It's 2023 and I'm 43 years old.
And I do the same thing at the beginning of every year -- look at the previous one, and plan for the new one.
Over the years I've made a lot of writing goals.
I've also failed at a lot of writing goals (though I've succeeded at a fair amount).
Nevertheless, I keep on making writing goals.
Perhaps I'm afraid that if I stop making goals I'll stop it all. Stop all this writing and editing and publishing. And drift into something else -- coaching chess, or doing SEO for small businesses, or becoming a fitness instructor.
Sometimes I wonder whether I've accomplished enough in the writing life. I have doubts, sure. I have hurricane gusts of doubt.
And when I do, I recite numbers to myself, to try to convince myself (foolish, I know).
My list that I stupidly recite to convince myself I'm not lazy and worthless:
- Edited more than 1,000 children's books, and 250+ novels.
- Published 2 books, and written a few unpublished ones
- 2 graduate degrees and 9 courses and 920 blog posts and 10 years teaching in the college classroom
But the numbers don't convince me.
I still feel like I haven't done enough. I still feel small, inconsequential. I still feel like I'm just getting started. I want more numbers, bigger numbers.
But numbers aren't everything.
It's good to think about the non-numerical, too. The things that can't be quantified, the things that don't get SMART-goal bull's-eyes on them.
- The smile on my wife's face when she reads a chapter.
- My buddy telling me he read a passage of my book out loud to his wife.
- A person who emails to say they drew hope from one of my short stories.
Maybe it's the non-goals that end up being the biggest achievements.
You don't always have to make goals (though I recommend that you try).
You just need that consistent spirit, willing to stare at the page, willing to type that first sentence of the day.
So in the spirit of goals and non-goals, I wish to toast every single one of you and your wonderful books:
Here's to 2023!
May the writing muse shower you with inspiration, may God bless your imagination, may your butt be disciplined and your fingers lively.
May you achieve every writing goal you written down and achieve a few non-goals that you didn't dare dream about.
May you block out the naysayers, the gremlins of doubt, and the sirens of TV/social media, and focus only on that quiet, insistent voice inside your head whispering the next line of your book.
This year is your watershed year. You can hurdle the unhurdleable. You can write the unwriteable. You can finish the unfinishable.
I'm thrusting a thousand pompoms into the air, in your honor.
Cheers! To you! And to your book!
And to every writer striving to tell their story.
For all the writers,
John Matthew Fox
My book: The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments
A good course for this time of year: Master Your Writing Habits