2011 in a Nutshell: Fire, Ready, Aim

Seth Godin did a post a while back on goals. It speaks to the sweet spot between effort and aim. Because it’s brief and encapsulates my philosophy, I’ll quote it in its entirety.

Low expectations are often a self-fulfilling prophecy. We insulate ourselves from failure, don’t try as hard, brace for the worst and often get it.

High expectations, on the other hand, will inevitably lead to disappointment. Keep raising what you expect and sooner or later (probably sooner) it’s not going to happen. And we know that a good outcome that’s less than the great one we hoped for actually feels like failure.

Perhaps it’s worth considering no expectations. Intense effort followed by an acceptance of what you get in return. It doesn’t make good TV, but it’s a discipline that can turn you into a professional.

If I were to focus on my fiction word count this year — and trust me, there are weeks where this can feel like the only measure that matters to me — I’ve failed dismally. But because I’m trying to follow my nose and allow myself time to discover my purpose and voice, it’s been a fun year, peeps. I’m so grateful for what I’ve learned. I’m also a little boggled at what I did accomplish without a left-brained plan. Here are a few of the things I tracked:



  • Beta read for 6 writers (that I recall)
  • Joined a critique group and was an active participant
  • Bid on and sent a critique from a NY publisher (results awaited)


  • Completed 119 books, including a fair number of craft books
  • Discarded 29 partially-read books. (As an interesting anecdote, 19 of these were self-published and free.)
  • Attended 3 writing conferences, one of which was in New York and led to a Writer Unboxed breakfast, where I became a tongue-tied stammerer, but totally survived.
  • Took two online courses — one on writing, the other on time-management

My Quit List:

It’s as important to know what to leave as to know what to take on, both for tending the spirit and managing a daytimer. Without allowing ourselves the option to quit, it’s impossible to have an experimental or playful mindset.  As I look at the above list, so many of my accomplishments began as a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if.”

  • Quit watching my stats, including leaving Klout altogether. I’m very proud of this. I didn’t simply adopt this as a philosophical position, but I let go of the cycle of exhilaration and angst that comes with an other-orientation.
  • Decreased my blogging frequency to once weekly or when I have something to say.
  • Decreased my online time, partly through willpower, partly through employing Freedom and a timer.
  • Left a moderatorship because it wasn’t a good fit for my time and personality.


  • Ran weekly writing sprints
  • Kept a daily gratitude list
  • Made a list of items that nag at me and have been systematically working on them. (eg. Saw a financial advisor and have been implementing changes as advised.)

Yes, all in all, 2011 was a good year for me, peeps, and I have my momentum going in some personal projects that are important to me. Can’t wait to see what opportunities 2012 brings and what I can create with an attitude of hopeful expectation and a willingness to work.

How about you? Have you tracked your progress, and if so, how do you feel about your year?

18 thoughts on “2011 in a Nutshell: Fire, Ready, Aim

  1. Rats, I was feeling pretty good about my year, until I got a gander at your total awesomeness. Just kidding. Love the Godin advice. Intense effort followed by acceptance–check. One of the many blessings 2011 brought me was a closer friendship with you. A fine year indeed. Happy New Year, Jan!
    P.S. Loving the WU breakfast pic. What a fine group individuals at that table (including the one not pictured). Must’ve been a wonderfully interesting meal.

    1. The WU meal was fabulous. It’s interesting how an online relationship can differ from reality. Tone counts for a lot.

      And Vaughn, it’s been my utter pleasure to get to know you a bit this year. Looking forward to more of the same in 2012.

      BTW, to all: I hope this goes without saying, but Happy New Year.

  2. Jan, although I’m impressed with all your accomplishments, I’m most in awe of your quit list. What a fabulous idea — and the opposite of what people usually think of at New Year’s. I may have to make establishing my own a tradition!

    1. Oh, do make a list, Liz. Tenacity without wise direction has another name: stubbornness — a trait which I own in spades. 🙂 I think it’s as important to know how to quit things well than to know how to start and persist.

  3. Super accomplishments, Jan. I especially like your note about following your nose and discovering your purpose and voice. It seems to me I’ve done a lot of that this year, too.

    A Happy New year to you and your family. May 2012 bring you good health, happiness, and success! 🙂

  4. Particularly liked your ‘Waiting for Godot’ advice ie, stop waiting for the super long shot and/or quit the irrelevant stuff. To clarify, ‘irrelevant’ as in neither important nor entertaining. Fun stuff is still a requirement.

    I loathe lists and planning because once things go off-track I’m completely derailed for some time. But since some planning is required for success I’m working on a to do/not to do sheet. It has flexible parameters and rewards…although I own up to the pleasure of writing often being its own reward. If some are to be believed, it’s a rare state of mind for which I’m extremely grateful.

    1. Fun stuff is definitely a requirement. That’s hard to remember, but so important.

      And I hear you on the derailment, though I work to reframe the experience into some kind of learning opportunity and carry on.

      May you have many episodes of pleasurable writing this year, Phyllis.

  5. You’ve done well, Jan and will continue with a great attitude!

    I write to survive and hear from readers. I’ve had my best year ever as a writer– not a lot of money but meeting peers and readers and making friends. I tried to find a genre that I can stick with but can’t seem to do it so I made up a new genre and hope others will join me. My new genre is Redemtion. Taking low-lifes, down and out, hurting, lost heros, people with no reason to live and bringing them out into the light.

    Do you think the genre will stick?

    I do enjoy your post and outlook!

    1. With those themes, you sound like you’re writing a western, whether it’s set in space, history, or the present day. I think gun-slinging stories are very popular right now.

      Even though you might not have hit the financial jackpot, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself.

      And thank you for the compliment, Dannie. You caught me on a good day. 🙂

  6. As one of the authors you so graciously interviewed in 2011, I first want to say thank you!

    Meanwhile, I have implemented most, if not all, of the things you’ve talked about for all of the same reasons. Time is short, and I have to focus my energies on a lot of my own projects this year. You an inspiration to me in many ways, Jan, and I look forward to following your success in 2012!

  7. Sounds like a good year. I haven’t been here in too long, and I need to remedy that. I had a pretty darned productive year, but then I am totally a plan geek. I schedule my projects monthly and it seems to work for me. I am also a new fan of Writing Sprints–I have a FB group, Writing Sprints R Us that we have a group of us, any of whom can start a sprint at any time, if you are interested. Dec. 26-29, I wrote almost 17K that way (3 sprints a day while I was on dayjobcation). Join us if it seems to fit!

    1. Hart, monthly plans are great when you have a sense of your writing capacity. Now that I’ve cleared my schedule of a few things, I hope to be there soon.

      And thanks for the sprint invitation. I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

  8. What a great year! I love the Godin quote, the idea of putting it all out there and then letting go. It reminds me of my favorite writing advice from Eleanor Brown — whenever she sends something out she says, “Bye, bye book. Call when you’ve found work” (or a variation on that). It’s a good mindset for me.
    I also like the idea of a quit list. I need more of that “let’s try it” mentality.
    As for me, it was a year of lots of homeschooling, lots of writing, starting a new blog, getting a few publications and a lot of rejections, growing a thicker skin, getting a puppy, and meeting some fabulous people on line (like you!).

    1. Bizarre, Lisa. WP is declaring you an admin. (Is there something I should know??)

      I love that playful quote by Eleanor.

      You’ve had a busy year, and I see plenty experimentation going on despite your many commitments. If I had any say in the matter, you’d be feeling plenty proud just now. I’m glad to know you, Lisa. Let’s both have a productive and playful 2012.

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