At the past two Quirk and Quill retreats, I’ve resolved to “put writing first.”

But what does that really mean? Many days, I do it. Others, I don’t even try. Like everyone, I care about a lot of different things, and honestly, writing doesn’t always deserve to come first.

Also, my schedule’s incredibly variable. Some days, I have nowhere I have to be. Other days, I work sixteen hours straight on things that have nothing to do with writing. Things like pretending to do surgery a mannequin, or adapting a kid’s argument about how clouds shouldn’t get hit by airplanes, or picking out paint colors for my new place, or reviving Michelle Pfeiffer’s version of Selina Kyle.

(Pic by Evan Hanover, with Jeff Trainor)

(Pic by Evan Hanover, with Jeff Trainor)

This life is weird and not always orderly, so how to go about ordering a writing life?

Like Varian, I try to avoid pie-in-the-sky resolutions, so in making writing goals for this year, I’ve thought long and hard about what works for me. Maybe it will work for you as well.

Part One: Narrowing my focus.

I got this idea from Margaret Lobenstine’s The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One. She advises choosing four or five points of focus at a time. They can change on a weekly basis, but at any given time, you only get four or five. This week, mine are:

  • Revising Don’t Touch
  • Teaching and acting with Barrel of Monkeys
  • Purging my possessions to prepare to move
  • And knitting

These points of focus are things that I’m passionate about, not necessarily what I’m doing to make money.

Part Two: Setting a weekly schedule, weekly because I can carve out time in the busiest weeks but never the same chunk of time.

Each week, I will look at my ever-changing calendar and block off at least 10 hours of writing time. I use google’s calendar, and I like to give writing its own color — a nice one, like purple. Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 5.24.38 PM

I know I won’t totally stick to the calendar because things always shift, but it will be my loose plan.

Part Three: The writing log.

Have you ever tried Weight Watchers? I’ve never been to a meeting, but I’ve successfully used the plan. Basically, you keep a log of every single thing you eat. This is satisfying. There are limits, but lots of room to maneuver within them.

This year, I’ll be applying the same logic to writing.

I’ll track every minute I actually write on an Excel spreadsheet. The one I’ve set up will total each week’s hours and then average my hours per week.

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 5.27.07 PM

Just keeping the record motivates me to work longer. It’s satisfying to see the numbers add up.

The simple goal of the writing log is to keep some part of my scattered attention focused on my writing time. I will let you know how it goes.