Three years ago, I quit my job at Nintendo after nine years. When the opportunity came to leave and write full time, a burgeoning passion spurred by the ongoing work of my first novel, I couldn’t pass it up. I’d spend virtually every night after work for months cramming writing into what little time I could eke out, and the concept of being in control of my own work-flow and having exponentially more time to accomplish what I was already doing in my free time was… unfathomable.
After releasing Construct, I found myself drifting.
At work every task I was assigned was time sensitive, and I had a constantly shifting list of rolling deadlines. It was a driving force that helped me to maintain focus and determination. Without those clear delineations, my lack of focus became clearer and clearer as 2015 drew to a close and I failed to finish my second novel. At first, I wanted to finish it by the end of September. Then November. Then the end of the year. And as those deadlines kept slipping away, I presented myself with unavoidable evidence that my time-management skills weren’t as robust as my old resume would have one think, at least not without a boss looking over my shoulder.
I need challenges. I need tasks to complete. Preferably long-term projects comprised of a series of short-term tasks that I can check off as I go. So, for 2016, I’ve set myself a hefty list of goals to try and get myself into the professional shape I’ve desired ever since finishing Construct. Only one of these goals, technically, is directly related to my professional development. All of them, though, will require discipline to attain, and I’m hoping to channel them into long-term skills that will help me professionally, creatively, and personally.
GOALS #1 & #2: No alcohol or caffeine in 2016. These aren’t specifically “goals”, but rather omissions. These were both actually my wife’s idea, and I loved them, so we’re doing them together.
Most people, upon hearing this resolution, have the same reaction: Alcohol is easy enough, but HOLY SHIT CAFFEINE BUT HOW HOW WILL YOU HOW?! I’ve gone for a year without alcohol before, and as most people think it’s pretty easy. I’ve definitely gone more than a year without drinking soda, but I filled that caffeine gap with coffee and tea.
Which is part of the problem. I actually don’t know how much I rely on caffeine as a stimulant. Morning coffee, afternoon soda, and evening tea have become such an ingrained part of my life that I’m not honestly sure what will happen when I’m finally going without. I’m sure there will be some grumpiness and withdrawals, but I’m hoping it’ll help me find a better balance where I can start supplementing my energy in healthier ways.
Ideally, both of these will help with focus and clarity, and get my brain running at a better pace creatively.
GOAL #3: Read 50 full-length novels in 2016. I tried this challenge a couple of years ago and fell short. At some point toward the end of the year I sort of faltered and gave up, and clocked 43 reads that year. I had all kinds of excuses and rationalizations for failing the goal, none of which I will accept this time.
If writing is breathing, then reading is hydration. As a writer, reading is an absolutely essential part of my creative development. If I treat it solely as a throwaway hobby, then I’ll find all kinds of excuses not to better myself through books, and my writing will suffer and stagnate because of it. This goal isn’t so hefty that it’s unattainable, but it’s definitely hefty enough that I’ll have to carve out specific time to make sure I accomplish it. In doing so, I hope the challenge itself will help with my time management, and the reading will enrich me both personally and creatively.
GOAL #4: Read 50 comic book trades in 2016. I have a giant shelf of comic book trades. I’m a huge comic book nerd, but an embarrassing number of those trades stand unread, and I intend to correct that. It’s an art form that I absolutely love, and one that – much like reading 50 prose books – I hope will enrich me in a number of ways.
GOAL #5: A 20×5 board game challenge. My wife and I have always been board gamers. As kids we’d play the old standbys like Monopoly and Stratego and Clue, and in the mid ‘90’s, we were introduced to Settlers of Catan. For about six months straight, we played Settlers with a group of friends every Saturday until the wee hours of the morning. A year or so later, when we picked up Carcassonne, we were hooked.
Once we finally had a place of our own with space to play – and, more importantly, store – games, the rabbit-hole opened up and we ran through like madmen. We now have a dedicated gaming space in our home with over 120 board games, a collection that keeps growing in spite of that already huge number.
Every year on Board Game Geek, they post what is called a 10×10 Challenge. The idea is to combat the “cult of the new” by picking ten games from your collection and playing each of them at least ten times over the course of the year. We wanted to do a similar challenge, but wanted more variety, so we modified it by picking twenty games, and pledging to play each of them at least five times. At two games per week, it’s an attainable goal that I hope will make us more familiar with our collection.
My intention is to keep track of this challenge here on the blog, and to write a review of each of the twenty games in the challenge as soon as we complete the requisite five plays.
GOAL #6: Maintain a writing pace of 5000 words per week throughout 2016. This is my big professional goal. This is strictly drafting – not editing or revision – and specifically drafting fiction, not blog posts or other non-fiction. Maintaining this pace would put me at 260,000 words written for the year, or approximately two novels the length of Construct.
For a professional writer, this goal isn’t strictly ambitious. This is a pace maintained and frequently exceeded by many pros, and attaining this goal is an absolute necessity for me if I intend to make a go at an actual writing career. For the last third of Construct, my pace was more like 7-8k per week, so I think 5k is reachable.
My biggest hope for this particular goal is simply to develop some sort of routine. My failing as a writer, right now, is a lack of rhythm. If I can build a repertoire and maintain it, I’ll be able to start churning out the fiction that’s still in my head, and free up some space for… well, more fiction that’s still in my head. Hell, this blog post alone is almost 1,300 words, and that’s already one quarter of my weekly production goal, if I can apply this pace to fiction.
All in all, this will be a hugely ambitious year for me. If I can translate that writing pace into two actual book releases, I will triple my bibliography in one year and set me on a pace to legitimately call myself a professional writer rather than just some guy who self-published a book that one time. My other goals are meant to fill and balance the non-writing aspects of my life while fueling my creative and cognitive abilities.
This year is all about fun, ambition, and focus. Let’s do this.