Thursday, June 14, 2012

On awesome gifts and writing goals

I don't want to boast, but it's possible I'm dating the most clever gift-giver on the planet.

I shared several months ago how my gentleman friend made a special scarf hanger to commemorate each book I release. I admire it every day while I write, and I look forward to adding many more scarves I can use for illicit purposes.

In late March, my gentleman friend and I celebrated what we jokingly refer to as the anniversary of our first date. It might be the oddest first date in history, since I'd requested the meet-up to seek his counsel as a divorce mentor. We'd originally planned a casual get-together at a coffee shop, but I was hired last-minute for a freelance article reviewing four fancy restaurants, and I dragged him along to the first one for the free meal. The meeting was a bizarre mix of tearful storytelling punctuated by over-attentive waiters bringing food while I secretly plotted to seduce my dinner companion.

But I digress.

When I woke on the one-year anniversary of this blessed occasion, here's what was nailed to the bedroom wall:

"It's a bucket board," he explained. "Sort of like a bucket list. We'll use the tags to write down things we want to do as a couple over the next year, and we mark off the ones we accomplish."

I may have swooned a bit, so it's a good thing I was still in bed. Over the last couple months, we've filled the tags with a variety of things. Some are small, like hikes we want to take. Others are bigger goals, like settling into a new home together. Either of us can write something on a tag if an idea strikes, and we mark the goals we've accomplished with little stickers.

I love the idea, not just because it's sweet and romantic, but because it's a good reminder of my need for goals. I've struggled a bit lately to carve out writing time for myself. Between author-related speaking engagements and blogging and interviews and contract negotiations and the day job and finding time to see my aforementioned gentleman friend on occasion, it can be a challenge to find time to actually write the books that made my schedule so nutty in the first place.

How did I used to do this? I asked myself recently. And I remembered one trick that was beautifully simple, yet effective.

Back when I was still pretty new to the fiction writing game, I used to pick a deadline for finishing a book. It was an arbitrary one, since no editors were breathing down my neck at that point, but I tried to make it both challenging and realistic. On my calendar, I'd write "85,000 words" on the day I wished to complete a first draft of the book with that number as my final word count. Then I'd figure out how many words I needed to write each day to accomplish that goal.

I marked every day on the calendar with what my word count should be by the time I switched off my computer for the night. Weekend days called for bigger jumps in my word count, and I made sure to budget time for days off and days when I just wasn't feelin' the love. If I missed my goal for a day or two, I knew I had to work hard to get back on track.

The system was surprisingly effective for me, and it's something I plan to start doing again immediately.

How do you keep track of your goals, either as a writer or for your life in general? Please share!

I have to go write something new on the bucket board. This one might call for a color illustration.


Daisy Whitney said...

I don't have a board or anything, but I use my Google to-do list and just have every day the book I'm writing or editing on it and that's my reminder that writing is a daily thing...and I generally speaking give myself three months to four months for a first draft, so I just keep that date in my head as I write!

Kristina L. Martin said...

That bucket board is awesome!!! *makes note*

Chris said...

Love the board.

(actually the one with the star on it) HEE HEE

Cyndi Pauwels said...

LOVE the board...and the deadline set-up. I'm in regrouping mode, so both of these will come in handy.

middle child said...

Your gentleman friend is an artist as are you. A bucket board and a very cool one at that! I consider anyone with talent/creativity an artist. The most thoughtful gift ever, especially considering that it was for the both of you doing things together. Love it!

Tawna Fenske said...

Chris, LOL, there are actually several with stars on them, but I have a hunch I know which one you mean. Kinda wondered who'd be the first to point it out.


Jamey Stegmaier said...

This is GREAT advice. For people like me who have always put off writing "the novel," it really helped to give myself a fairly tight timeframe. I went with 2 months (I called it my 2-Month Gauntlet) and wrote about the experience here. Maybe it'll be helpful for those who have that novel on their bucket board but keep delaying it until "someday."

Mary said...

I agree--your gentleman friend is definitely up near the very top of creative gift-givers. I love that idea! A list-maker myself (mostly for the fun of crossing off than actually making the list), I'd love something like this!

Judy, Judy, Judy said...

Cool gift. I'm currently in a bootcamp for writers where whoever gets the most words in a month gets a prize - chocolate!

wendy@chezchloe said...

What a great idea. I'm making us a board. The starred one I've done... just make sure the seat goes back and you've recently done some stretching :-)
I imagine your writing time has shifted too because you have someone that is awesome to spend time with and the writing has to wriggle it's way back into your priorities. Three cheers to love!

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

The bucket board is such a good idea. I do have 'to do' lists on my desk otherwise I forget things.... Getting old and doddery now! But to use a board for targets sounds great to me!

KO: The Insect Collector said...

I totally stole this idea for father's day. Thank your clever fella for me.