how to have the best writing year

Why a goal setting system is more important than the goals you set, and my favorite realistic and easy goal-setting system for writers who want to publish books. Affiliate links may be included below.


I keep looking at it in my calendar. It’s highlighted, in bold type, and has way too many exclamation points. It says:

Goal-Setting Day!!!!!

It’s the most wonderful day of the year.

We spend so much of our time in the thick of things, so busy getting everything done, that we straight forget what we are actually trying to accomplish across our whole life.

We see the immediate to-dos looming today and tomorrow. We see the tasks waiting for us at home and at work. When we look into the future, it’s a blur of vague hopes. When we look back, it’s a blur of already-forgotten days. Man, it’s stressful.

And the busier life gets, the harder it is to remember what we already accomplished and what we are trying to accomplish.

This is especially true of writers and creatives who work for ourselves or have a side hustle. There’s no boss to sit you down at the end of the year and grade your performance. And there’s no mandated time to set goals for next year and think about the big picture of your career and life.

 literary agent blog goals for writers lon

That’s why you need to take goal-setting time for yourself.

Because the truth is, no one is going to tap you on the shoulder and nag you until you schedule in goal-setting time. (I’ll nag you a little right now, but only because I love ya!)

I can’t stress enough how important this is for writers, bloggers, everyone. If you’re involved in any creative endeavor, even if it’s just a side project, then you owe it to yourself to be intentional about how you spend your time.

Even more, you owe it to yourself to celebrate your accomplishments of 2017 and get excited about the adventures of 2018.

Your creative life will feel richer and more meaningful if you can see the big picture of why you do what you do. It’s an easy way to become mindful of your strengths and weaknesses, and to be thoughtful and intentional about what you want to accomplish and what you will set aside.

Do you know how to set goals the right way?

The problem is: most of us have no idea how to set goals the right way. (And yes, there is definitely a right way.)

Yet, goals are high-stakes. We feel awful when we don’t meet them, and we feel amazing when we crush them.

So setting them at all becomes a highly emotional process. How do we know our goals aren’t too easy? How do we know if they’re unrealistic? How many goals should we be setting? And the big one: how do we actually accomplish those goals? (Because we all know it’s not as easy as making a list of things we’d like to do.)

The truth is: no one is born knowing these things. Just because you’ve successfully knocked out goals in the past doesn’t mean 2018 won’t throw you some curve balls. Just because you’ve missed some goals in the past doesn’t mean 2018 won’t be the year you hit it out of the park.

But as I talked about here, books and classes pull us off the isolated island of our own experience and immerse us in the stream of collective learning. There’s no reason we have to struggle on our own when there are hundreds of resources out there for learning important life skills. And you betchya that goal-setting should be one of them.

So this year, I highly recommend making “Set up a system for making and meeting goals” as one of your goals.

Yes, a goal about goals. It’s weird. But I promise that it’ll be fun to learn a new goal-setting process, and it’s going to lay the foundation for many, many years of accomplishments.

Personally, every year I get excited all over again about one goal-setting system: Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever. I’ve been a huge fan of all things Hyatt for many years (he was the former CEO of Thomas Nelson at HarperCollins), and he builds better resources for advancing your career and creative life than anyone out there.

The thing that really amazes me about BYE is the success stories: you hear everything from people losing 30+ pounds, to tripling their income, to finally setting things right in their relationships. This is hard stuff we deal with, and if you ask me, we can use every bit of help we can get.

I’ll let Michael tell you more about the class here (reading that makes me excited all over again!), and if you feel like it’s right for you, you can sign up here. Enrollment closes this Monday, December 19th, so check this off your to-do list now! And at least that will be one goal you’re already crushing. 😉

Click here to sign up for Best Year Ever!

 

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What I’m Reading

How to Land a Book Deal (Me on the Food Blogger Pro podcast): The nice folks at Food Blogger Pro (one of my favorite resources!) invited me to be on the podcast to share the inside details of how to get a book deal. As much as I find the sound of my own voice weird (are we all wired to think that?), I hope you’ll at least find it a helpful listen!

7 Crazy Successful Instagrammers You Should Pay Attention To (Deidra Romero for Platform University): I loved this list because I, for one, learn by watching. I instantly followed some of these Instagrammers so I could be inspired by the best.

How to Find and Attract Editors for Pitching Articles (Devra Ferst and Dianne Jacob): One of the best ways to build your author platform is to start building your writing portfolio and collecting bylines at top media outlets. This is a great piece with practical insider tips on how to start getting “yeses” on those pitches.

Printable bookplates for all your gifting needs (cooks & books): Here are two nice things to do this holiday: gift a book and donate a book. Either way, a nice inscription is always welcome, and I love using these free printable bookplates for it. (After all, some people are a little funny about writing directly in the book!)

A Book Launch Plan for First-Time Authors Without an Online Presence (Jane Friedman): Don’t know where to start and don’t have any online base? Well, Jane is here to walk you through what you can do, even if you don’t yet know your Instagram from your Twitter.


What We’re Eating This Week

We are hoommee! Thank you to all you sweet folks who wished us safe travels to El Salvador last week. I got a little sappy in an Instagram post about how much the trip meant to me and how grateful I am for the work Habitat for Humanity is doing in the world. I won’t prattle on about it, but if you’ve ever thought about doing a build with them, I’d love to talk your ear off about it!

nonfiction books blog

Now, let’s eat:

Monday: Well, the whole eat-less, work-more plan for El Salvador didn’t quite work out because pupusas and beer. So Monday we threw together a sheet pan dinner of brussels, mushrooms, and sausage and another one of drumsticks and cauliflower. All I could think about was pupusas.

Tuesday: Salad! We did it. A healthy thing. I’ll pat myself on the back for a month now.

Wednesday: The Stonesong team is off to celebrate two clients: Julie Gaines of Fishs Eddy who is hosting a signing for Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. We love making connections, talking food, and doing dishes.

Thursday: Please send Chicken Lo Mein and Wonton Soup to Desk #4, Stonesong Offices, NY, NY.

Friday: Home and out to dinner with friends! We’re trying Jose Andres’s China Chilcano for the first time. Methinks me will likey.

Cheers!

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A free John Burroughs printable art print on books

A free printable art print with the famous John Burroughs quote on books: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”


When I was 21, I walked into the lobby of Simon & Schuster for the first time. I remember stopping to look at the lit glass displays of books lining the front hallway and thinking “Wow. This is where they make them. I’m going to be working on books.”

Books. The word still has magic for me.

I remember the first time a Senior Editor handed me a manuscript as an editorial assistant and said, “Here. You edit this one.” I thought even the word “manuscript” was amazing–here I was, a very regular girl from suburban New Jersey, working on a manuscript. For a book. Those two words were so sweet, and I loved rolling them over in my mind like a jolly rancher.

At that first editorial assistant job, I had amazing women mentoring me, and they actually let me do books–they let me acquire a big book from Animal Planet; they let me have my own list of authors; they never once put me through the phone-answering and schedule-handling years that most assistants have to go through.

I couldn’t believe how cool their jobs were. So I decided right then: I was going to be a Senior Editor by the time I was thirty. That was my goal, and I was going to get there, have that job, and do all the exciting things the editors I admired were doing.

In two weeks, I turn thirty. I’m not a Senior Editor at a publishing house–even better, I’m a Literary Agent to a whole crew of authors I get to call mine. I get to do all those exciting things that go into making a book, and I get to live a life that seems more awe-inducing by the day. It’s a little weird, honestly. It makes me sappy just thinking about how very good it all is.

Tomorrow, Jarrett and I leave for a week in El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity. I don’t have a clue what to expect–I mean, guys, I have a desk job. I’m an Olympic level sitter. With a bronze medal for lying on the couch and reading.

I’m going to be a puddle of wobbly bits by Day 1, but if I can squeegee myself back together, I’ll be back next week to catch up with you all. But in the meantime, here’s a new printable art print to tide us over and add to our collection! Last week I wrote about how much I love this John Burroughs quote:

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

And so I turned it into an art print, so we can all stare out the window and daydream about having the gift of enough time.

john burroughs quote books printable

Click here to access the archive & download this free John Burroughs quote art printable!

 

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The c&b gift guide is here!

By the way, if you’re feeling like you don’t have enough time and the holidays are getting stressful, my 2017 Gift Guide for Writers and Book Lovers is just what you need. It shows you how to give–or ask for–the gift of time. It’s perfect for ending the year on a creative note and then starting the new year feeling replenished and reinvigorated.

Click here to check out the 2017 Gift Guide for Writers & Book Lovers!

 


We’ll be back next week with publishing links and dinner plans, but if you want to follow along on our trip to El Salvador, follow me on Instagram!

Cheers!

 

What book lovers really want: 3 ways to gift time this year

A gift guide for book lovers to gift experiences instead of gifts–these perfect day packages will make it a blissful holiday and very Merry Christmas for the bookworm in your life!


“What do you want for Christmas?” I was asked this last week, and I froze like a deer in headlights. Not one thing popped into my mind.

Well, that’s not true. One thing did pop into my mind:

Time.

When I thought about what I wanted—really wanted—it was more time. Time to spend browsing through a bookstore without feeling rushed. Time to wander through Whole Foods instead of marching through my shopping list. Time to have nothing on the agenda but reading a book and taking a walk and cooking a very nice dinner for myself.

None of that is expensive, but all of that is elusive.

That’s why I’ve always loved this John Burroughs quote:

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

Since it’s gift guide season, I wanted to do something a little different and share 3 ways you can give the book lovers in your life the gift of an experience.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like the things they most love get pushed into the margins of the day. And I’m sure we all know someone who works hard and selflessly for others and deserves one whole day of their own favorite things.

best gifts for writers

These gift ideas are perfect for:

  • The busy mom or dad who has a hard time relaxing until everything is “done”
  • The constantly-behind writer who wants less rush and more joy in her writing practice
  • The book lover who never has as much time as he wants to binge read
  • The blogger or creative who wants to learn more skills but feels guilty spending money on herself
  • The person who has it all, or who values experiences over things

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How I edit, and the 4 editing mistakes to avoid

Why self-editing doesn’t work and the 4 common editing mistakes writers should avoid if they want to get published.


This week I’m going to stop my yammering for a whole five minutes and let Jarrett have center stage. If you’re new around here (hi!), Jarrett is my husband, and he’s a reformed attorney turned writer and thinker at a Washington D.C. based think tank.

Here’s us getting married; here’s us fighting over the best seat in the house; here’s a few cocktails he’s made over the years that have kept me very happy.

Jarrett helps with a few things behind the scenes here at c&b but mostly spends his time fending off the overbearing editor he lives with who routinely harangues him about headlines and fluffy words.

So today, we’re sharing the real-life story of how he sold a piece to NPR’s James Beard Award-winning blog The Salt, how we edited it together, and how revising anything can kick your butt up and down the page so hard you’ll turn to the bottle mason jar of moonshine.

But I’ll let Jarrett tell the story.

common editing mistakes

Here’s Jarrett, who only hates me a smidge after we went through this editing process:

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