Happy Holidays! Here we are again at the end of the year and closing in on the start of another. As is my tradition, I like to spend the last few weeks of each year looking back at what I accomplished and then setting goals for the following year.
I’ve been writing these and similar review and goal setting posts for a long time because I think it’s a helpful exercise to plan a direction and see how well you adhered to the plan. There’s a lot to learn both in what you accomplish and what you choose not to pursue.
As is my usual custom, this last post of the year will look back at 2019. I’ll remind you of the goals I set at the start of the year and review my success or lack thereof before giving myself a rather arbitrary grade.
Here are similar year end reviews from year’s past if you’re interested in seeing how I’ve done over the last decade or so.
- 2018 Goals Review—A Surprisingly Productive Year
- 2017 Goals Review—Looking Back On The Year That Was
- Grading My 2016 Goals—Even A Curve Won’t Help This Year
- Grading My 2015 Goals — I Passed Thanks To The Curve
- My 2014 Goals—Always Keep Your Hands Busy
- My 2013 Goals — An Unexpectedly Successful Year
- 2012 Was A Reasonably Successful Year
- Why 2011 Was A Complete Failure (And A Complete Success)
- The Year That Was: Looking Back At 2010
- Do You Have Goals For Your Business? Part I (2009)
- Looking Back At 2008 And Ahead To 2009 – Part I
- Looking Ahead In 2008 And Back At 2007
Next week, with the first post of the new year, I’ll look ahead to 2020 and share what I’d like to achieve before year’s end.
My Goals for 2019
When 2019 began I set two overarching goals for the year, efficiency and spontaneity. The former was because I was taking on a lot of projects and knew I would need to be more efficient to finish them all. The latter was because I felt I’d been trying to plan things too much in advance in my fiction writing that would be better figured out along the way.
I successfully achieved the latter goal. I wrote my way through the draft of a novel in which I made decisions about the story in the moment instead of planning everything in advance. I’ve applied the process to other writing, including some short stories I wrote this summer. However, before spring was over, I’d changed my goal of efficiency to simplicity.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really was trying to do too much. Instead of trying to be more efficient, I dropped everything except for what I needed to do in the moment and then watched to see which of the dropped projects I would gravitate to when time allowed. I thought it would be a good way to figure out what I was most and least interested in doing.
I’ll talk a little more about this next week. For now here’s a reminder of the specific goals I set at the start of the year.
- Writing Fiction
- Finish the draft
- Successfully complete the Story Grid editor course
- Continue directed writing practice
- Writing Non-Fiction
- Continue newsletter and incorporate writing for new site
- Write and Publish new Design/Development books
- Figure out how this site fits?
- Launch site on StevenBradley.me
- Expand my publishing empire
- Improve my use of Ulysses
- Add more spontaneity to my writing
I set a lot of goals, more than usual and as expected I didn’t complete a lot of them. Read on for the details.
I set three fiction writing goals and I’m happy to say I completed all three exactly as I set out to do.
Finish the Draft
I started working on this particular draft in the fall of 2018, but I was struggling through it at the start of 2019. In late February I spent a week in Nashville for an editor’s course and upon returning I flew through the rest of the draft. I developed a process where I would get behind the computer each morning and write my way through a scene before thinking about what would happen in the next scene and then calling it a day.
The process involved me directing and then trusting my subconscious to work on story problems after I stopped working for the day. The process itself evolved out of the one I developed to help me write articles here.
I spent much of the summer analyzing the draft and this fall I’ve been talking weekly with an editor who’s helping me shape the story in preparation for the next draft. I was hoping I might get to the next draft before the year was out, but I didn’t quite make it. I’ll be starting it the first or second week of January instead.
Successfully Complete the Story Grid Editor Course
The course is why I was in Nashville in February. It lasted a week and my brother joined me midweek so I stayed an extra day after. The course was intense and I learned a lot in a short amount of time. It was so densely packed with information, I’m still processing some of close to a year later.
One thing I learned was that I had three months to complete an assignment to earn certification. I spend two months reading and rereading three novels and writing an analysis on each based on the methodology we learned in the course.
I’m happy to say that not only did I learn a lot about story structure, but I also passed the course and can officially say I’m a certified Story Grid editor, whatever that may mean.
About the only downside to the experience was that the assignment took longer than I expected to complete, which meant less time to work on other things. It wasn’t much of a downside, but it did help convince me to change my goal of efficiency to one of simplicity.
Continue Directed Writing Practice
Another completed goal, though one I really didn’t have to do too much to make happen. Success here happened quite naturally without any help from me.
The idea with this goal was for me to focus on both left brain and right brain activities in regards to writing. In 2018 I specifically chose exercises each morning to ensure I worked both sides of my brain.
This past year working on a draft exercised my right brain and analyzing the story exercised my left brain. When I was writing the draft I was also analyzing stories in preparation for the course and then analyzing stories for the assignment.
When I was analyzing the finished draft, I was also writing short stories for another course through the Story Grid community. This year my projects worked out to naturally do what directed writing practice is meant to do.
In addition to fiction writing goals I set three for writing non-fiction, though with far less success.
Continue Newsletter and Incorporate Writing for the New Site
I did keep up with the newsletter and have hopefully continued to improve the quality of writing. I consistently sent one on the first Tuesday of each month (exceptions for occasional Tuesday holidays). I think I developed a good rhythm and general format for writing the newsletters and I think it’s fair to call this part of the goal a success and give myself 0.5 as a partial grade.
When it came to writing for the new site, my hope was to have several months worth of content ready by now, but I have exactly none. I’ve done more thinking about the site and what I want it to be about. I have lots of notes for content, but I’m really only just now starting to create it.
I have decided on the general theme for the site, which will be the creative process. I’ll offer my thoughts about creativity and the general process of being creative. I’ll share my own process, ideally as it happens so I can share work in progress and let people see how a finished piece of something is developed over time. The topic will also give me opportunities to take side trips in how to build confidence and how to more objectively evaluate your work and similar.
But again, I haven’t actually created any of what will be on the site so it’s hard to call this part of the goal a success. I’m giving myself 0.25 for all the thought and notes and partially complete content and to make myself feel better for the things I didn’t do last year.
Grade: 0.75 (admittedly high)
Write and Publish new Design/Development books
If I had, you probably would have heard about it. The editor certification took longer than I anticipated and a couple of weeks after I finished, the community offered a new course that kept me busy for a few months.
I was effectively writing a short story every week this past summer and as glad as I was to have taken the course, it was already late September by the time I had an opportunity to work on any design or development books, which simply didn’t happen this year.
Before the editor certification homework and the course began, I did set up a project for a series of books about SVG. My plan was to use everything I’ve written here as a draft and work toward turning it all into a cohesive book or rather series of shorter and more focused books.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get back to it after the summer. Everything is still set up for writing the series in the future and during the year I gained interest in another book about design concepts that I’m currently thinking through.
Grade: 0.25 (again, admittedly high and arbitrary)
Figure Out How This Site Fits
As you may have noticed, I didn’t publish a lot on the site in 2019. I mentioned at the start of the year that I would need to take some time away from it, but I wasn’t sure how long. The time away never really ended.
I can’t say I missed working on the site. There was never anything pulling me to write something here and that was telling in this year of simplicity. After letting a bunch of things drop to see which ones called me back, this site wasn’t one of the things calling me back.
That said, I don’t plan on giving it up. I don’t expect to ever write to a weekly deadline like I’ve done in the past, but it’s not too hard to see myself writing when I have something to say or spending a little time exploring some interest and then sharing it over the course of a couple months of posts.
That’s more thought for next week though when I look ahead to 2020. The goal for 2019 was pretty much a failure. I’ll give myself a few points for having thought a lot about it, even if I’ve yet to come to any conclusion about to do.
Grade: 0.25 (the pattern of arbitrarily high grades continues)
My one goal here was to launch my new site on StevenBradley.me and since there’s no site (only a signup form to the newsletter), it’s hard to call this goal a success.
I did rework the design based on the one I had going and I put some time in this fall to develop it on Grav CMS, which meant a few days learning about Grav CMS. I still have a little work before I can call the development finished. I want to rework the layout with CSS Grids and I generally need to clean up the code.
Mostly what I need at this point is the content. As I mentioned above, I have worked out what the site will be about, but I’ve yet to actually create the content for it. It’ll be an early goal for next year as you might expect.
Grade: 0.5 (I really am close and did put time into this last year and might even have something to say about all the work in the coming year.)
My goal was the facetiously stated expand my publishing empire. I did exactly nothing toward this goal. The idea was to set up the books I’ve written for sale in marketplaces beyond Amazon, places like Apple Books and Barnes & Noble, and whoever else will let me sell books on their platform.
I already told you that I didn’t write any new books and I’m telling you now that I didn’t set up those already written anywhere beyond Amazon. I’ve been so focused on writing analyzing fiction that I didn’t think much about my obviously illusionary non-fiction publishing empire.
I had two quick goals here, to improve my use of Ulysses as my writing platform of choice and to add more spontaneity to my writing, particularly my fiction.
Improve My Use of Ulysses
I experimented a little with organization and tagging in Ulysses, but I haven’t worked out a good system as of yet. I think it’s less to do with Ulysses the app and more to do with me not really being sure how to organize all my ideas and partially written pieces.
I have a feeling this is one of those things that will have to evolve organically for me for time.
Grade: 0.25 for the effort
Add More Spontaneity to My Writing
I’m glad I can close with an absolute yes. The draft I wrote last was written much more spontaneously than drafts I’ve written in the past as were the short stories I wrote this summer.
The focus on spontaneity has made me more productive as a writer as I can now trust that I can get through a piece of writing with less overall planning and I think it also helps in developing an individual style in that spontaneous writing requires more of me than tricks of the craft in the initial draft.
It’s also allowed me to experiment with a piece while I’m writing. I can play around with the style from beginning to end, for example, and settle on something during the rewrite. Being more spontaneous has given me permission to play around more while writing and see what I come back with.
If for some reason you were adding all my silly grades as you read your way through this post, you’ll know I’ve given myself an overall grade of 6.0 out of 10.0 (1.0, 1.0, 1.0, 0.75, 0.25, 0.25, 0.5, 0.0, 0.25, 1.0). I admit it’s an arbitrary system and this year I was a generous grader in a few places mostly to make myself feel better about not getting as much done as I would have liked, but it’s my site so I get to make the rules.
6.0 is actually not a bad grade and I wasn’t really all that generous. I did better than I expected when I started to work on this post and there’s a clear observation to be made.
When it came to writing fiction, I pretty much nailed it. Most of the 1.0 grades above relate to fiction. Where my grades were low, the goals were generally about non-fiction, design, and development. Both are telling, especially in a year where I let things fall away to see what would return.
I think the last couple of years I’ve made the transition from being a freelance designer/developer to being a writer, and now I have to figure out what to do with design and development in the future. I don’t think 2019 was an aberration, but there’s still a lot here, a lot that I think can serve a purpose. My thoughts about how are for next week when I look ahead to 2020.
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!
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