Last year I gave myself a shit-ton of goals. Ten ‘main’ goals, many of which encompassed several smaller things. I accomplished precisely three of these in the way I intended: learning how to control my ulcerative colitis through diet alone, exploring more of Scotland, and reading 75 books. I sort-of achieved four more, and with the final three I didn’t even try.
The three that I didn’t even try? Learning to ride a motorbike, flossing daily, and rising earlier. On reflection, I realised I didn’t actually want to do any of these things. I liked the IDEA of them, but I wasn’t truly that bothered about them. In fact, I went in and added ‘flossing’ to my list after I’d already published it, because I was like, ‘Oh hey! I should do that!’
Should is the operative word here. For years I’d been thinking about how cool it would be to ride a motorbike (ever since I saw Long Way Round, which is a fantastic documentary I insist you watch immediately). I knew I’d be leaving the country in the not-too-distant future, so I rationalised that it was now or never and added it to my 2016 goals – despite not feeling a particular yearning to learn. Flossing and rising earlier? Nothing but indoctrination from the online wankfest that is lifestyle blogging. FLOSSING AND GETTING UP AT THE ASSCRACK OF DAWN IS WHAT SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DO, GUYS. Whatever, whatever, whatever.
So anyway, this year I’m keeping it simple and focusing only on the things that matter to me – the things I really do want to achieve. I’m not breaking this up into categories like I did last year, because I simply don’t have goals in every category. Take travel: I don’t need to set goals, because my style of travel is ‘go where I want, when I feel like it’. That’s going to happen naturally since I’ll be travelling for pretty much the entire year, thanks to my newfound digital nomad lifestyle.
These goals are designed to help steer me in the direction I’d like to live my life in. (Wait, can you live your life in ‘a direction’? Whatever, I’m going with it.) At the core of them all is one simple thing: doing work that matters to me.
Here they are:
1. Write every single day
This is it. This is the heart of everything. I mentioned in my 2016 recap that I’ve finally realised how much I love writing. This may have seemed obvious to you, given that I run a writing business, but it was not obvious to me – not until I dedicated myself to writing every single day for four weeks. Suddenly it became incredibly transparent how important writing is to me. I love doing it, I want to become as good as possible at it, and I want to use it to effect positive, meaningful change in the world. Not to get all dramatic on you, but I think it might be my life’s purpose, guys.
Instead of setting specific goals around writing – write this particular thing, get featured in that publication, or whatever, I’ve simply decided to dedicate myself to the craft. Do it every single day and trust in the process.
I’ve decided to lower my target daily word count even further than it was in the 28-day writing challenges I conducted late last year. In those challenges, I wrote 500 words per day. Now I’m dropping the number to 400 to make it even more achievable. I’ll often end up writing more than 400, but I know I can always achieve 400, no matter what. It’s the tenth day of the year as I write this, and I’m going strong. I’ve had some 3000-word days so far and, even more impressively, last week, when I was hungover from New Year’s Day festivities (what is it with aunts and always filling up your wine glass?), I managed to write over 1000 words. I believe that writing every day is hands down the best possible thing I can do for my writing career, so that’s what I’m going to do. Fuck. Yes.
The ‘rules’ are simple: write every single day, at least 400 words. Journalling on paper doesn’t count. I will write mostly in Scrivener, which is where I draft all my blog posts and other writings, each category having its own folder or document. Ideally I will write ‘useable’ things, however, I have also created a ‘Shit’ folder, purely for days when I am struggling. I will give myself permission to write some nonsense in there when nothing else is coming. I’ve used this folder three times already this year (for that I thank: hangovers, lack of sleep, social engagements and being pressed for time), though I hope the ratio will drop as the year goes on. But hey, the point is to keep the habit going, no matter what.
I’m excited to see what results this resolution – this commitment – will yield. What will I write? Where will it be published? How will my writing improve? I want to stretch myself this year. Although my voice has grown and changed over the years since I started this blog, I know there is more I can be doing to actively improve my writing. SO I’M GON’ DO IT, GUYSSS. I wonder if I will stop writing things like that.
2. Read every single day
Reading is an insanely important part of writing, warranting this goal second place on my list. I initially wrote ‘read 75 books’ here, which is the goal I set last year, and which I achieved. But now I’m thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, the goal of reading every single day would be even better. I did NOT read every single day last year, yet I still managed to read 75 books. So fuck it, surely this way I will end up reading even MORE than 75 books? I have no idea, but just thinking about it is exciting me. I’m now so incredibly curious as to how much I will read if I read every single day. So yes, fuck it, THAT is what I’m going to do. Tragically, I’ve already broken this one because I didn’t read anything on 2 January (hello Hangoverville and Netlix), but let’s be honest – these ‘do it every day’ goals are more about building the habit than hitting a perfect streak. (Except my writing goal. I am determined to do that every single day.)
Reading is a crucial part of being a writer, so I’m trying hard to think of reading as actual WORK these days, rather than purely for pleasure, because often the reason I don’t read during the day is because there’s something else I ‘should’ be doing. Right now I’m envisaging making reading the first thing I do every day (STEP ASIDE, SOCIAL MEDIA). This should not be hard, because I LOVE reading first thing in the morning. Brew a coffee and settle into the sofa for an hour. What’s not to love? I think mornings are the perfect time to read, because I’m too groggy to do much else AND, even better, it often makes me feel inspired to write. I won’t include audiobooks or graphic novels/comics in my ‘daily reading’ goal, but I will include them in my book count for the year.
3. Do some exercise to take care of my back every single day
Though it might not seem like it, this goal is all about writing, too. My upper spine is straighter than normal, according to many a chiropractor across the land, which results in persistent niggling aches and pains in my shoulders, neck and upper back when I spend too much time hunched over my laptop. And, as I’m sure you’re aware, pain – particularly back pain, I find – is not conducive to writing, or indeed to anything except sprawling on the sofa with Netflix. Back pain is particularly debilitating, and when I get it, it makes me not want to write (or do any other laptop-related work). Exercise is a good remedy for this. Moving the body, apparently it’s good for you.
I’m not setting any lofty goals like ‘go to the gym every Monday, Wednesday and Friday’ like I did last year. I mean, that’s a ‘should’ goal if ever you saw one, right? That’s what they say, isn’t it? Exercise at least three times a week for thirty minutes. I despise rigid goals like that, because my rebel heart will only ever do what it wants to do. I need flexibility. So, okay, I know what you’re thinking now: how is ‘exercise every day’ in any way flexible? Like, at all? Well, it’s because I’m going to be flexible with the type of exercise I do and not set any specific targets to hit. When I have to do a specific thing at a specific time, I get antsy. Try to tell me when, where, how to do it and I am fucking GONE. Let me do it in my own way and I’m golden.
I think the REASON you decide to exercise is the most important thing of all, and for me it’s not about losing weight (blah) nor about ‘being healthy’, which is far too vague and wibbly. I’m doing good on this resolution so far – and I’m feeling good about it, too. Because I’m keeping it super simple, only doing things I actually enjoy, and very much focusing on my reason for doing it. I have to exercise in order to write. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t have to be intensive exercise. A quick run is good for loosening my shoulders up. A 6-minute yoga video targeting the back and posture makes a huge difference. A long walk is better than nothing (if nothing else, I’m aiming to walk at least three miles a day). I just need to do something, every single day, to help keep my back loose, flexible and strong. Ka-fucking-pow.
4. Shift the focus of my work
Alright, I’m stepping away from the ‘do this every day’ theme now. I spent almost all of my work-time creating and updating courses last year. There was Start Fiction Editing, which claimed almost half a year, all in. And then I set about rebranding and reworking my old freelance writing courses so they better aligned with Untamed Writing. I did other bits of work here and there, and I took a good bit of time off to travel, but yeah – the bulk of my time was spent on product creation. Which I love, of course – but not to the exclusion of all else.
You may have noticed that my services page has been missing for the past year or so. I took it down because I didn’t have time to take on any new clients, what with all the product creation I had going on. I mean, technically it is still on the site, and anyone with my business card can find it, but still. I’m ready to get back to freelance writing and – something I’m super excited about – freelance editing. An unexpected side effect of co-creating a course about freelance editing was that I fell in love with editing. So my plan is to reduce the number of writing services I offer (I have one very specific writing service I want to offer from now on in mind) and to start offering editing – and substantive rewriting – services. COLOUR ME EXCITED, GUYS.
So, for now I plan to finish and launch my how-to-write-a-sales-page product, which people have already paid for and are waiting on – and then shift my focus back to offering services. Kind of a backwards way to go about business, I guess, but whatever. It’s what I want to do. Oh, I will also continue to teach my in-depth freelance writing course, probably three times a year.
And that’s it! Four fairly simple goals that I actually want to achieve. No, not achieve – do. No more bullshit arbitrary goals for me. Only things that matter to me – and a flexible approach to achieving them. Because, well, me and rigid targets? (No, that’s not a euphemism, as much as it kinda sorta sounds like one, you filthy bastards.) Only works when it’s something I truly want to do. And if it’s something I truly want to do, I don’t need a target to achieve it.