I am horrible with deadlines. In high school I was forced to take a special class on time management because I never turned anything in on time. It’s one of those things that I struggle with on a daily basis. Occasionally I discover something useful that helps, like Things, that help me keep track of the things I need to be doing. The most recent one was Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife.
I picked up a copy sometime in December. Sat down, started reading, and couldn’t put it down. When I finally relented, the next thing I did was tell my friend Christie that she had to stop everything she was doing and start reading her copy.
It might be a bold claim to say that this book changed my life, but it’s true. The book is subtitled “strategies and survival tips for the 21st-century writer” and that’s true, but it’s so much more. It changed the way I looked at my public identity. It prompted me consider exactly what my short and long-term goals were, and what my end goal for writing is. Most importantly, it provided me with some tools to accomplish what I struggle with the most.
The book covers everything from planning to social networking to public relations. For my purposes, I’ve read and reread the section on creating and managing goals several times because it most directly addresses my most chronic weakness. As a result, I’ve written several things to help manage my time and my career.
The Mission Statement, or, what the hell am I doing here?
I want to write the best stories that I can, and continually challenge myself to grow creatively. I believe fiction should be as diverse as the real world and that should be represented in my work. I want to earn the respected member of the SFF community that I love through my words and my actions. I will continue to pay it forward, to give and share what I can, for the betterment of us all.
This serves as a reminder to me of what it is I’m trying to accomplish in my life and my work. As I writer, I want to create damned good stories that make people think or laugh or cry, or just give them the escape they need to survive. As a person, I want to leave things better than I found them. That means sharing my knowledge and speaking out when I have something worth saying.
I’m also a firm believer in public accountability. As such, I plan to blog regularly about my process, success or failure. I’ve put together and will be posting, based on the advice in Booklife, one year and five year goals. Goals, by my definition, are things achievable directly by my own actions. I can’t control if an editor likes and wants to publish my work but I can control how many stories I write, edit, and submit.
Additionally, I’ve begun building a list of career achievements, like seeing my name in print in a bookstore, which I recently did, or being invited to a convention. These things mark milestones in a writers career and I think it’s interesting to keep track of.
I’ve been bad about over-committing myself and that needs to stop. I work more than full-time. I write. I read slush. I critique. Those are things I enjoy doing. Beyond that, I’m going to have to be selective about what else I do for others beyond the scope of my mission statement above. I have some outstanding projects that I committed to that will be finished. After that, I have to focus on what’s important to me.
So, if you’re a writer and you haven’t read Booklife yet, I can’t recommend it enough. It doesn’t matter if you write short or long, or if you’ve only been writing a short time. Out of all of the books aimed at writers that I’ve read it is easily the best of them and well worth the investment.
[Crossposted from Adam Israel. If you'd like to comment, you can do so either here or there.]