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! 


Karen from Mentor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam Lawson said...

Joe, thanks again for the opportunity to guest blog. :)

Anonymous said...

I for one think it's great.

C. Glen Williams said...

Setting goals, I have little trouble with. Keeping them, on the other hand... I may have to give the smaller goal units idea a try, though.

Alistair McIntyre said...

I'm with you on setting daily goals, but I don't suffer as much from guilt if I miss them. Goals at various intervals are the only way to get my day job done, so I guess that transfers over to the rest of life.

Really good article

w. adam mandelbaum said...

Best of luck with your new book.

Phyllis Humphrey said...

Love this idea. My TO Do list has nine items. So now I'll break it down to three a day. Thanks so much. And thanks to Joe for hosting writers with good ideas.

Jill James said...

Adam, love your system. Sometimes just having "a" system can help us stay on track a little better. Love your covers!!

Joseph said...

The best thing I do is to get up and concentrate on what needs to happen each day, write it down. Then do it.

Long term goals are fine, but it's the daily activity toward that goal that is important.

Long Term: Finish this novel.
Daily: Write each night.

Long Term: Try not to look like a sea mammal.
Daily: Exercise each morning, at least a little.

Note all that rigid, but it got me through law school.

Adam Lawson said...

Thanks for all the kind replies. :)

Alistair -- I didn't used to get guilty about missing goals, until I got really busy with The Day Job and realized how much free time I was spending not doing the things that I'd set out to do.

Jill -- thanks! One of them, "The Five", was made by Carl Graves. The rest were designed by Aubrey Watt.

The thing about "a" system is spot on -- my system makes *me* feel better but it might not work for everyone.

Joseph -- I am not very good at not looking like a sea mammal.

Pepper Phillips said...

Plan your work.
Work your plan.
It's a simple system, but it does work.

Now to prove I'm not a robot and the freaking code at the bottom of this is unreadable. Who thinks of this crapola?

Alistair McIntyre said...

Robots are serious business! Skynet is a spambot waiting to strike.

Anonymous said...

Good post. It's so easy to make grandiose goals and plans, and then not follow through. Lately I've been doing the small tasks and it's working for me. Who knew? :)


Merrill Heath said...

Nice post, Adam. My biggest problem is getting bogged down about 2/3 of the way through, then getting distracted by a new idea. Working on short-term goals really helps get over the hump.

Anonymous said...

I like the two-week addition - one week always runs into too many weekends, and a month is too long.

I have the additional complication that I propose, and then my brain disposes, but that's going to happen whether I set a goal or not.

At least with goals written down, you have some chance of getting something done - and a decision is made about priorities instead of things happening when you feel like it (or usually don't).

Best of luck (the intangible, unmeasurable) with your book - I hope Joe's rubs off on you.