Setting Goals

I think everyone knows the struggle of setting goals. Whether it be writing, exercise, reading, creating, or monetary goals, we can’t seem to stop ourselves from creating giant mile markers in our lives. We usually set the goals when we’re feeling on top of everything and ready to tackle the world, but we don’t often take into account that once that motivation starts to fade, the things we’re enjoying and planning to accomplish tend to become the same things that stress us out to no end and are put on the back burner because life just gets in the way.

My writing goals for 2016 are a great example.

Goals Accomplishments
Screenplay(s) for Eragon

(because everyone knows it needs to be redone)

It hasn’t even been started.

…but I did reread the book.

Novel It has been started, but it is only at 4187 words out of a minimum goal of 65000.
Ten short stories Three shorts stories were plotted, but none were finished.
Twenty poems Eight poems were written.
YouTube scripts (one a week) Only about ten YouTube videos were written, and only five recorded.
Blogs (two a week) Well, this went well for a few months, and then everything went awry, and I’m just starting back up (yet again) with a goal of one post a week.

Originally my goal was to finish my novel and the screenplay by June on top of half of the other goals as well. What I didn’t account for was my motivation or stress levels. I quickly encountered problems with that blog of mine disappearing, trying to balance part-time fast food work and a few full-time level freelance gigs, trying to find new roommates, looking for steady work, and traveling.

The thing is, though, that if I had taken a few things into account and simply structured my goals and my schedule better, I could have easily accomplished these goals.

  • Set aside specific days to work on specific projects.

I’m far more likely to work on them and reach my goals, even if I’m still not very good at sticking to it. I’ve been trying to write blog posts on Thursdays so that I can have them ready to post on Mondays. Although I’ve been awful at it for the last few months, when I push myself to do it, I can easily whip out a blog and put it up on the editing page that Azelyn and I use.

Now this technique looks different for writing my novel and all my other projects. Starting in January, I’ll be aiming to write a minimum of 2700 words a week for six months. I’ll be trying to split that throughout the week, but I will be setting aside the most time on Sundays and Fridays to work towards this goal. I’ll be planning like this for my other goals as well.

Here’s what my average weekly writing schedule now looks like:

SONY DSC

Now this might seem excessive (it certainly does to me), but if I routinely follow this schedule and manage my time, it should be relatively easy to follow. I’ll definitely be allowing myself to work ahead on any/all project if and when I like, and I’m quite excited to do so.

  • Set smaller goals at different increments that will help you reach your larger goal.

As you can see in my planning chart above, I’ve come up with specific goals for each week, and even each day. Obviously, nearly every day has overlap, but I vary the degree of difficulty/time commitment from day to day. But the most important factor is that I have a minimum goal for every week.

I’ve found that having weekly goals helps me most, but some people prefer daily, monthly, or quarterly goals. Having the weekly goals, but a daily plan gives me some leeway on what I should/could accomplish in a given day. I’m already aware that there will be days or weeks that I cannot finish the tasks I’ve marked. My schedule and the goal to work slightly ahead will help when those times arrive.

  • Work ahead when possible.

I know this is something I tend to hate thinking about, just like many of my friends do. But sticking to a schedule and getting ahead of the original plans can not only help reduce stress in the future, but it can also help your creativity become an integral part of who you are and get you in the habit of working on your projects, even when you don’t feel like it.

  • Find someone to help keep you accountable.

This can occur in so many different ways. I’ve tried several systems, and each has worked in its own time. Currently I use a combination of a couple accountability techniques: inquiring, nagging, and punishing.

Azelyn and I already talk on a daily (or as close as we can get) basis. However, amidst our regular conversations and fangirling, we still constantly ask each other how our projects are coming along. Largely, this is just because we’re curious, nosy, and each other’s number one fan. But also, we do it to ensure we’re actually being productive. The nagging is very rarely towards Azelyn, and it’s usually just about getting her post on our editing page earlier so I don’t have to edit it super early on Sunday morning. It’s a whole other matter for me. Azelyn is constantly nagging me about any and every project I’ve set before myself because I am the queen of procrastination…which is one of the reasons we’ve added punishments to our accountability. Right now, this is specifically meant for our blog posts, but once the new year hits, it will also include my videos and my novel word count. We’re still working out how those punishments will work out; but for the blog, every day that I fail to write a blog post past its deadline, I owe her a dollar. (Right now that’s up to $13. *oops*)

  • Reward yourself for reaching your goals.

Now I have no idea how I’ll do that this coming year yet, but I have a few ideas in mind, given that I have the money. This could be as little as eating a cookie when you reach your weekly word goal or as big as taking a vacation when you finish your novel. But whatever it is, don’t make the goals too small and the rewards too big. Make sure you actually have to work in order to be rewarded; then the victory will taste even sweeter.

What are some techniques you use to help set your writing (or life) goals?
What are some of your favourite reward systems for reaching your goals?
Let me know in the comments!

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The Tube

This is something that originally started off being a writing prompt and a writing exercise, combined. Then it turned into a scene for my novel, which I had not been expecting to happen at all. The writing prompt: write a story based in an setting you won’t like (which I took to mean as a setting in which I would hate to be in an uncomfortable situation). The exercise: place your character into an intense/uncomfortable situation. So, without further ado, I present to you a scene from my novel.
***Trigger warning*** This scene involves sexual harassment.

The Tube

I can’t believe that I’m sat on the tube in front of the two blokes who always seem to creep out most of the passengers in the same car as them. I already have to deal with sitting on a variety of uncomfortable blue and red patterned seats with smushed cushioning for over an hour, and I really don’t want to be pestered or harassed by two potentially drunken idiots for half of my commute home. Luckily, they haven’t started any ruckus yet today. Or at least not that I have noticed. I haven’t really been paying them much mind. Instead I’ve been listening to the sweet tones of jazz and belting voices of West End whilst trying to make notes on my next edit of the skit for my cousin’s school. Now that I think about it, they’ve been all too quiet. I can usually hear them over my headphones, no matter how quiet they think they are.

I slowly turn around, prepared to see them leering at me with their lips slightly curled and raising their eyebrows or torturing the woman who just got on at the last stop by pecking at her clothes or describing her physique with explicit details. But I find them vandalising the window and the seats with a marker, which isn’t as near as frustrating as usual, so I let them be. However, as I start to turn back to my notebook, one of them glances over and catches me looking. He comes over and sets his long-fingered hand on my shoulder under my hair, massaging the knots in it with the bony tips of his fingers as he starts to take my headphones off my head and slide them around my neck. My entire body stiffens and my hands clutch the notebook and pen so tightly they turn white.

He reaches with his other hand to finger my hair. “Your curls just can’t be tamed, eh? Do they take after you? Can you be tamed?” his slimy voice slithers into my ear. I tense up even more and don’t dare to say a word. “I’d love to see if you’re just as wild. You can curl around me, tangle your body with mine, fling around, be free. Just come with us; we’ll show you how crazy you can be.”

I lean forward, just enough to lessen the closeness between his chest and my back, yearning for someone to do something. But the only other person on the carriage is the woman from the last stop. I try to remember those crazy things you’re taught in those hour long self-defense seminars, but all that comes to mind is how much I want to cry, scream, and puke. I squeeze my eyes shut as tightly as I can, holding the air out of my lungs while making my mouth seem to disappear. Then the squeal of the brakes starts to sounds as the four of us lurch slightly toward the front of the train as it stops at the next station.

“Mind the gap,” I hear the automated voice say, and I look up to peer through my lashes, out the corner of my eye to see if anyone is getting on. I see a small group of people and a few lone people make their way into the carriage, but they are all either looking away or trying to ignore the slightly muscular, brown-haired man caressing my hair.

The man pushes his body against mine again and starts whispering in my ear, but I’m not comprehending anything he says anymore. I’m too full of fear.

Then I hear a different voice, and the grip on my shoulder and the fingers in my hair loosen. I feel the warmth radiating between his chest and my upper back lessen as he backs away enough to talk with the other man, but he does not let go.

I force myself to listen.

“Dude, what are you doing?”

“What? You got something to say about me and my girl?” He pretends to gently pet my curls.

“She doesn’t seem too happy about you touching her.”

“Oh, and you get a say in that? She’s my girl; I’ll do what I want, wanker.”

“I don’t think she’s anybody’s girl.”

“Do you?”

“She’s a human being. Show her some respect, and sod off.”

“You sod off! The bitch needs to show me respect.” His hand on my shoulder moves to my hair and grabs tightly as he starts gesturing at the man who got on the tube.

I wince and whimper a little, the first sounds that have escaped my throat since getting on the train.

“I don’t think you deserve respect, you tosspot, and she doesn’t want you doing that.”

“I’ll show you what she wants!” My head is pulled back sharply, and I stifle a scream as he roughly lowers his mouth towards mine. I squeeze my eyes and lips tightly shut again and wait for the disgusting slobber and scent to collide with my face. But instead, I hear the clack and crunch of a jaw slamming shut and teeth meeting teeth and feel myself yanked back more and released. Then another crunching sounds as he is hit again.

“You bastard!” I hear my molester shout with a wet voice. “I’ll get you for this!”

“You might want to get off and go on to a clinic. Your teeth and nose don’t look so hot.”

I finally turn and look at the people behind me. The man, whose scent still lingers about me, is holding a few strands of my hair in one hand and covering his face with the other, blood streaming down his face and falling to his chest and the floor. If I weren’t so scared, I would probably be laughing with joy that such a crude man has finally been accosted.

“And you. I’ll teach you to respect me.” He snaps at me, pointing his finger in my face.

“Oi. Sod off!” The other man shouts, still shaking his hand free of pain.

With his nose still dripping, the lout sulks off to join his friend. They stand glowering at the back of the carriage until the next stop, and then disembark.

“I’m so sorry that happened. I hope you’re okay.” The man says in a very American accent, now massaging his hand lightly. “I’m Adam.”

Zoe: Five Blessings in My Life

It’s day one of blogging prompts, and I’ve not posted in quite some time, so it’s a tad strange to be back. But I recently received a text fervently and ardently begging me to start my blog again (Here’s looking at you, Natalie).

My school
I may complain about my classes a fairly large amount, but going to uni has been helping me improve my writing more than I could have ever imagined. The coursework may be a bit draining, but I definitely still enjoy it. And I can easily work it in around my hours at the office. Plus, sometimes the assignments and revisions help me think of new ideas for my projects at work!

Andrew
Could I ever be thankful enough for Andrew? He’s already moved one of his favourite mugs into my cabinets and made himself a copy of my key. But on a serious note, the entire incident on the train could have come out very differently if he hadn’t come in like a white knight. Plus, I absolutely adore his grandmum! (Can anyone say connections??)

My mum
My mum has done everything for me. My dad has too, but my mum never fails to exceed even my utterly unrealistic expectations. Last week, I was sat at her kitchen table complaining about “running out of tea” since moving out, and even with the knowledge that I was completely exaggerating, she showed up with a giant bag from Tesco with about five different kinds of tea. Now my tea and mug cabinet is literally overflowing! Speaking of which…

Tea!
Where would I be without my tea! Every cuppa brings a warmth to my soul that could never come in any other way. The mugs, the heat, the flavour, the comfort…there’s nothing like it. I’ve still got a wonderful mug of earl grey in front of me, but I’ve already set the kettle to boiling again.

Writing
You already know this about me, obviously, but writing isn’t just a blessing in my life, it IS my life. Without writing I’d only have five good things in my life: my mum, my dad, my grandmum, my books, and my tea. If it weren’t for writing, I wouldn’t be at uni, I wouldn’t have my job, I wouldn’t have met Andrew (let alone any of my other friends), I wouldn’t know how to express myself, I wouldn’t be able to change the world, and I wouldn’t have enough money to buy more books…and we all know how dismal of a life that would be.

What are five things you’re blessed to have?