort of goal. With that in mind:
Here are my Impossible Goals for 2015
Impossible Goal #1: Write 1,400,000 words
Yikes. This is my Prime Directive for 2015. Hit Pulp Speed Three. It’s not all about the words, of course. I have actual real projects in mind. This sort of goal, coupled with a writing streak, helps me achieve more than I would otherwise. I could target 500,000 words, a modest increase, but I’ll do better aiming higher, shooting for the Moon. Much of this will be on new novels, but some of it will be new short stories (see below). This is 4,000 words daily, on average, 120,000 words per month.
Impossible Goal #2: Publish 24 novels
Gulp. This one really feels impossible. I have no idea whatsoever how I could meet this goal. It would mean catching up with my backlog and most of the new work that I’m planning to write. If I said titles instead of novels it’d be more realistic. I published six novels, a collection, and nine stories this year — 16 titles. Yet I want to get past the reissues and on to entirely new titles like the five books that I wrote this year. One of those is going to be the next release (Past Dark, Moreau Society #4), the other upcoming books are reissues of work that appeared under pen names. I have six of those left and I want to do more than just get those out in 2015. Since I did six this year, I could say I’d like to do the six reissues, plus six new novels, but that doesn’t seem impossible enough so I’m going to double it. I want to do more, if I can figure out how to pull it off.
Impossible Goal #3: Write 24 short stories
Given my Prime Directive, this isn’t actually impossible at all, except I don’t generally write this many short stories in a year. This gets me writing at least a couple stories each month. Of all of the goals, this is the most obtainable, and is on here just because I want to make sure that I get stories written, and sent out to professional markets.
Impossible Goal #4: Post my Daily Sketch Every Day
My other streak, posting the daily sketch every day requires consistent practice. Impossible? Not really, taken on its own, but this is along with the other goals. This is another thing. Each of these goals multiplies the difficulty in some fashion. If for no other reason than they take time.
Impossible Goal #5: Complete 3 Spartan Races
It won’t be a trifecta, because I’m planning to do two Sprints and a Super, not a Sprint/Super/Beast, but from where I am now in my fitness it seems pretty impossible. I have eighteen weeks left until I face the first race. These have very specific deadlines. Whether I train sufficiently or not, the race happens. Will I be in better shape this time around? Yes. Because I’ve learned. Because I’ll improve my training. I’ll practice more. It still seems pretty daunting. Maybe not quite impossible, but close.
I have other goals for the new year. Things that I want to study. Work that I want to complete at my full-time day job. Things I want to do with my family. Games to play. Books to read. Movies to watch. I have dreams (things out of my control) that I’d like to see happen — like having stories appear in Analog and Asimov’s magazines. All I can do is write my stories and send them out. Those things are in my control, but I can’t wave my hand and tell the editors, “These are the stories you are looking for.”
Well, I could do that, but it’d just get me funny looks.
Will I meet my impossible goals? (Insert hysterical laughter) Probably not! Actually #3, #4 & #5 I don’t think are terribly impossible. Hard? Somewhat, but I think I’ll achieve those goals. It’s always possible I’ll miss a day on the sketches, or fall short on finishing my stories, or get a DNF at one of the Spartan Races (an injury is also a possibility). Even so, I think I have a decent chance at those. The first two goals? Very tough. I’ve never written anywhere near that much. Or published that much (and given my insane publishing plan this means producing artwork for those books too). One last link here to Dean’s post on dealing with getting knocked off a goal. He’s absolutely right there.
These are all artificial goals. No one is making me do them. If I don’t make it, oh well. Continuing to strive for higher levels will make me up my game and I enjoy the challenge.
It’ll be an interesting year.