Retro Post: Stress-free Writing All Year

In January of this year, I posted this blog about organizing the upcoming year’s writing goals. Starting January 16, I’m once again teaching this 4-week online class, Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer, and I’d love to see you there. This is one of the exercises we’ll be doing in the class. I hope it helps you get started toward organizing your time and achieving your writing goals!

This month we’re all making the handoff between last year’s partially accomplished goals and this year’s fresh new and exciting goals. In the online class I’m teaching this month on goal setting and time management for writers, we’re using an annual planning calendar to find out how many days we really have for writing. Once we know that number and plan around it, we can create goals that can be achieved with a minimum of stress and guilt.

Take a 12-month calendar you can use just for writing. There are pros and cons for using the large laminated year-at-a-glance type, and the monthly flip calendar, so decide which one you prefer and dive in. Begin by crossing off all the days you already know you won’t be available for writing. That list will be different for each of us – birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, public holidays, kids’ school events, etc.

When you’ve crossed out everything you can think of, decide how many sick days you want to plan for. Also choose a number of days for emergencies. (The number will depend on your situation, the people who depend on you at work and home, the number of days last year that something came up unexpectedly, etc.) Count the total number of days you still have available on the calendar, then subtract the sick days and emergency days. This is the number of days you have for the year that you can plan your writing around.

You may also want to plan for some catch-up padding, especially if you’re chronically behind. One way to pad your time is to cross off the last three open days of the month, every month. That automatically gives you a full month of “extra time” for the year – 3 times 12 equals 36 days.

Let’s say you end up with 200 days in 2011 that you can devote X number of hours each day to your writing. Now you need to look at your goals and break them down into the number of hours each will take. For instance, if you can write 500 words a day without a problem, and you plan to write the first draft of a category romance of 50,000 words, it will take you about 100 days, or half of your year. If it takes you twice as long to edit and revise as it does to pound out the first draft, you need another 200 days.

That means you could produce a 50,000 word book every 18 months without stress or guilt. And by stress and guilt I mean feeling like you should be doing something else when you’re writing, or feeling like you should be writing when you’re doing something else. That is the kind of situation this type of planning can help you avoid. After all, you crossed off the holidays and vacation days and birthdays that you wanted to focus on. You’re free!

Now you’ll have to look at all of your goals for the year – which may also include showering every day, sleeping for 6-8 hours a night, driving to the grocery store, etc. – and figure out if you have more goals than can be accomplished in 52 168-hour weeks. If you have too many goals for the next 12 months, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But if you can do the math today and see that before it happens, you can make changes now and end up with a plan that truly can be accomplished.

Good luck!


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