Friday, December 29, 2006

Setting Goals

The House essay is drafted, so that just needs to sit a while and then I'll take another look at it Monday before turning it in by Tuesday, so yay! Now I want to draft the chapters for my book 5 proposal so I can get that to my agent soon after she returns from the holidays. The cold is still lurking, and I've reached the point where I want to tell it to come on and hit instead of just threatening and being annoying. At least I know I'm not coming down with something really nasty like flu because flu tends to have a more sudden onset instead of lurking for a while before striking. Today should be a good writing day because it's dark and rainy. I declared my new comfy pajamas to be "work at home wear," and they actually look more like a coordinated outfit than most of the stuff I wear around the house. I could probably go to a yoga class in these and fit right in. Now all I need is a pot of tea and I'm set for a big day of writing.

Since I was talking yesterday about my goals for next year, and with our writing month starting next week, I thought I'd share some potentially useful resources for goal-setting and motivation.

A lot of writers swear by The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. This one is more about finding your motivation and freeing your creativity. I have to admit that I've tried working through the program several times and never finished and never really got much out of it. I think it's more targeted to people who are finding their creative side or who have been creatively blocked. To me, all the stuff about identifying the "monsters" in your life who kept you from being creative just felt like it was stirring up negativity and encouraging you to feel like a victim. But I do know of a lot of people who got breakthroughs from this book, so it's worth a shot if you're really feeling blocked.

There are some similar exercises in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, but from more of a perspective of personal responsibility and your responses to situations that might have blocked you in the past. This is a huge book, and not everything in it will necessarily be applicable to finding motivation to write (and there's a lot of stuff in there that sounds like the typical self-help motivational workshop blather about how saying your daily affirmations and envisioning success will make you a millionaire -- think the Greg Kinnear role in Little Miss Sunshine), but the goal-setting parts and the parts on turning your inner critic into an inner coach are great. I checked this one out of the library, and I'll probably buy the paperback because I found it very motivating (I may even put some of the more far-fetched sounding stuff to the test -- you'll know it worked if I become a bestseller this year).

I'm currently reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, which is more about time management. Some of the things he says make sense, but I can already tell that a lot of his methods just aren't the way my brain works. For instance, he says to do away with daily to-do lists and just keep a running list of open project steps. If it's not on my daily to-do list, it just won't get done. I decide what project steps to deal with each day, and that's how I make myself do them. Then again, my project steps tend to be along the lines of "Write a page. Write another page. Write another page. Write a chapter. Write another chapter" and so on.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is good motivational reading about the writing life in general. Julia Cameron has a book called The Right to Write that I have but have never read. I know he's obnoxious on television, but Dr. Phil's Life Strategies and Self Matters books have some good stuff on goal setting and turning your dreams into concrete goals. When I first lost my job and decided to freelance, I read those and put a lot of his tips into action. I'm not sure I can give that direct credit for what I've achieved, but I think that making myself think in those terms really helped as I was making the transition to truly having what amounted to my own business.

The bottom line is that you have to find what works for you. Not everything is going to resonate with everyone, and I'm highly suspicious of anyone who claims they've found the one way to set goals, motivate yourself, discover your creativity or manage your time. Don't feel like you're doing something wrong if you try something like The Artist's Way that you've heard people raving about and it leaves you cold. The trick is to expose yourself to a lot of information, let it filter through your own processes and then absorb what works for you so you can create your own personal system.

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