Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Setting Goals

Do you set goals for your writing? And if so, do you achieve them? I think I must be addicted to goal-setting as I can't really function unless I have specific goals for every area of my life and that includes my writing.

As well as yearly writing goals, which I usually set at the beginning of September, I also have monthly goals, weekly goals and daily goals. Year goals are pretty specific and usually relate to how much actual writing I hope to produce in the coming year. (Not how much I hope to sell!) Current year goals include:

1. To finish the first draft of my life story "The Emptiness at the Edge of the World".
2. To (finally!) finish my 9-12 novel "Dear Egg" and send it out to agents.
3. To write twelve new short stories including flash fiction.

I also have some "recommendations" for the coming year based on my progress (or lack of it!) last year and they include:

1. To focus more on magazine markets and less on competitions.
2. To continue to network both in person and on-line.
3. To look at ways of bringing in more income through writing-related activities such as organising workshops, producing resources for writers etc

My monthly goals, which I set (not surprisingly) at the beginning of each month and review at the end, are also quite specific and are based on my year goals. For instance, if my year goal is to write twelve new short stories, then my monthly goal will be to write one of those twelve.

 Much less specific are my weekly and daily goals. This is mainly because I find it difficult to know exactly what I am going to be able to achieve on a weekly or daily basis (especially now that I have a 'portfolio career') and as I can get pretty cheesed-off with myself if I don't achieve my goals, I tend to make them more fluid. Of course, this may explain why Sunday is always the hardest working day of the week!

The general consensus about goal-setting is that you should always have SMART goals. In other words, any goals you set should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related. According to an excellent article on the art of planning in the September 2011 issue of  Writing Magazine by Michael Allen (http://www.writers-online.co.uk/) which quotes the incredibly successful self-published ebook author John Locke (http://www.lethalbooks.com/), "Your goals should be low enough to hit, and high enough to matter!"

Apparently, you are also more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. This is a useful thing to do anyway, as it helps you to focus and remember what you are supposed to be aiming for. And don't forget, it is OK to rewrite your goals as you go along if circumstances change or you find yourself moving in a new direction. Finally, I always reward myself in some way for every goal I achieve, even if it's only with a big red tick or a 'Well Done' sticker. Trust me, that's the best bit.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Freelance Market News

Just a very brief post this week as I'm about to take a much needed few days off (it's hard work setting up a portfolio career!) but there is just time to tell you about Freelance Market News. In case you don't already subscribe, this is a very useful magazine edited by Angela Cox and linked to The Association of Freelance Writers. In fact, if you subscribe, you automatically get a membership card for the Association which is quite useful if you are ever in a situation where you need to prove that you are a writer. (Yes, OK. You could prove it by actually writing something but you know what I mean.)

Freelance Market News (http://www.freelancemarketnews.com) is published 11 times a year and each issue contains detailed market information for a wide range of magazines and newspapers (including overseas ones), competition news, details of editorial changes, filler markets, a book of the month, a letters page, a "How To" article and a writing competition for subscribers with a £50 prize.

I happen to have a spare copy of this month's issue so if anyone would like to see Freelance Market News for themselves, just email me your address via my website (http://www.melissalawrence.co.uk) and I'll be happy to send it to you on a 'first come first served basis'.   

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Coping With Rejection (Part 2)

Last week I blogged about coping with rejection after I had eight rejections all at once. (If I could work out how to link back to that post I would but I can't so I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it or scroll down the page!)

A couple of days later, I came across a really helpful article in the 2011 edition of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook (A&C Black) by a coach and trainer called Alison Straw. The article is called "Dealing With Rejection" and if you have a copy of the book (and I'm sure you have!) you can find it on page 659.

Alison outlines nine (I would have had to do ten!) key points on managing rejection and building up resistance to it, all of which I found extremely useful. Some of her suggestions include pausing and letting the dust settle, channelling negative emotions about the rejection into positive activity, asking others for advice, focusing on success and trying again.

It may be stuff we already know but the order in which the key points are grouped and the practical and positive stance the article takes, certainly helped me with my bruised ego when I read it. The quote at the end of the article from Sir Winston Churchill - "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm" is particularly apt for writers, although as I said in my previous post, we aren't supposed to call them "failures"!

If you are feeling in need of something to help you cope with rejection that doesn't involve strong liquor, high bridges or a trip to the local job centre, I would urge you to read this article for yourself. And while you are about it, take a look the website http://www.writersandartists.co.uk There is a wealth of information for writers on there (including how to cope with rejection!), guest blogs and links to other useful books and courses. Before you know it, you'll be so fired up, you'll have forgotten all about that rejection.


 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Coping With Rejection

What do you do when you get eight rejections in one day? Actually, it was the middle of the night in my case and it happened last Sunday. And before you ask why my postman is working such irregular hours, I should point out that these were not the "large white envelopes lying on the mat" type of rejections. These were the sort you get when you finally decide it's time to check the websites of all the poetry and short story competitions you entered three months ago, in the hope that you actually won first prize in all of them but the competition organisers haven't got round to notifying you yet.

Although I've had multiple rejections before, this was a bit of a low point. This was partly because I broke my own record and also because I was so convinced I was going to be the winner of one particular flash fiction competition that I stared at the computer screen for about ten minutes, unable to accept the fact that I hadn't even made the long list. (My entry for this competition was one of those rare pieces where you feel like it's the best writing you've ever produced, the story more or less writes itself and you've even done some research on the judges.)

So what did I do? Well, I went through the usual ten minutes of hand-wringing and angst that I usually go through (multiplied by eight), telling myself that I clearly couldn't write for toffee and was about as likely to make it as writer as I am a hang-glider. Then I tidied my desk, wrote out my writing goals for the coming week and did a couple of hours crafting. (That's one advantage of having a "portfolio career". If one job isn't going too well, you can always work on another.)

The key thing is that deep-down, I knew I'd be back at my desk again, hence the need to set new writing goals, even though at that particular moment, I'd decided I was never going to write another word again!

It's taken me a while but I've come to understand that as a writer, how you handle rejection is almost as important as how you handle the writing itself. Yes, it's horrible and despite what all the books say, almost impossible not to take personally, but however much it knocks your self-confidence and makes you feel like giving-up, you just have to take it on the chin, put it behind you and get back to your desk again.

Of course, it may help not to think of it as "rejection".  A while back, I heard a radio report which said that the word "failure" is to be replaced in schools with the phrase "deferred success" . Would that work for you? Let me know how you cope with rejection and in the meantime, I'm off to find a new home for one of my "deferred successes".