Goal Setting for the New Year

(We’re still calling it the new year, right?)

If you’re anything like me, your head is swimming with everything you want to accomplish in 2017. So much so that you have a hard time falling asleep at night. (Writer’s insomnia is a REAL THING. Perhaps even worse than pregnancy insomnia. (Okay, nothing’s worse than that.))

I’ve got goals for my freelancing business and goals for my novel-writing. I’ve also got two toddlers and no daycare. The days are short, naptime doesn’t last forever, and I’ve got a mile-long list of shiz to do.

Here’s a brief rundown of my 2017 writing goals:

–Complete revisions for the novel I wrote in 2016

–Find a few critique partners with whom I really connect

–Become agented

–Grow my freelance writing business

–Write the first draft of my next book

–Blog post weekly

–Read more books in my genre

. . .and some of my non-writing goals

–Establish a meditation practice

–Potty-train girlies

–Buy a house

Whew! I get a little overwhelmed just thinking about all of it. Most of the items on that list seem above my reach, and I know why; they aren’t specific enough. They don’t meet all the criteria of SMART–specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, or time specific. Figuring out the details of how to accomplish each will take time and careful planning, breaking down each large goal into individual, manageable steps. So there’s another goal: set more specific goals.

Freelance writers who also write fiction. . . how are y’all doing this?

How do you juggle working out of both sides of your brain–the “business” side and the “creative” side? How do you set aside time to learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship while keeping your imagination loosey-goosey? Do you feel like the two “sides” are constantly fighting for your attention?

I was thinking about this–the perennial, usually-boring question of “how am I going to juggle it all–” when I came across this video of one Lin-Manuel Miranda:

(You’re smiling now, right? What a flippin’ JOY.)

There are few people on planet earth more inspiring than Lin-Manuel.

I’m gonna take a leap here and assume that everyone is familiar with the genius that is Hamilton and the genius that is Moana. The combination of those two soundtracks makes up about 90% of the listening in our home. Pretty sure that when my daughters start talking for realz, they’ll be spitting verses from “My Shot” and “Guns and Ships.”

Consider this: what if LMM had said “no thanks” when Disney offered him the Moana job?

I mean, that would have made total sense. He was about to start rehearsals for what’s literally the most genius piece of theater that’s ever been. He had Hamilton songs to polish! People to cast! Dance steps to learn! Seriously; I listen to Hamilton and wonder how anybody involved in the creation of the production could have had time to do so much as send a tweet. A work of such monumental brilliance surely took up 100% of everybody’s brain-space.

But no! While LMM was getting Hamilton ready for rehearsals, he was also writing a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SOUNDTRACK. (And he tweeted quite prolifically, as it turns out.)

I don’t imagine that LMM was doing a whole lot of belly-aching about how he was going to “juggle it all.” A lesser mortal might have whined about how his Moana duties were cutting into his Hamilton time. But did you catch what LMM said in the video?

He said writing songs for Moana “saved him” during the crazy run-up to Hamilton. He had to compartmentalize his time and clear space in his day to do the job. But instead of letting the process stress him out, LMM has a different take:

“Anytime it got to be too much, I’d go sail across the sea with Moana and Maui, and it was actually great.”

I love what Lin’s mom has to say when Ryan asks her if LMM was always able to “shift gears” in order to focus on multiple projects as the same time: “As long as he had a deadline, he was great.”

That’s what it all boils down to, right? Deadlines. Weekly goals. Daily goals. Hourly goals.

Got ten minutes? What can you do with that?

Here’s a new thought: maybe I’ve been thinking about all this the wrong way. Maybe I’m setting up a false duality when I make a distinction between the “business” and “creative” sides of my brain. Maybe it all comes from the same place, and enhancing my skills in one arena enables me to better perform in all others.

One day I’m going to have books on shelves, and I’m going to need to know how to sell them. Then I’ll need the entrepreneurial skills I’m learning now as I grow my freelance writing business. And in writing for clients, I’m always utilizing my skills that I use for the strictly “creative” work of novel-writing: brainstorming ideas, researching, finding just the right combination of words to make a sentence jump off the page.

The fact is, there is always a lot to juggle, for anyone and everyone who is trying to do something creative. People are caregivers, teachers, engineers, social workers, in addition to poets, potters, novelists, crafters. . .whatever. Bemoaning that I have to “juggle it all” becomes particularly exasperating when I consider what privilege I’ve been born into.

For real: what is I want? To not have options? To live in a time and place in which my only choice is to work on a factory assembly line, where I only have one professional obligation? No thanks.

So instead of getting overwhelmed by my aspirations, this year I want to find a way to do it all. I want to utilize an app that will help me set daily tasks and stay organized. I want to use all the use-able moments in a day. Instead of thinking about how 24 hours aren’t enough, I’m going to take the Laura Vanderkam approach of thinking about all the hours in a week: 168. What could I do in 168 hours? 

That’s how many Lin-Manuel Miranda gets, too, and he’s managed to crank out gems like this and this. I’m going to take my inspiration from LMM’s insanely creative, prolific, deadline-oriented mind. He is a genius, after all.

*People rocking a freelance writing biz as well as a novel-writing career (or any other hustle). . .got any tips? I’d love to hear from you!





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