For many people, September is the true start of the new year.
It makes sense when you think about it: summer holidays are over; both grade school and university classes are recommencing; the days are shorter; the weather is cooler.
September is the ideal time to buckle down, start new habits, set some goals, and get some serious work done.
Or if, like me, you’ve been keeping up with your goals from way back in January (your New Year’s Resolutions), September is another time for checking in on your progress.
Being the third quarter of the year, said progress should be well on the way toward completion.
Guess we’ll see about that.
Back in March and June, I posted my New Year’s Resolution check-ins for the first and second quarters of 2019. Then, as now, I used a simple scoring system (0, 0.5, or 1 point) for each sub-goal of my three broad resolutions for the year: become a better writer, improve my non-writing life, and keep track of my achievements for the year.
My scores for the third quarter of 2019 are as follows:
1) Become a better writer
- Finish the current draft of my WIP – Points: 0.5 (first and second quarter points: 0.5, 0.5)
- Read at least 18 books total – Points: 0.5 (0.5, 0.5)
- Read at least three writing craft books – Points: 0 (0.5, 0)
- Attend a writing conference – Points: 1 (0.5, 1) – COMPLETED
- Conduct research into Ancient Greece in support of my next novel – Points: 1 (0.5, 0.5)
- Always be researching in general – Points: 0.5 (0.5, 0.5)
- Devise more of the plot for my next novel – Points: 0.5 (1, 0.5)
- Buy a new laptop – Points: 1 (0.5, 0.5)
- Create and send out at least two newsletters Sign up for a platform for sending newsletters – Points: 0 (0, 0)
Total points: 5/9 = 55% (4.5/9 = 50%, 4/9 = 44%)
Summary of progress: Such incremental improvement on the writing front.
I’m no longer revising my WIP in a semicircular manner—that is, repeated revision of only the beginning and middle of the story—and have since read through, annotated, and started work on the final act.
However this material requires a fair bit of attention, and while I’m a whiz at revising workable material, I’m as slow as cold molasses at drafting, with blank-page rewriting—much of which is needed here—as its own unique form of torture.
Add to this the fact that my day job and all its attendant overtime from January to June left me so burned out, I did next to no writing over the three weeks I was off work during August.
All this to say that I honestly don’t know if I’ll finish my WIP’s current draft by year-end or not. But I’m going to try!
I’m still reading up a storm, both for pleasure and to research for my next novel, set in Ancient Greece. So far I’ve completed 14 of the 18 books I pledged in my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge, plus half of two more, three-quarters of another, and one-third of yet another book.
My final four books are thus all underway. My reading stress, however, is at an all-time high, largely because another period of overtime is coming up at work, which will eat into much of the spare time that I devote to reading.
(Honestly, does anyone else in the world experience reading stress from a self-imposed reading challenge but me?)
I’ve already decided I’m not going to participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge next year. My main reason for doing so this year was to force myself to actually start researching my Ancient Greek WIP.
I’ve read four-and-a-half reference books so far this year, with my next few already lined up, so I’m counting this sub-goal as achieved without the need of anymore external motivation in the future.
I remain only moderately effective in my sub-goal to always be researching in general. I still have a number of unread blog posts in my inbox from historians that I follow (I didn’t read one a day while off in August as I said I would during last quarter’s check-in).
Still, I’ve kept on top of one particular historical blog, and have read some historical articles that incidentally came my way rather than saving them for later.
I’m literally reading as much as I humanly can at the moment (I’m also currently beta reading my critique partner’s manuscript), so this sub-goal is as good as it’s going to get for the time being.
I still haven’t completed a single writing craft book this year. I ditched one at 39% and started a new one, which is holding at 23%.
This book was not counted among the four in-progress books mentioned above because I come back to it so infrequently. I do intend to finish it, but perhaps not until December. I definitely won’t make it through three craft books this year.
I’m still thinking through the plot/long synopsis of my Ancient Greek WIP, which I haven’t actively worked on since March.
I won’t be able to return to it until I complete one of the in-progress books that I’m halfway through—a history of the Peloponnesian War. This bit of light reading is 500 pages long, which I’m working my way through (highlighting and annotating) at a rate of 5 pages a day. So it will be a while longer yet for this.
I bought my new laptop. Not while off in August as I’d planned, but earlier this month, taking advantage of a sweet back-to-school sale.
Admittedly, it sat unopened in its box for a week, and as of writing this, I still haven’t transferred my files and programs from my old laptop because I haven’t yet found the time.
Finally, there is my ever-decreasing goal of first two, then one, and probably zero newsletters for the year. I still haven’t even signed up for my chosen newsletter platform.
That much I’m going to force myself to do. But with all the work I’ve put (and am still putting) into #HFChitChat—the recurring live chat and Twitter community for historical fiction writers that I’m co-hosting with a histfic writing peer— I just don’t see myself sending any newsletters this year.
2) Improve my non-writing life
- Explore and sample potential new hobbies – Points: 0 (0, 0)
- Create/put myself into situations that allow me to meet new people – Points: 0.5 (0, 1)
- Spend less time at home/work in alternate locations – Points: 0 (0, 0)
- Say yes to more social invitations – Points: 0.5 (0.5, 0.5)
- Initiate more social events/activities – Points: 0.5 (0, 0.5)
Total points: 1.5/5 = 30% (0.5/5 = 10%, 2/5 = 40%)
Summary of progress: Even though I’ve been busy at work and tired on the weekends, I’ve made an effort to keep up with existing friends, both accepting and initiating outings. But I’ve done little to make new friends this quarter save on Twitter (which is not nothing—I’ve already added local Twitter friends to my in-person social circle this year).
As I mentioned last quarter, I missed the auditions for the gospel choir I’m thinking of joining, singing being the only non-writing related pursuit that’s caught my imagination at present. In the meantime, I’ll attend their concerts (and those of some other choirs in the city)—and invite friends to go with me!
I’m still as much a homebody as ever when it comes to my best place to get personal work done. Once I get my new laptop configured, I’ll go work in a coffee shop once or twice for the novelty of doing so with such a light and slender machine. But I really can’t see myself making a habit of it.
3) Keep track of my achievements for the year
- Start journaling again and write in my journal a minimum of every second day – Points: 1 (1, 1)
- Use the “Bullet Journal” format – Points: 1 (1, 1)
- At the end of each month, write a summary on how it went – Points: 1 (1, 1)
Total points: 3/3 = 100% (3/3 = 100%, 3/3 = 100%)
Summary of progress: I don’t have much more to say about this goal; it’s been going swimmingly for three straight quarters now.
Even though I resolved to journal at least every two days, with few exceptions, I’ve instead done so every day.
(Those exceptions were either during times I was away from home and didn’t want to carry my large-ish journal with me, or at times when I left it too late in the evening and found myself too overcome by tiredness to proceed.)
But in all of these instances, I subsequently wrote about the missed days after the fact.
Things have been going so well with this goal, I’ve already purchased my new planner for 2020 (I use the Bullet Journal method in a proper day planner rather than a blank notebook).
BONUS: Stretch goals
- Attend two writing conferences – Points: 0.5 (0.5, 0.5)
- Pitch my WIP at a writing conference – Points: 0.5 (0, 0.5)
- Complete the outline for my next WIP – Points: 0 (0, 0)
- Write the first chapter of my next WIP – Points: 0 (0.5, 0)
- Read the first draft of my WIP’s sequel and make general/overall revision notes – Points: 0 (0, 0)
Total points: 1/5 = 20% (1/5 = 20%, 1/5 = 20%)
Summary of progress: As mentioned during last quarter’s check in, I’ve signed up for the local Surrey International Writer’s Conference, during which I will attend a pitch session with an agent (I’ve got my pitch written and ready to be memorized).
I don’t want to give either of these two stretch goals a full point, though, until they actually occur.
All the other stretch goals are proving a bit too ambitious for this year so far as I can tell.