I've never been much for New Year's resolutions. If in the first month I miss a few days of exercise or skip practicing piano, it’s too easy to chuck the whole thing. Also, if something truly matters to me, I’m usually already doing it. I've always loved to write. Happy or sad, depressed or excited, employed or unemployed, sick or well, I've written something, whether it’s novels, poetry, short stories, or journal entries, so I've never needed to set a resolution to write more. Likewise, if I really don't want to do something, unless I find a way to like it or to value it more highly, I don't to do it even if I set a hundred resolutions.
|My high tech scheduling app for the New Year.
Still, I like the approaching New Year as a time to take stock, reflect, and plan by setting goals. Last year’s goals tell me where I’ve been and where I didn’t get to. Sometimes they surprise me. I’ve achieved goals I didn't recall setting, and I’ve forgotten goals that during the previous December seemed vital. (Which is why one of my goals for 2016 is to review my goal list once a month, probably at the same time I publish my MOST eNewsletter.)
Professional/business goals were always fairly easy for me to set as a lawyer. When I worked for a large law firm, I aimed to exceed the firm’s requirements for number of billable hours per year, pro bono work (unpaid legal work for organizations that help people of limited means), and improving my skills. In my own law practice, the goals were not that different, just focused more on the big picture—bringing in new cases or clients when I was growing, ensuring current clients were happy with my work, deciding when to outsource work or hire an assistant. These days the goals are simpler than ever, as I only handle a limited number of matters. So my goal is to give excellent service on those cases and maintain my practice at that pace so I can continue to write, publish, and teach without slighting my legal work.
With writing, setting and meeting goals has been more fluid. I have been pretty good at completing the novels I want to write. On the other hand, writing a certain number of articles and short stories is a goal that appears every year but that I often meet halfway at best. I enjoy that type of writing, but don’t love it the way I love novel writing. (See above, not doing things I'm not that interested in despite resolutions. Or goals, apparently.) Also, until very recently, writing was something I did on the side, so what time I could devote to it I wanted to spend on favorite projects.
My other struggle is with setting aspirational goals versus realistic ones. I believe people rarely exceed their goals, so setting one too realistically can become a limit rather than an inspiration. Also, it's hard to get excited about goals that are realistic. Over the past six months, during which I devoted the bulk of my work time to writing and to the business side of marketing and publishing, I doubled my book sales. I expect my split between writing, teaching, and law to be about the same in the coming year, so it would be realistic to seek to sell 2-4 times the number of books I did this year. But how exciting is that? Exponential growth, on the other hand—selling 100 times the number of books this year—now that would be exciting. But it’s highly unlikely for any author to do that, and I might be left overly discouraged if I achieved any less than that.
Mostly I solve this conflict by setting the majority of my goals in terms of what I have a reasonable amount of control over. I plan to finish and publish The Conflagration, Book 3 in my Awakening series, this coming spring. My aspirational goals are to also write and publish the final and fourth book in the series and to outline and draft the first novel in a new mystery series I’m planning. As far as sales, I’ve settled on aiming for 10 times this year’s sales. That’s high, but doable. I also have a number of flexible goals around possible non-fiction books and short stories. And I hope to significantly expand subscribers to my monthly MOST eNewsletter. If you enjoy fiction and movies in the mystery, occult, suspense, or thriller genres and you’d like to help with that goal, the link to join is below.
In the process of setting 2016 goals, I’ve put aside one idea that’s been bouncing around in my head, which is to start a podcast. At some point, I’d like to produce a weekly 10-minute show for people dealing with loss, inspired by my parents’ deaths due to a drunk driver and my experiences with the amazing, inspiring people I’ve met through AAIM (the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists). After investigating what’s involved on the technical and production side, I realized that the significant time and energy I’d need to spend to learn how to do podcasts and then produce a show each week would make it too hard to finish the Awakening series. The podcast may very well be on my 2017 goals, though. Or, given that it matters to me, I may find myself doing it anyway sometime in the middle of the year.
While I focused on professional goals in this post because personal goals are, well, personal, I do set those types of goals as well. They include staying close with friends and family, travel, and health. A lot of them overlap. Most of my travel plans for the coming year include writing or readers conferences in places I also think will be interesting to visit. My main health goal, other than staying overall healthy, is to find a way to keep my neck and shoulders pain-free in between my once a month visits to a massage therapist. The more I write at my keyboard, the more I find myself popping Advil during that last week before my visit to deal with muscle pain and prevent migraines, and I’d like to avoid all of that. I’ve started setting a timer to make myself get up every twenty minutes and I'm adding stretching exercises throughout the day. I’ve also started using the dictation function on my iPhone to do first drafts of blog posts.
Most of all, though, when I consider the coming year, I hope it is a happy and healthy one, not just for me, but for everyone.
I’ve shared these goals in part because by doing so, I’m adding more accountability. I’d also love to hear about your goals, resolutions, and New Year’s thoughts below, via email, or on my Facebook author page. Best wishes for a wonderful new year!
Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the occult thrillers The Awakening and The Unbelievers, Books 1 and 2 in the Awakening series. A short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases and read reviews of M.O.S.T. (Mystery, Occult, Suspense, Thriller) books and movies, click here to join her email list and receive free a short horror story, Ninevah, published exclusively to M.O.S.T. subscribers.