Monday, January 7, 2013

To Keep Aiming High: A 2013 New Year's Resolution by Stefanie Gaither

Hello lovelies! I'm so excited to be back to rambling on this blog--I've missed you all these past few weeks. I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season, and that you're all ready for the awesomeness that 2013 is going to be!

Speaking of the New Year: did anyone make any resolutions?


There was a hashtag going around on twitter on New Year's Eve that was something like #writingresolutions, which I thought was really cool, and it got me thinking: what better way to kick off the new year than by talking goals and resolutions in writing? Because maybe the single most important thing (to me) that sets actual writers apart from the bajillions of people out there who "have always wanted to write a book" is this: writers actually write--and I mean complete them, not just plan them-- books. Let me say that again:

Writers. Write. Books. (or short stories, poems, or whatever)

I know. I just blew your mind, didn't I? 

In other words, they set out to write a book, and they don't just want to follow through with it-- they actually do. Since everyone who reads this blog is brilliant (obviously), you probably already knew that. But how does it happen? How do you get from "Once upon a time..." all the way to "The End"?

I don't know about the rest of you, but for me, I have to set tangible goals. Whenever I'm embarking on a new project, I sit down, map it out, try to get a general idea of what the wordcount is going to be. Then I factor in life stuff that's coming up (because I don't, in fact, live in a cave where I do nothing but write all day, despite what my husband may accuse me of), and I have an honest conversation with myself about how many words I'm going to be able to get written during X amount of time. And I'm not easy on myself. If my first thought is "the next few months shouldn't be too crazy, I should be able to do 500 words a day, easy peasy" then by the end of this conversation with myself I've usually committed to write at least 1000 words a day. 

And now you're probably (I hope) picturing me having an actual conversation with myself that involves me speaking in several different accents and personalities, or maybe arguing with myself a la Gollum/Smeagol. And yeah, it's sort of like that. 

Why does this picture even exist?

So, why go for 1000 words (and risk possible insanity) when 500 words a day will still get me a finished book in the end? Mostly it's because of this quote I love: 

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it." -Michelangelo 

This one, simple quote has carried me for as long as I've been writing towards publication. I've always aimed high. From the beginning, I told myself that, however long it took to get there, I would eventually have a great agent (check), a great publisher (coming soon, I can feel it), and that I would be able to walk into a Barnes and Noble, or any bookstore, anywhere in the country, and see a book with my name on it on the shelves (also coming soon).

It was harder to believe all this in the beginning, of course, because anyone who's spent more than an hour really researching publishing knows that the odds are pretty much always against you in this industry. But in a way, knowing those odds has also made it easier to keep fighting toward this goal. Because as the quote essentially says, so what if we aim to beat the high odds, and miss? Nowhere in the rule book of life does it say you can't make mistakes. But I'm pretty sure it does say something about being an apathetic underachiever in there. Pretty sure it says you're not allowed to be that (yes, I totally have this book, no, I'm not making this up, and no, you can't borrow the book. It looks too pretty on my shelf.).

And I've had plenty of misses, and more than my share of the even-more-heartbreaking "near-misses". I've stumbled. Tripped. Fallen. Broke a couple of teeth. Severed a few limbs. Endured massive cranial bleeding. Of course I have. But taken my eyes off the goal? Never for more than a moment. Even when it was hard to look at--impossible to see how the publishing dream could ever come true for me-- that goal I committed to was still there to see, once the dust cleared from whatever black moment I was having. But you have to set that goal first, if you want it to be there for you during said low moments.

Granted, there's something to be said for being happy with where you are now, and how far you've come since yesterday. So definitely don't forget that, either. I guess the gist of what I'm saying is that I hope you are all wildly successful already, but even if you are, don't forget to have plenty of goals in front, and not all of them behind. And don't sell yourself short when setting those goals. 'Cause chances are you're better than you think you are at...well, at pretty much everything, I'd be willing to bet (unless you're one of those weird wildly self-confident types, in which case--are you sure you're a writer? Because I was under the impression that we were all the angsty, oh-man-i-suck-at-words type, at least part of the time. And if that's not true, please don't shatter my illusion, kthanks).

So, my main, tangible, measurable goal for 2013 is to write at least two books (of 80kish each). How about you guys? Let me hear it in the comments. Whatever it is-- whatever you think is the best you can do, whether it has to do with querying, or self-publishing, or finishing your epic saga about flesh-eating cows who rule a distant galaxy--anything writing-related that YOU can control (i.e. "I will be querying my book by April, and will submit to at least X number of agents", not "I will get twenty-five offers of representation for my book about flesh-eating cows and if I don't then I'm a failure, obvs").

And here's to a happy, successful year of writing for us all!

Me too grumpy cat, me too.

Stefanie Gaither writes YA novels about killer clones and spaceships, with the occasional romp with dragons and magic-users thrown in for good measure. Said writing is generally fueled by an obscene amount of coffee and chocolate, as well as the occasional tennis and/or soccer break. She's represented by Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary. 

You can find her on Twitter @:
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1 secret replies:

  1. All of the gifs and pictures on this blog kill me. Aside from NaNo, I've never set tangible goals for my writing. This is probably part of the reason I have never completely finished a book. This year, I've decided to set tangible goals. I haven't quite figured them out yet, but I know they will include FINISHING (as in, ready for submission) at least one of the first drafts I have. My goals my possibly include more though. Aim high, right? Thanks for the inspiration Stefanie. I wish you success on your own goals this year!