Every year I make a list of goals for the year. Usually I have a list a mile long, eventually I don’t even want to think about. Basically, I just overwhelm myself so it’s almost impossible to complete anything. This year I’m going to keep the list short hopefully it will help me focus and actually accomplish them. I’ll also try out the advice I’ve read to tape it somewhere you can see it. The past couple of years I’ve written in a journal or notebook and totally forgotten about it. I’ve just included the most important five, I’ll be working on a lot this next year but these, I absolutely must work on.
I can’t really believe it’s a new year, even more that we’re already three months in it. I wanted to reflect on how the past year went. I don’t regret my decision to leave my job, but things didn’t exactly go the way I expected. I didn’t exactly have a plan, more like a list of things I wanted to try out and some things I hoped to accomplish. While I may not have hit all my goals, I have progressed as a writer and taken some steps forward. Once I sat down and listed everything I realized I got a lot more done than I originally thought. Here’s just a few of the great things I might not have gotten the chance to do if I was still working full-time.
I attended as many writing workshops as possible; most, if not all, of them were offered free by the New York Writers Coalition. I also participated in their fundraiser, as a show of my gratitude, and attended the annual Write-A-Thon.
Found and started attending a monthly poetry group at New York Public Library.
Started volunteering for 826NYC, an organization that offers tutoring and writing workshops to students. I helped facilitate bookmaking field trips, creative writing workshops, virtual tutoring and personal statement workshops for high school students. I also took advantage of the workshops they offer for volunteers.
For most of the year I was able to keep to a schedule of publishing a new post weekly on my new fiction blog. I was about on a biweekly schedule for this blog, although I wasn’t always consistent.
I participated in NaNoWriMo; while I didn’t technically win, I only got to about 45,000 words instead of the 50k goal, I finished the story, attended a handful of write-ins at the NY Public Library and contributed to their weekly blog updates.
I also attended a bunch of free classes at the Brooklyn Public Library. Including some that have inspired me to try out some different creative projects. (Likely I’ll write more about those in another post.)
Last year was a bit of a struggle at times and I went through a lot of ups and downs. But overall, I’m happy with what I got done and where I’m at now. Back in December I started working a temp job for the holidays, the reason I fell off my writing routine, and they called me back in to work in February. It’s a part-time gig, but I like it so far and it definitely makes me feel better to have a steady check coming in. I feel like the past couple of months just flew by and I haven’t gotten much done, but I’m finally settling into a bit of a regular schedule.
When I was younger I didn’t really plan ahead long term. I did well in school each year to move up to the next grade and eventually go to college, get a degree and a good job. What college that should be and what job it might lead me to wasn’t something I thought too hard about. I imagined and day dreamed about different careers but it seemed so far off that I’d have plenty of time to plan for the future. I was also over confident that everything would just fall into place as they had in the past. I didn’t really put much effort into applying for college. I waited until the last minute to take the SAT’s, didn’t research many schools and didn’t visit any.
I stumbled upon DePaul University as part of a scholarship program I applied for. I wanted to go because of their communications and journalism program. I didn’t get the scholarship and ended up at SUNY Brockport. I was also accepted to Nazareth College but financial aid only covered half the tuition and boarding. I didn’t see anyway I could afford it and didn’t think it really mattered where I went anyway. I went mostly because I felt obligated. I didn’t think I’d learn anything useful, it was just a hurdle to getting a better job later on. My main motivation was to get away from home. I was very independent, wanted to get away and experience different places. I didn’t even look at any schools in New York City. I’m not sure if I would have gone to school right away if I stayed home. I was tired of learning in the classroom and more excited about hands on experience.
I admit part of me was trying to run away from a life that I was unhappy with. I thought maybe leaving home would change how I felt. It didn’t work, my heart wasn’t into school and it possibly made things worse. I ended my first year on academic probation because of my low grade point average. Having little else to do in the small college town I let myself get wrapped up in partying and enjoying the freedom of being away from home. I focused on enjoying the present instead planning for the future. When I returned to school in the fall things didn’t get much better. By October I realized I was wasting my time upstate and it would be my last semester there. I came home depressed and discouraged. I owed the school my full tuition for the last semester because I never finished the financial aid paperwork and had bills I neglected to pay. Before I could think about planning for the future I had to get a job, any job in order pay my debt. I planned on going back to school after I payed off the debt and had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I still occasionally wrote but didn’t invest any real time, money or energy into writing. Instead I pushed it aside for later when the time was right.
So I’ve made a lot of mistakes, we all do, right? I would have made just as many no matter what I decided. So I would probably do it all the same if I had a chance to do it over. I may not have learned anything in classes but the experiences were well worth the time upstate. My writing career may have been stalled because of the lack of planning. Then again I’m not sure if I would have a writing career if things played out differently. I needed to make those mistakes and take some detours to realized what it is that I actually want. The only thing I regret is not making writing a priority in my life. I let it become something to do when I had the time, instead I should have been making the time. I got caught up living life and trivial little things seemed very important. I wasted many years because I forgot what was really important to me.
So as I’ve said before I don’t do new year’s resolutions, but I do like to at least make a nice list of goals I would like to accomplish for the year. Unfortunately, last year I started one but never finished and to make it even better I can’t even find it. This year I am not only going to make sure I get the list done. I’m posting online for to ensure a certain level of accountability and I will know exactly where to find it at the end of the year.
Goals for 2011
Get my website up and running.
Attend networking events.
Organize my picture files.
Edit poetry collection.
Experiment with photo-editing everyday.
Read at least 5 books on writing.
Post something new online once a week.
Update the website once a week.
Can’t wait to see at the end of the year how many of these I was able to stick to or accomplish.
I have been a little opposed to writing a New Year post, but in the end felt I had to at least acknowledge it. I’m not big on the New Year’s resolution idea or believe that the change of year should be associated with a change in a person. It doesn’t help either that the majority of people that make resolutions do not keep them anyway. So I conclude that there is not much use for this. I do however, set aside some time to list the goals that I would like to achieve and what tasks need to be accomplished.
I’ve read many articles and tips on the best way to go about these, here are the ones I remember (and maybe revised to apply to me) and try to follow:
Write down your goals and put it somewhere visible. Seeing it will keep it in your mind and then you are more likely to accomplish it.
Set clear goals. Don’t use general broad language like I will write this year or I will get in shape. Identify a number of hours a week you want to either workout or write.
Don’t go overboard. You’re more likely to accomplish your goals if you keep them realistic, if your a writer you’re not going to write and publish a book in a year. And no matter how badly you want to get into shape, it’s not likely you will work out everyday.
Go back and reassess your goals later in the year. Maybe you overestimated how much you could get done, or maybe you’ve already accomplished your goal. Then revise it and set a new goal for the year or keep it in mind for next years goals.
Don’t get discouraged. You may not accomplish your goals, but you’ve started on your way to it just by writing them down and hopefully working towards it at least a little.
It gets easier to do this year after year. First of all it becomes habit and second after a while you can better estimate what it is you can get done. If you don’t accomplish a goal, you can look back and see if maybe it was a little too ambitious or maybe you just didn’t work as hard as you could. Now you know how to improve your chances the next year.