Friday, September 27, 2013

Guest Post by Adam Lawson

Before I get to my totally awesome system that I should market and sell and make a million bucks off of (ha), let me introduce myself.  My name is Adam Lawson, and I'm a writer.  I've been writing stories in some form or another since the second grade, when we had an assignment to make up a page-long story.  I was on that like ink on paper.

I've never been published through a traditional publisher -- by the time I'd finished something I felt worth publishing and received some rejection, the e-book market had started to grow.  Why limit myself, I thought, and hand over so much control?  So I published my first book, "The Boots Are Red", on Amazon.  It's a detective style story set in the 1950s.  Instead of using a real town, I made one up (it worked for Faulkner) and combined a lot of features of a lot of towns near where I grew up (well past the 1950s). 

Boots is free for the next five days, and the sequel, "The Boots Come Off" is available as well.  A collection of short stories set shortly after the first two books are also now available:  "The White Dames".

I grew up reading fantasy, though, and one of my longer works is the first in a series:  "The Five" (also currently free!).  I write what I like, so I'm all over the map because deep down I just like a good story.  Now, on to my system.

Three Goals At A Time

A few weeks ago I was just feeling overwhelmed with all the stuff I needed to get done and all the stuff I wanted to get done.  There just wasn't time to do it all, or so it seemed.  Everything appeared to be heading at me at lightning speed, and I couldn't juggle it all.  At that point, I decided I needed to come up with some sort of... system to help me organize it all.

The best way I've found to get myself writing and accomplish other goals is to limit myself to three at a time.  But there's more than just one type of goal.  There's obviously a daily goal.  Write X,000 words (or XX,000 if you are ambitious) every day, exercise every day, but there are longer term goals than daily.

Goals, in this case, are limited to things we can control.  We'd all like to win the Powerball jackpot.  But we can't make that happen short of buying all numerical combinations -- and if you have that much money, you don't need it!  We'd all, as writers, like to sell more books.  But short of violence, we can't force people to buy them.  So we're limiting our goals to things we can accomplish, and sticking with three at a time. 

Every day, one of my goals is to walk my dog.  For him, and for me.  I can always control this -- but I can't control the weather, which means I might not walk him in cool air and sunshine.  Sometimes it's over 90 and sometimes it's raining.

I set three a day, and writing is always one of them.  I want to write so many thousand words every day.  I don't always hit it, but the goal exists.  Write, every day.  Write between bites of food if you have to.  Write everywhere -- I carry a notepad and pen with me at all times just in case. 

But life is longer than a day.  I thought about setting larger goals for every week but that's not long enough.  A month is too long for the next step.  Two weeks, however, is a good length of time for intermediate goals.  Cut the grass.  Write XX,000 words -- and hit my daily goal at least 12 out of 14 days.  Stick to a good diet at least ten out of 14.  You allow yourself some wiggle room on your daily goals within the two week period for a couple of reasons, but the big one:

Self guilting.  I guilt myself all the time if I miss a goal, or break a good habit or streak of writing/working out every day.  By allowing a bi-weekly set of wiggle room for days where you just can't... you have some built in slack.

The next set up is quarterly goals.  This is where it gets more interesting and you have more flexibility because you have more you can do.  Mine, for example, are to publish something every quarter (this is a new one!), even if it's just a short story.  Also, tackle a big item from my To Do list -- which usually involves a few weekends of work or time. 

I've divided everything into sets of three on purpose:  Three types of goals, and three goals within each type.  This seems to be a good balance of getting stuff done without overloading yourself.  Especially if, like me, you have a day job that gets in the way of writing. 

There it is.  Just three goals, and three levels of them.  Make it all into a system you can track.  Assign rewards for yourself if you need to.  It hasn't been something I've done for very long (just since the start of September), but in my head everything is much more organized.

Finally, thanks to Joe for this opportunity to get the word out about my books.  I hope the idea of setting up a to-do system helps at least a few of you!