Tag Archives: goal

The Great Blog Swap: Featuring…The Hack Novelist!

[Today, something exciting is happening at the Unsanity Files blog. Well, I’m excited anyway. Today this blog has its very first guest post by blogging wonder The Hack Novelist. Also, today my very first guest post goes up on Hack’s blog. Funny how things just happened to work themselves out like that eh? I would go on talking about Hack and what a hoopy frood he is, but if I talk too much I’ll end up writing a post of my own, so instead I’m just going to get out of the way, and let his words speak for themselves. Because, you know, that’s what words do. Enjoy.]

I edited 3 pages today. That’s how I start all of my posts. It keeps me honest. Knowing that I have to account for my daily progress helps motivate me to get out of bed and to my computer every morning. Call it an accountability system with a built-in alarm clock.

Before I get into the meat of this post, I should probably cover a couple basics:

First of all, I am not Albert Berg. If you were expecting him this morning, I both understand your disappointment and sincerely apologize for any trauma his absence or my presence might cause. I promise he will be back tomorrow.

Secondly, I’m not an expert in anything, unless you count catching peanut M&Ms in my mouth thrown from great distances. What follows are simply ponderings that have helped me in my quest to make this very short life significant. Take them as you will.

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams and goals lately. I think people often confuse the two.

But Hack, aren’t dreams and goals synonymous?”

Yes, the words dream and goal are synonyms of one another. However, I would argue that they, although closely related, are two very distinct things, and knowing the difference between the two just might be the key to achieving both.

A goal is finite. It has a beginning and an end. For example, you might set a goal to lose twenty pounds in the next three months or to finish that novel you’ve been working on for the last five years. Whether or not you meet either goal is easily measured.

Dreams are different—less schematic and more sketch. I would define a dream as an abstract favorable condition in which you hope to someday find yourself.

Living a long, healthy life is a dream. Being free to write fiction full-time is a dream. Serving others overseas is a dream. When boiled down, most dreams deal with a longing for some form of freedom whether financial, temporal, or physical (usually a combination of the three).

So if I told you that I have a dream of winning the lottery, what I’m really saying is, “I have a dream of being free to do whatever I want, whenever I want for the rest of my life, and I believe having truckloads of money would allow me to do so.”

Okay, Hack, we get it. Why is this important?”

Good question. Clearly defining our dreams is the first step in making them a reality. If you don’t know what the condition in which you hope to someday find yourself is, how will you know if and when you’re knee-deep in it?

Okay, so where do goals come in?”

Goals are how you get from here, your starting point, to the horizon where your dreams live. Think of goals as road markers, destinations on a map that inch you closer and closer to that which you most desire.

Consider one of the examples I gave above: the dream to be free to write fiction full-time. Some reasonable goals to make that dream a reality might be: 1) write every single day, 2) network with agents, publishers and other writers, and 3) build an audience through a blog or other social media.

Within each of those goals, there will be sub-goals. For instance, you might commit to writing at least 500 words every time you sit down or to make at least one new publishing connection every week.

Your capacity for achieving your dreams is directly linked to your propensity for setting and meeting these goals, so BE DILIGENT. If you realize the goals you’ve set are physically, mentally, or emotionally out of your reach, then take a step back and reevaluate them. There’s no shame in that.

My final bit of advice is this: Don’t ever trade your dream for a goal. By definition, dreams are more about being than achieving. We as humans are achievers, which is why it is often tempting to abandon our dreams. Don’t settle. Once you meet a goal, set another one and then another and then another after that, until you wake up one day and find yourself in the condition you’ve always dreamed of. It will be well worth the journey.

You can read more from The Hack Novelist at www.thehacknovelist.com.

Scheduling for Success

At the beginning of the year I made this big resolution about writing an average of a thousand words per day. At first things went well. Throughout the month of January I met and exceeded my goal on a daily basis.

But then February got here and something changed. I started writing fewer words in the day. On most days I barely limped past the five hundred mark.

I started to get worried. Was my initial success simply the result of beginners fever? Was I starting to burn out after only half the year was up?

I kept trying to make appointments for myself to write each day, but in spite of having ample time to complete my goals, my wordcount consisted mainly of blog posts and little else. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was starting to doubt my resolve as a writer.

But something more specific had changed between the months of January and February: my wife had moved up to working an earlier shift that required her to get up sometime around five forty-five. Before that change, I had been waking up somewhere around five thirty and writing till she got up somewhere around seven.

After she started working the early shift, I started telling myself that I would write, “sometime this morning.” I set plenty of word goals, and from time to time I met them, but it never felt the same. I found myself frittering away my time with twitter and other online distractions.

And then I read a blog post by Katie Lyn Branson, about the importance of scheduling your writing time, and the light bulb finally came on for me.

It wasn’t that I was lazy, or uninterested in writing. Well, okay, I am a little lazy. But the difference in my output was affected by how I thought about my time. During January my morning writing had a specific starting point and a specific ending point. It wasn’t something I had consciously set up for myself, that was just how it all worked out. February was far less structured.

I realized I needed a schedule. I needed a time limit in which I would say, “Albert, you will write for x amount of time and do nothing else. Then you can quit.”

So yesterday I tried it. It worked beautifully. I wrote to 2,445 words with breaking a sweat and finished off one of the short stories I had started earlier in the month.

If I’d simply set myself a word goal of almost 2,500 words for the day, you can bet I would have poked around on the internet for a while, felt guilty about it, and then tried to come back to my writing, only to crank out a measly thousand words or so. But the schedule worked like magic.

Why? Two words: quitting time. Do not get me wrong, I like writing as much as the next guy, but even so, it can be hard work. It was so good to be able to look back at my writing and say, “Well, that was a good output for today,” and go and watch the Nostalgia Critic without guilt.

In other words, I was able to use the internet as a reward, instead of using it as a reason not to write.

Maybe you’re in the same boat I am. Maybe you’re not writing nearly as much as you’d like to be. Instead of making more and more wordcount goals for yourself, try scheduling instead. Tell yourself, “I will do nothing but write for a whole hour.” You may surprise yourself with what is possible.

The Long Awaited Day

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the post. I just think it looks cool


As you may have heard from the scores of media outlets reporting on the story, today is a very important day to many of the inhabitants of the western hemisphere, sure to accompanied by a celebration of epic proportions.  Today is the day my blog turns 100 posts old.

Also, there’s something about a new year?  I mean I guess if you’re hung up on that whole Gregorian Calendar thing it’s a big deal, but if you ask me, saying “Happy New Year” is prejudiced against cultures who don’t observe the passage of years in the same way we do.  If you want to be politically correct you should really say “Happy Blogcentennial.”  It’s a far more universal greeting.

But all kidding aside, I love New Year’s.  It’s not so much a time of festivity for me, but I treasure the chance to take a look back on a span of time and measure what I’ve accomplished against what I want to accomplish in a future span of time.  And while talking about New Year’s resolutions might not be the most original topic in the blogosphere today, it is one that is very near and dear to my heart.

For me the holiday is less about celebration, and more about introspection.  What did I do wrong?  What did I do right? What can I do better next year?  The New Year’s Resolution is a cliché, but like most clichés it got that way for a reason.  Because, if done right, the New Year’s Resolution can be a powerful and formative tool for you this year.  If you want to succeed with your resolutions the following principles can help make your them as effective as you can.

1. Make your resolutions as concrete as possible.

This is important.  I think a lot of people say, “I’m going to lose weight this year,” or “I’m going to exercise more,” but they don’t set a specific achievable goal for themselves.  For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to exercise more,” it would be better to say, “I am going to exercise a total of one hour per week.”  That way you’ll know whether or not you’re accomplishing your goal.

2. Make sure your resolutions have some flexibility or room for forgiveness.

This is important because it’s almost inevitable that at some point you’re going to fail at one of your resolutions if you set the boundaries too rigidly. For instance, last year I made the resolution that I would read an average of one book every week. If instead, I had said I would read exactly one book every week by the time I got to The Terror, a 700 page colossus of a story, I might have been tempted to give up entirely.  But because I set myself a more flexible goal I was able to take longer on some books, knowing I could catch up later with others.

3. Make some kind of notation of your progress.

This was a big one I discovered for myself last year, and I’m really looking forward to ramping it up to the next level this year.  Again, I’ll use my reading resolution as an example.  At the beginning of the year, I started making a list in a small notebook I have of every book that I read and the date of completion.  As I went through the year, I realized how satisfying it was to go to my book and note the most recent completion.  If you want to accomplish anything big you’re going to have to do it a little at a time.  The end of your resolution may be 365 days away, and if you’re anything like me, it can be hard to stay motivated for that span of time.  But if you keep a log of your progress, you can split one very large objective into a number of much smaller objectives.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.


The following are my resolutions for 2011.  I’m listing them here for two reasons.  First, I’m an incurable egotist that loves to talk about himself.  Second, by posting them here, I’m making myself accountable to someone other than myself.  When I feel like giving up, I’ll be able to say to myself, “Yes, but what would all of those people who read your blog think?” and that might give me the motivation I need to keep going.

1. Write an average of one blog post every day.

I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting myself into with this one.  I know that lately I’ve been really getting into writing this blog, to the point that nearly every morning I’ll wake up around 5:30 with an idea buzzing around in my head that I know would make a great post.  However I don’t want to kill myself with this thing either, and not every post has to be a 1,000 word essay.  It just has to be interesting.

2. Write an average of 1,000 words per day.

This one is a lot bigger.  See, I usually write at least this much when I’m in the middle of writing a rough draft, but then I move on to the editing stage my word count falls off since I’m working with an already finished manuscript.  I’ve got a whole lineup of stories I want to work on this year so I shouldn’t have any shortage of material, but keeping at it week after week and month after month will be a real test of endurance for me.  Still, if I can do it, by this time next year I will have written over 365,000 words.  I went by the store to pick up a wall calendar today, and I’ll be writing my total word count in the square for each day.  In addition to that, I’m toying with tweeting my daily year-to-date word count as well, thus adding another layer of accountability for myself.

3. Finish editing/rewriting/polishing The Mulch Pile.

This is the big one for me.  The Mulch Pile is my novel from NaNoWriMo year before last.  It’s gone through a lot of editing, and rewrites, and I’ve gone so far as to post quite of bit of it on the internet as a serial, but there are things about the story that just keep nagging at me that need to be fixed.  It’s so close to being right I can taste it, but if it’s going to be right, I want it to be really right.  Because if all goes as planned I’ll be releasing the story as an eBook some time near the middle of the year.  Stay tuned for that.

And that’s all for me.  What about you?  What do you hope to accomplish in 2011?  I’d love to hear about it.  Leave a comment, and let me know.

One Page Per Day

Writers are all about goals.  We have to be.  If we want to get anything longer than a couple thousand words written we have to budget our time and commit to a definite word count every day until we’re done.  That’s one reason why NaNoWriMo is such a great experience.  It’s all about setting a daily goal and meeting it for a whole month.  And at the end of the month?  Well, hopefully your hard work pays off and you get something that looks like it might be a book one day.

But NaNoWriMo isn’t the only writing resource on the internet.  I recently discovered a nifty online writing tool called OnePagePerDay.  If you can’t tell by the name, OnePagePerDay is all about writing one page per day.  That’s all.  You open up the site and have one page worth of whitespace to type in.  Of course you have the option to write more than one page if you want to, but I like to stop when I run out of space on that first page.  It’s fun for me leave a story right in the middle of an important scene and know I won’t be writing any more until tomorrow.

The layout of the site is simple and pristine so there are very few distractions to your writing.  The site also has a “glimpses” feature which allows you to anonymously share what you’ve written.  There is also an option to receive a “gentle reminder” to write your page for the day via email, which is nice if you’re a slacker like me and need a little prodding to get you going some days.  If you’re a writer I recommend you check it out.

And since it is the Christmas season, I am offering you all the gift of a link to a wonderful and uplifting blog by a beginning writer.  I hope you will all get as much enjoyment out of her writing as I have.  The Happiness Project.