Don't Make Any Goals Next Year
Just Track Stuff
WOOOOOOOO! The end of the year is upon us! There’s a week left of NaNoWriMo! The Best Of lists are starting to come out! The holiday crunch is poised and ready!
So, how’s your WIP going?
A thing I am working on is not measuring my self-worth by my productivity, and I encourage you to do the same! You are not a lesser person if you did not read 52 (or 2) books this year. You are not a lesser person if you did not land an agent or a book deal. I’m trying to look back what I actually did, instead of whether or not I hit some goal I made up in January, 2021.
In publishing, it’s almost impossible to set some goals because you have no control over them. You alone cannot control whether an agent offers you representation (but you can send queries). You cannot control if you get a book deal, (but you can do the best editing/writing you can do). You cannot control if you hit the List or get picked for a Best Of (but you can promote your book as best you—reasonably—can). Making peace with what you CAN control is also something you can aspire to.
If you’re like me, though, you HAVE to do some kind of planning. If you’re like me, though, you make grand plans and fail miserably at them and get depressed. So I’m pivoting from planning to tracking. I’m not saying I’m going to do X or Y number of things by the end of 2022. I’m just going to note the stuff I actually do. Like these things:
When I get a chance to write, I record my word count: start, finish, net. I write it down in a little notebook and add it all up from time to time. I don’t get a chance to write everyday, but recording it when I do reminds me that writing a few times a week (if I’m lucky) really adds up! I can see when I get to write more times than I don’t get to. It reframes the narrative of I never write to look at all the times I got to write!
I love a spreadsheet. I keep many! I track my deals and income. I track my reading list. I track what I owe for my taxes so I make sure to save enough to pay them off quarterly/at the end of the year. Our Friendsgiving potluck spreadsheet is a thing of beauty. If you’ve been reading A&B for a while, you might remember my 2020 reading and money-and-sales wrap up. And here’s 2019! I can’t wait to go back and look at these and compare and see what changed and what didn’t, what I can learn about myself and my business and what’s ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I’ve already beat 2020’s total books read number (57) and I might eek by 2019’s number (78), if I’m lucky. But you see what I didn’t do? I didn’t say I must read 100 books this year. I must close 99 deals. I can’t control all those things in the end. But I can count them. And that feels great.
Make a List
When I started my first publishing job in NYC, my incredibly smart and kind sister told me to write. everything. down. I was assisting SIX AGENTS (never do that) and calls and emails and packages and messages were flying all around me. I could barely keep up. But when I started writing things down, like “sent contract to X" or “confirmed meeting with Y” I could easily go back in my notebook and confidently say “Yes, I sent the contract to X on Tuesday” instead of trying to hold all that stuff in my brain. This habit stuck, and I make detailed lists (both to do and have done) because holding 1,000 things in my brain at the same time is not my strong suit. If you start your 2022 list in a new notebook (see below) you can fill it with all the days you’re able to write, all the queries you sent, the afternoons you spent researching comps or agents or publishers (which is a slippery thing to track if you don’t, like, end up with a long list of them at the end), all the walks you took to unknot your plot. So many things! You did them all! Write them down and you’ll remember how hard you worked, regardless of the (false) story your brain might tell you about how little progress you’re making.
Listen, I don’t make the rules, but anytime you start a new project, you have permission to buy a new notebook. Cheap or expensive, fancy or workhorse, regardless of how many you already have at home. (I bought this bookbinding kit and made my own! So fun!) You are allowed to buy a new notebook between now and January 1st. I am granting you that permission. Wrap it up like a gift if you want to or need to. Put it under your <culturally or religiously appropriate winter holiday symbol>. I just bought one this weekend at Target. I can’t wait to use it.
Track the things you do actually do instead of race to an arbitrary goal sitting far off in the distance. I promise you’ll be proud of how far you got by the end of 2022.
FUN NEWS TO SHARE!
First off, two client books came out today and they deserve so much celebrating.
MAYBE THIS WILL HELP by Michelle Rial
Told in charts and essays, this book examines grief and chronic pain and work and hope and trying trying trying to figure out what will make things better. Whatever it is in your life that you wish was better, this book will make you feel less alone.
LIFETIME PASSES by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre
This YA Graphic Novel is the inaugural title for Abrams’ new SURELY list, focused on queer authors and illustrators. AND IT IS SO GOOD. It’s about a group of kids who realize they can get lifetime passes to their favorite theme park if someone in their party dies, so they start making friends with some seniors at a care facility. Hijinx ensue! (No one is murdered FYI.) Claudia’s art is gorgeous and Terry’s writing is hilarious and heartfelt and I’m so glad I got to work on this book.
Get thee to your nearest bookstore or library!
Last bit of news: I’m back at Catapult with the last installment in my WTF CONTRACTS series, as part of their Don’t Write Alone vertical. Today we’re talking about ~~Contract Surprises!~~ and you don’t want to miss out. You can read the first installment about Money here, and Rights here.
Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.
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Now that I think about it, the most progress I ever made was with a "tracking" journal many years ago before the minutiae of life became data to optimize; it was useful! Thank you for this.
Yay for you! Building notebooks is the best! If you have a used library book store nearby, look for well-bound discards. The old cases make for great journals (when you find the right size and title), just tear out the old text block (and maybe the old super).