Defining My Goals, Balancing Dreams With Reality

The kitchen island in progress. You can see the finished project at This Is Art, Damn It! Facebook page.

That picture doesn’t have a book in it. Nor a typewriter or word count or pen. In fact, that has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with my ever-changing goals and dreams.

I bought a dresser, painted it, and then turned it into a kitchen island with the addition of a sanded plywood overhang. And as I was looking at the plain plywood (that I had fully intended to just stain with a nice basic color), my goals for the weekend changed.

Funny how that happens.

I spent the next couple of days working on the design and adding coats of a classic oak gloss to it. It looks AMAZING. I love it. I love that it is functional and decorative and that I had the vision and the drive to make it happen.

Was I writing? Nope. But I was enjoying the hell out of myself. And now I’ve got this phenomenal work/eating surface in my kitchen that I absolutely love. I’m also slowly going through and painting the insides and outsides of all of the cabinets and drawers and lining them with some pretty shelf liner. My kitchen is going to look fantastic!

Not just that, but I had someone friend me on Facebook today and ask me if I would make them one. The answer was “no” by the way. I think I have more than enough on my plate, don’t you think?

Writing is Special to Me

As I was planning and pondering on my latest book projects. And feeling overwhelmed to get it done, my mind kept straying to the different arts & crafts projects I wanted to do.

I want to create a mandala on the doors to the pantry in the dining room. But I can’t do that, I need to get my writing projects done. I don’t have time for working on art, I have to focus on getting these books done.

And when this silent conversation went through my head, I knew I couldn’t stick to my plan of high production. Because even longer than I have been writing, I have been creating. Whether it was plastic canvas needlepoint, embroidery, latch hook, cross-stitch, home decor, Zentangle, or a dozen other things – I have always derived enormous pleasure from creating things. I don’t want to have to stop that!

Also, writing is special to me. Really special. Right up there with creating things. After all, I am creating something, a book filled with words instead of a tea towel or framed cross-stitch. I want it to stay special. I want it to continue to bring me joy. And I question whether that would happen if I were producing a book a month.

Numbers Are Sometimes Detrimental

I hated math as a child. HATED IT. But worse than hating math, I hated feeling stupid. So I worked at it, over and over, practicing my times tables and addition, subtraction and division until I was quick and efficient at it. And after years of being a single mom and having to manage my finances, I have grown adept at working with numbers.

There’s something reassuring about it. There are definable patterns, exponential returns, and I eventually found that my goals often centered around numbers.

“So if I write 500 words a day, every day, I’ll be able to produce 182,500 words in a year.” Heck, that’s 2.25 80k books! Well, what if I wrote 1,000 words a day?”

And then I went to a conference where there are people writing a book a month, heck, a book every three weeks!

Do I do this? Do I push my numbers up and just double down and create a crap ton of books? These people are making insane amounts of money and again, the numbers call out to me. “Don’t you want to make five figure months? Or six figure years?

Yes and No

Yes, I would love to be making six figure years off of my writing. But not at the expense of:

  • Giving up my art projects
  • Time with my family
  • My health
  • Burnout

So, yes and no. Surely there is a middle ground?

500 Words a Day, Almost Every Day

I was stressing and stressing and stressing over it. Which meant I wasn’t writing, not at all. Finally, as I was stress-writing in my work journal about it, I realized I was just spinning in circles.


I sat down and decided I would write 500 words in Steel and Smoke. I did. I ended up writing almost 900.

The next day, I decided I would work on the chapters close to the end of the book, which include a repeat of scenes from Hired Gun. I added around 4,000 words to the book over the course of the next two days. And this morning, I sat down and wrote 517 words before I had to leave and take the little one to her annual check-up.

It seems that if I keep it simple. If I tell myself, “Just write 500 words,” then it happens. And not only does it happen, but I over-achieve.

Every time I tell myself, “Well, if I just write 2,000 words or 5,000 words a week,” everything falls apart. I guess there really is something to tricking yourself to write more by demanding less.

I hear many writers say, “Don’t set out to write a BOOK. Instead, write a scene. Then write another, and another, and another. Before long, you have a book.” And as much as I wish I were able to do it differently, I’m going to take that to heart.

The Rules

I like rules. Sometimes I even like to break rules (my husband would probably look at me and ask, “Sometimes?”). Mostly though, I see them as guideposts. So here are the rules of the game that I will be playing with myself…

  1. 500 words a day, almost every day (weekends are often hit or miss, but weekdays are a must unless I’m majorly ill)
  2. Once I have written my 500 words, I can either continue in my current project or work on another. Currently I’m writing Steel and Smoke, but I also need to be making progress on my G581 sequels.
  3. Focus that 500 words on only one book at a time. Sure, I can have multiple projects, but I need to write in one at a time and finish that project.

Project Status

Right now, I’m focusing on Steel and Smoke and it is sitting at 9,670 words. G581: Mars sits at 9,306. The goals on both are 80,000 words.

I’m not going to tell you “I should have it done by this date” because that just feels like a recipe for disaster.

So there you go, that’s the big plan for 2020. Write what I can, when I can, and continue to put out good stories that folks want to read.

And to make a little art along the way, enjoy this last year of homeschool with my teenager, adopt our four-year-old, and get a second Airbnb in action.

Oh, and one more thing – stop beating myself up when there are hiccups along the way. Life isn’t a race, it’s a journey, after all.

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