Keeping busy in 2012
I resisted the urge at the start of the month to post up a list of New Year resolutions. I think I even managed to resist the urge to make any resolutions, other than some vague and nebulous whims in the back of my mind.
But we achieve nothing in this life without goals, and so I need to have some goals over the course of this year. So what follows are my goals, the things I want to have achieved by the end of this year—or at least to have well in hand by the time 2013 rolls around.
I teach, and whenever teachers are lectured about setting targets, we’re always reminded to make sure our targets are SMART targets—that is, they must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. In other words you have to articulate exactly what you intend to do, how you will measure success or failure, whether it is something within your power to achieve and whether it is possible to achieve it, and finally the timescale within which this must be achieved.
Without further ado, here are my personal goals for 2012 (and a little into 2013).
Complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon within a continuous 12-month period
I love running, when I actually do it. I have signed up for the BUPA London 10,000 in May of this year, which takes care of the 10k. I have registered interest in the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon in October this year (and failing which I’ll go for the Run to the Beat half marathon later that month). I intend to start the 12 month period from the date of the BUPA London 10,000, giving me until May 2013 to complete this challenge. Training for a 10k and half marathon will include multiple 5ks, and I intend to integrate parkrun into my training schedule, which takes care of the 5k aspect. So this only leaves a full-marathon. Incidentally, the period May 2012-May 2013 includes the date of the Virgin London Marathon 2013. Which is the final part of this challenge. And beyond that? I suppose I could learn to swim and try a triathlon?
Do the above (almost) barefoot
As much as I love running, I hate the knee injury I picked up in 2007 doing it, and which I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid aggravating again. Last year I read Born to Run and after looking into the science behind it, I’m quite convinced of the benefits of barefoot running. However, I’m not totally stupid, and I don’t trust the roads in London one little bit. So I’m not going to run barefoot. Instead, I’m going to take part in minimalist running and complete these races wearing my Vibrams which I got at Christmas.
Run 1000km in 2012
A solid training schedule for a marathon really ought to see this achieved and then some!
Complete one manuscript for publication in 2013
OK, so the concept of “completion” is a little nebulous here. When is art “finished”? But complete to me means that the manuscript is somewhere in the 80-100,000 word range, and has been beta-read and revised. Over on Write Anything I have challenged all the writers to have a project this year, and this will be my project. There will be more details in February about my project, but long-time readers of the blog will probably be able to guess which long-neglected and long-overdue project I’m going to work on…
Complete one short story anthology for publication in 2013
In addition to the above manuscript (and to give myself a break from it) I’ve got a side project I want to get finished this year. I have a collection of first draft stories and a few fragments that I want to get polished up and put out there for your edification.
Participate in all four Sketchcrawls in 2012
Art is a hobby that is more neglected than my writing. With art it’s a time thing. I can’t do it at work, for obvious reasons. Evenings are out because for half the year it is dark, and I don’t have studio/natural lighting available. Plus it takes time and I have other demands like lesson planning, cooking dinner, reading, procrastinating from writing, barely looking after eMergent Publishing and Write Anything etc etc…
You get the idea. More than writing, art takes preparation and time I don’t always have. Meanwhile, I keep asking for art equipment and books to help me improve a skill I don’t practice nearly enough. As with writing, easing myself into a routine and a habit will mean I stick at it, rather than declaring “I’m going to do more” then doing nothing. Participating in Sketchcrawl in 2012 will mean I draw more in 2012 than I did in 2011. I will improve my skills and my confidence will increase. A lack of confidence in my abilities stops me from going out there and drawing, because people inevitably watch you when you are drawing, and it makes me really nervous. As I improve, I’ll feel more confident about taking out paints, an easel etc. I’ll feel more inclined to take the time to draw and paint, developing the habit further.
Read smarter, not harder
I have an eReader. I have about 650 books on it at the moment. Most of them I’ve never read before. All of them are on my “to read” list.
Why? Because I feel I ought to. They are classics of Western literature, books by authors I like, and books that have aroused my curiosity. But reading because you feel obligated is no fun. I found Dante’s Divine Comedy a complete draft after Inferno. The juvenilia of Jane Austen was turgid and dull. Reading is meant to be fun, but at the rate I’m going through these books—particularly the slow-down when I find a book tedious—I won’t finish them for 20 years! And I’ll still be adding to them during that time.
So this year, and for the future, I’ve made myself a promise. A book gets four chapters to enthrall me. If after reading the first four chapters I don’t feel compelled to keep going, I’ll stop, and move to the next one. It’s a request Scott Sigler makes about his podcast novels—try the first four episodes before making your decision to carry on or stop listening. And I’m going to apply it to my reading list. Even if the book is “one of the greats”. Especially if the book is one of the greats!
Nothing horrendous in there I think. All very specific targets, all with measurable success/failure targets, all within my power to achieve, all very realistic things to aim for, and all with time targets (except perhaps the last one, which has an undefined time target of “however long it takes me to read the first four chapters”).
Making goals/resolutions/vague promises of self-improvement is easy. The trick is in keeping to them. Writing them down, and in a public forum, helps with that, particularly if you have friends and relations
hardass enough to bitchslap you for your failings who care enough to encourage you to stick with your goals.