Monday, December 5, 2016

Look Out Behind You! It's Your Past.

It's December, and we're now officially nearing the end of the year. You probably knew that. For many years I've used the twelfth month to look back at what I've accomplished and to look forward to the new year at all the wonderful things I will achieve. Ah, yes, it's that time again--time to review, re-evaluate, re-engage, and reinvent myself.

Inevitably, I find myself somewhere between disappointed and revolted at my accomplishments (or lack thereof) of the previous eleven months, yet thrilled to the point of giggling at the possibilities that lie before me in the great unknown, that wonderfully hazy, fascinatingly clean slate of the coming twelve months. While I didn't achieve The New York Times bestsellers status (again) this year, I'm optimistic that next year I will not only get on that list, but top it. For months on end. Heck, for the whole year. And then again, perhaps this is my year for the Pulitzer Prize. The way I look at it, every year that passes while I lose out to some other ridiculously-talented, deserving, or unknown (to me) author is a year closer to when I will. Win, that is. I might have to live for another century or two (or eight), but hey, its getting closer. I can feel it.

Even as I make excuses for my poor performance during the past year, I also compile a list of goals for the months ahead of me. At this point, the sky's the limit. Typically, it  looks something like this:

1.     Write 5000 (edited) words per day, seven days a week.
2.     Complete two full novels (100,000 words each) and their proposals, back cover copy, cover ideas, synopses, marketing ideas, etc.
3.     Submit those proposals to my agent, who will be thrilled (as always)
4.     Start taking notes on my next novel (the one my agent and readers begged me to begin)
5.     Conduct no fewer than five book signings every three months
6.     Research and enter no fewer than 12 contests
7.     Attend no fewer than four writers' conferences
8.     Consider tackling some speaking engagements
9.     Develop topics for speaking engagements
10.   Hire an assistant to handle the flood of speaking engagement and book signing requests
11.   Tweet 120 times per day
12.   Write a blog post every twenty minutes, post, then tweet about the post
13.   Answer the flood of positive comments on my blog posts
14.   Thank my retweeters of the 120+ tweets, as well as my too-numerous-to-count new followers

Okay then. That's nice, isn't it? So productive, so optimistic, so not-going-to-happen. Here's what really occurs:

1.     Write no fewer than 10 words per day (more like eight)
2.     Complete ... something
3.     Submit ... something
4.     Start ... something (anything)
5.     Read about other authors' book signings
6.     Read about writing contests (and the authors who win them)
7.     Think about writing conferences (and the writers who actually attended them)
8.     Consider ... something
9.     Develop ... something
10.   Dream about hiring an assistant
11.   Tweet about something at least one time per week
12.   Try to remember I have two blogs on which to post every .... once in a while
13.   Check to see if anyone--anyone at all--has commented on my blog posts
14.   Forget I even have a Twitter account

There. That's more like it. The way I look at it, if I keep my goals to a rock bottom minimum, I can hardly avoid achieving them! Well, one or two of them, at least. And therein lies the solution to my problems. The reason I never seem to accomplish anything is because I set my standards too high. If I lower those standards, I'll be able to reach them easily. And lowering my standards is the proper thing to do, right? Don't want to get above my raising, you know.

On the other hand, perhaps I should rein in my disappointment with myself over my perceived failures during the previous eleven months. After all, looking at my past accomplishments through the same lens I use to view the upcoming year and its dazzling array of victories is just asking for trouble. Better to view my past with as much optimism as I do my future. That's probably better than admitting to myself that the coming twelve months will soon be my past twelve months--when it starts all over again.

I think I need professional help.

How about you? How do you evaluate your past accomplishments and jumpstart your new ones?
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