Goal Setting with Elizabeth Kelley

Recently, I participated in a fruitful chat with a seasoned author.  Her frankness was appreciated and insightful, however, I walked away feeling even veteran authors get unbalanced from time to time. As I learn more about this industry, I begin to understand that authors require many different skills in order to become successful.  Moving forward, I continually think how I can balance the demands on my time. Through observations and experience, I’ve placed tasks into four writing career buckets: life, writing, promotion, education; trying not to focus too much on any one area.

Life events get in the way of my writing on a daily basis.  The disruption could be as innocent as a phone call, the pressure to attend a function, or as mundane as daily chores. To minimize disruption, I spend fifteen minutes every morning planning my day, because without proper planning, things get in the way of accomplishing my goals. Planning also allows me to push non-important items to the next day, or negotiate with family members to help. I’ve learned asking for help actually works.

Writing is easy. All it involves is sitting down in front of the computer, hands on the keyboard, typing out words. Not… The hard part is giving myself permission to write poorly, rather than setting an expectation that thousands of words will flow flawlessly from my fingertips.  Establishing time constraints works for me.  When I get stuck I want to do other things, check email, the internet, a blog posting.  If I allow myself to get up I never get back to writing. Setting blocks of time to write and do nothing else, focuses my attention and amazingly I get words on paper—at least something I can edit later on.

Promotion for me is hard work. Some are good at it and spend more time doing promotion than writing. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, all those networking channels and accounts that take so much time. I’m not good at networking, so I ignore it. Burying my head in a book is just as bad as spending too much time focused on getting my name out there. Most experts say consistency and feeding the promotion channels until the day when there is something to promote is important.  Networking in itself, is truly a balancing act.

Education, or continuous learning, seems to slide away sometimes, but it’s just as important as any other writing career task. Keeping up with industry trends and craft is essential to being successful. Knowing which Agent is accepting new clients, which Editors are buying and what books are doing well in the marketplace is critical.

I think of the four career segments as tires on a car.  All four tires must be full of air and maintained, or the car does not function. I’m hoping by consciously balancing all four areas, this year, my career can zoom off into the horizon. That’s the goal, knowing that lots and lots of work will be required.

I would love to hear what you think of the balancing idea, and if you have set goals for 2011.

~Elizabeth Kelley www.elizabethkelleybooks.com

Elizabeth can also be found blogging over at Blame It On The Muse .


20 responses to “Goal Setting with Elizabeth Kelley

  1. Good analogy, Elizabeth. I look forward to you presenting on Goal Setting and Life Balance at the Pennwriters Conference, May 13-15 in Pittsburgh! http://www.pennwriters.org

  2. Elizabeth,

    Thanks for blogging today. Setting goals is the key to success as a writer. You can pick up a pen or tap on a keyboard when the mood suits you but making a daily effort to write something, anything, keeps the creative juices flowing- for me anyway.

    I look forward to your session of goal setting at this year’s Pennwriters Conference.

    • Charli Mac. So true…Would you be willing to share those things you do to keep motivated?

      For me, I have a goal calendar on my desk. I notate what I have done that day to move toward my goals. I try to avoid having a blank, white square during the week. Every day is a baby step forward. It works for me, but I wonder what others do to keep motivated.

      • Well, first thing in the morning, before I even get ready for the day I check my email and the blogs I follow. Sometimes reading a post or commenting gets me amped to write.

        I also read the last section of my MS I revised, edited, or added to. I may not have anything new to write but I may find a typo or two. It also gets me in the frame of mind for the next bit of editing.

        For me, reading my current WIP is part of the writing processm whether I type a single word or not.

      • That’s exactly what I do! Yay! 🙂

  3. My life is never in balance, though I keep trying. Kinda like my diet. Love your point about not worrying about word counts and giving yourself permission to write badly.

    • Hi Kathy.

      You’re right about balance. Some days, I feel completely out of control. That’s when I put my negotiation hat on and try working with others to help reduce my over-flowing bucket. Women, especially, have a hard time asking for help. I am amazed when I do, how much I can accomplish. Have you identified those people or things that throw you out of balance?

  4. You got that right about balancing! It really requires planning and commitment. It’s good to see I’m not the only one:)
    As far as goals, I def got many of those. That is what keeps me going. Thanks for potsing:)

  5. Martha,

    Good for you for setting goals! If you want to be 95% more effective, one thing you can do is find someone to hold you accountable to complete those goals. I have a goal partner that keeps me honest and boy, does she ever push! That reminds me, I owe her a cup of coffee for missing my November goals. I will be rooting for you.

  6. Writing career = balancing life, writing, promotion, education. What an awesome way to describe this crazy roller coaster ride we’re all on, Elizabeth! Even us unpublished writers can identify with everything you’ve said…Thanks for posting!

    • Elizabeth Kelley


      Thank you for adding your thoughts. For me bucketing, or dividing the focus is the simplest way to ensure that I’m focusing my attention on the all critical areas of my career. Others may segment their buckets differently, but this technique has been shown to work.

      What are the buckets of your life filled with?

  7. Sometimes I resent the world when it intrudes upon my writing time. I just want to shut off my phone, lock the doors, and send the hubby and daughter out for a few hours. I try to balance life and writing in equal amounts, but its not always easy. I feel compelled to check my email, facebook, blog before I even open up a document, but too much time on that takes away from the means; my creativity. Without writing, I have nothing to promote, so I try to allot a certain number of hours a day, especially at night, when everyone is asleep, to write. I turn off the television, and sit alone. If the spark for a scene is not immediately there, I grab one of the books I’m reading, and read a few pages. Invariably, within a few minutes, the spark is lit. Reading always inspires me, thus, reading, as research, and pleasure, also becomes a part of my ‘writing’ time.

    Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth!

    • Elizabeth Kelley

      AJ- Glad you stopped by!

      These are all wonderful motivation techniques. I know what you mean about getting side tracked with email, facebook, etc. I follow the 20-10 rule. Work for twenty, Surf for ten. It allows me to focus my energy and get something down on paper.

      What about you. Once that spark is lit, are you on a roll until you stop?

  8. Great post, Ann. “The idea is balance”: I have this saying on a poster right next to my desk. It is always a trick. A wise friend once told a younger, completely overwhelmed me: “Everything you do is good and important. But you’re trying to cook a dozen dishes when there are only four burners on your stove. One of them has to stay put–caring for your own physical and spiritual health–because if you lose that you’re no good to anyone. Your going to have to rotate pots on and off the other three burners if you want to get everything else done.”

    When I heard that, which is similar to your four-wheel model, I “got” it for the first time: because there are limits to our energy and time resources, we can’t do it all. At least not all at the same time, haha!!

    • Elizabeth Kelley

      Hi Kathryn…Glad you stopped by!

      Your analogy is perfect. I loved it. Balancing is also about making sure you don’t have all main dishes or sides…and for those on diets, we know we can’t just eat desert. Well—we could but when Monday morning comes, the scale will be waiting.

      When you have twenty things on your plate how to you pick those four that will create a “balanced meal.”? We need to eat (or do) not only those things that we like, but also eat those things that are hard to swallow, but are good for us. Yes—I’m talking about brussel sprouts or turnip greens (promoting or editing), or whatever it is that you don’t care for and ignore.

      Kathryn, how do you choose what is important?

  9. Thanks Elizabeth for such a great post! We look forward to having you again! Thanks to everyone for stopping by. There were a few non-Pennwriters here and I appreciate their input.

    • Elizabeth Kelley

      Thanks Charli Mac.
      I enjoyed being here and thank you for being such gracious host. I wish all of you a productive year of writing!

  10. To answer your question Ann (and I’m not proud of this list), this is how I tend to decide “what is important,” in order:
    1) deadlines (these are sacrosanct to me)
    2) exercise
    3) jobs promised to paying editing clients
    4) things I can do for my family
    5) various writers’ group commitments
    ~and yes, because I have a six-burner stove~
    6) my own writing projects (book-length novel and memoir)

    As a person of my word and a people pleaser, I always end up last. I do try to keep a couple hours each morning that are for my writing alone, and I never schedule appointments during that time, but it can get eaten up by e-mail, etc. “Balance” for me is a process as long and complicated as writing a lifelong novel! But I love tipping from one thing to the next while searching for it. May I never be done.

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