Small Changes > Big Goals

Susan DeFReadingLeave a Comment

If you’re like me, you have some big goals, and you’ve had them for years. One of mine has been to read 52 books in a year.

Every year, it seems, I resolve to make this happen during the first week of the new year–and every year I fall short.

Pictured here, you’ll see what my husband calls my Pile of Glory–all the books I read in 2022–minus the one he stole from me, for his own reading purposes, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Counting that one, it comes to 30 books–almost half as many as I intended to read in 2022.

How could I have failed, despite all best intentions, to be the big reader I intend to be? How many delicious, important books had escaped my grasp, never to be read?

Alas, to paraphrase Goya: My TBR pile is long, and life is short.

But then it occurred to me: Didn’t I read some e-books too? And listen to some audiobooks?

Yes, as it turned out, between e-books and audiobooks, I had read another 17 books. Books I hadn’t even given myself credit for, taking me to within 5 books of that elusive, year-after-year goal. I just didn’t “see” these other books because they were all on my phone (I use Scribd for both of these other types of books).

I think our writing goals are often the same way: we don’t give ourselves credit for the work we’ve really done, and for all we’ve really achieved.

Because in many ways, that work is invisible–cut from our current draft, or on a draft that had to be scrapped, or contained in a great many scribbles in a great many notebooks. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter–or that it doesn’t count toward your ultimate goal of finishing and publishing your book.

Beyond that, what my reckoning with my 2022 Pile of Glory sparked for me this week was the realization that I’d gotten closer to my big goal–a LOT closer to my big goal–by simply observing what so many habit and productivity gurus teach:

1. Make it easy
I’d made it easier for myself to read more books in 2022 by finding a way to always have a book within reach (by essentially having a library of e-books and audiobooks on my phone).

2. Diversify your approach
As long as I only read books at the end of the day, in my reading chair, with a physical book, there were only so many books I was going to read.

In 2022, I started “reading” books at the gym, on my walks, and on road trips (my husband and I listened to three of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels on our cross-country road trip this year–highly recommend).

3. Use snippets of time
I subscribe to the newsletter of productivity guru Lauren Vanderkam, and adopted something she recommends: when you have a little snippet of what she calls “confetti time” (e.g., standing in line, waiting on hold), turn to an e-book on your phone rather than random scrolling.

As an added bonus, I found that this actually made me feel good, like I’d snacked on something healthy and nutritious, rather than mental junk food.

I believe these same strategies can work for our writing goals.

Making it easy might mean always keeping a pen and notebook handy.

Diversifying your approach might mean using the voice memo function of your phone to write some part of your current WIP via dictation (or by hand, if you currently only work on the computer).

Using snippets of time might mean turning to that handy notebook you always carry with you instead of turning to social media for a break from work–and perhaps even writing a few pages on your lunch break.

However you go about it, consider this an invitation not to beat yourself up for all the big goals you’ve failed to achieve as a writer, and instead to focus on small, process-oriented ones. Because it’s in focusing on the small that we manifest the large.

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