notepad with writing goals written down

Writing Goals in 2020 (and how I got on)

At the beginning of the year, my friend Tessa and I met up in our local Wetherspoons to discuss our writing goals for 2020.

I bought a brand new notebook (any excuse) and we sat down and excitedly made writing goals for the year ahead.

I know… I know…

What a waste of time that was. At least the drinks in the Wetherspoons were cheap.

Writing goals on Trello

My Trello ‘goals’ board

Reaching my writing goals started off so well at the beginning of the year.

I ticked off tickable lists on Trello, moving cards about as writing goals were completed and leaving them where they were when my goals weren’t reached.

As the year went on, most of them remained unmoved.

To be honest, a global pandemic shouldn’t really have completely fucked up my writing goals the way they did. After all, most of my writing goals didn’t require me to leave the house and what was the number one rule of lockdown? Yeah, ‘Stay at home’. Staying at home was so important, it even had its own hashtag #stayhome (or two, if you want to include the sweary one #staythefuckhome). Staying at home should have meant easily achieving those goals then, shouldn’t it?

Writing goals for 2020

Below I’ve outlined my writing goals for 2020 and taken a look at how I did or didn’t do in them.

One short story a month

1. Write one short story a month

I’m not sure what I thought I was going to do with my one short story a month. Maybe enter competitions or something (see goal number 8) or send to my writing course (see goal number 4).

I don’t generally write fiction ‘just for fun’, because a) it’s hard and therefore not fun; and b) I have a big ego and want praise lavished on my words, whether they’re lavish-praise-worthy or not.

I did write two short stories this year though:

  1. A very short dialogue-only dystopian story
    My memory is seriously shot (thank you, menopause) but I think this came about by asking Tessa to give me a prompt and she gave me the word ‘octopus’.

    Then, while I was out running one morning, I mulled it over and came up with a vague idea about policemen in disguise as octopuses on the beach to catch people breaking curfew in a pandemic.

    I bashed out some dialogue about someone sneaking out to buy some crisps on the black market and sent it off for a short story writing course assignment, which I’ll talk about later.

  2. A time-travelling story
    This came about as part of a workshop I attended run by the very brilliant Bernadette Russell who was putting on a live event at Revelation in Ashford, which I’ll not only talk more about later but it’ll also be getting its very own blog post, complete with video.

I also sent this story to my tutor as an assignment for the short story writing course.

one pitch a week

2. Send off one pitch a week

Last year, I decided to get my act together and take writing for magazines more seriously. I built up some momentum and had three articles published in three magazines (Kent Life, Simply Vegan and Cat World) over three months then, I don’t know what happened but the momentum vanished and I stopped pitching.

This year, I thought I would take my writing career more seriously and pitch at least once a week to magazines.

Again, I set up cards in Trello to keep me organised with article ideas and where to send them. I signed up to mailing lists that sent me weekly emails containing dozens of pitching opportunities.

My motivation and enthusiasm thundered along, especially for one idea I knew was a good one – I just needed to find somewhere to place it. Or, more specifically, somewhere with an editor who was willing to pay me for it, as I’d had a few ‘Great idea but we can’t pay you. Is that okay?’

No, it’s fucking not okay. Pay me, dammit.

Then COVID struck and my idea was USELESS because it involved encouraging people to get out and about and mix with people, which was a completely pointless idea to pitch when the entire world was being encouraged to stay in and do nothing more exciting than wash their hands while singing Happy Birthday.

I lost all enthusiasm for pitching and I felt cut adrift as pitching suddenly took on a different turn and everything centred around that fucking virus and I didn’t think an article covering ‘ten ways to wash your hands’ was going to get much interest.

I have to confess, I haven’t even thought about pitching since mid-March.

But, on the positive side, looking at my Trello boards again for this blog has sparked a bit of enthusiasm. Yay.

2 blog posts a week

3. Write two blog posts a week – one Planet Veggie / one Cathy White

Well. All I have to say about this is HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Despite sort of thinking of myself as a food blogger, I’m ashamed to say I haven’t blogged on Planet Veggie since January and it’s not even like I’ve got the excuse of not having eaten anything since January, as I clearly have, otherwise I’d be dead by now.

Although I have no plans to take it down, I don’t know if I’m going to blog on there again. I started blogging in 2006 when, although I was part of the second wave of bloggers (the first being the hardcore geeks and computer programmers who built their own blogs from scratch), blogging was still relatively new and bloggers blogged for fun and not freebies, sponsored posts and Mediavine revenue.

If you want to get anywhere with food blogging, you have to become boring, stale and repetitive. I could continue to break the ‘rules’ and post what I want in my own style but, to be honest, I can’t be arsed.

But, we’ll see. Never say never and all that. Although, my hosting company is winding down and everyone has to up sticks and move hosts by November so if I can be bothered to back it up and move it, I will but, if not, bye bye Planet Veggie.

I posted on this blog a few times at the beginning of the year about the Sleepstation sleep therapy program and then didn’t post again until a couple of weeks ago when I posted the first in a series of book subscription reviews (I say ‘series’ but so far it’s a series of one.)

The good thing about blogging on here is that I can blog about whatever I like and it doesn’t involve cooking anything and then trying to make it look nice in a photo, so even if I don’t continue with Planet Veggie, I’ll hopefully continue to blog here.

Finish a writing course

4. Finish a writing course

Writing Magazine short story course

I’d signed up to the Writing Magazine short story course and had two years to send off eight short story assignments.

At the beginning of the year, I’d sent off three (I think). My tutor (James McCreet – he who mercilessly tears apart the 300-word samples in the ‘Under the Microscope’ feature in Writing Magazine each month) hated all three. He didn’t actually say he hated them, but I could tell.

I wasn’t that fussed he hated them because:

  • I was pleased with the first one (a story about a girl at a party who finds love via a dog) so I didn’t care what he thought about it and, to be fair, he didn’t hate it that much and said a few positive words about it;
  • I wasn’t that fussed about the second one (about a couple who moved next door to a couple of swingers) myself, so hey ho; and
  • the third one (about a girl who kills her sister) I just rushed out for another project and thought I might as well send it off as an assignment.

I realised my two years were up in May and so I rushed off an assignment just before my time was up to squeeze one last one in, which was the dystopian dialogue-only story mentioned above. My tutor didn’t have many positive words to say about it and to be fair, I agreed with him because it was pretty shit really.

But then, after I’d written my time-travelling story, I thought I’d see if they’d notice my two years was up and sent it off as an assignment. They’d either not noticed my two years were up or the deadline had been extended because of the pandemic, as they didn’t tell me to get lost and I got my story back with lots of praise from my tutor. Yay.

It’s now well past May so my deadine for finishing has probably been and gone now, even with any pandemic-based extensions, so we’ll call this goal yet another 2020 fail.

London School of Journalism Freelance and Feature Writing Course

As with the Writing Magazine short story course, the London School of Journalism Freelance and Feature Writing Course gives you two years to complete the course and send in twelve assignments.

I got off to a good start. I sent off my assignments and my tutor, unlike the short story tutor, liked my work. Yay.

Then I lost enthusiasm. I don’t know why. It just went and didn’t come back.

So far, I’ve sent off four assignments. Out of twelve, that’s not very many. My two years is up in June 2021, so I need to get my act together.

2020 really was the year of the lost enthusiasm.

Do a workshop

5. Run a workshop

Man, this had my imposter syndrome working overtime. I’d decided to run a pitching workshop.

But…

Me? Run a workshop? I don’t know anything! No one will come! I’m a fraud!

Then I remembered I’ve pitched successfully lots of times and have had many articles published and there are probably a few people who would like to come along to a creative writing workshop that doesn’t purely bang on about ‘show not tell’ and all that gubbins but actually helps people to make money out of their writing and see their name in print.

I bought another new notebook (it had dividers – I meant business) and although I didn’t get to the planning stage, each time I thought of a pearl of wisdom to pass on to my audience who would be hanging onto my every word, I wrote it down.

I thought about venues and ticket prices and other important factors like would I be providing lunch.

Then, coincidentally, while I was in the planning stages (in my head at least) of my pitching workshop, my artist friend Amanda (get me and my artist friends) asked if I wanted to hold a creative writing workshop in her studio/gallery, The Woodshed.

Did I?

HELL YEAH.

I’d taken part in a brilliant poetry workshop in Amanda’s studio/gallery last year hosted by some poet friends (get me and my poet friends) where, after being asked to walk around Amanda’s studio/gallery to get inspiration to write something ‘beautiful’, I came up with a poem which I ‘performed’ later that evening to an audience.

The Dead Pet Shop Poem

There’s a pet shop full of dead animals –
it makes them easier to keep.
The hamsters don’t spend all night on their wheels,
when you’re trying to sleep.
The fish that used to be golden,
are now the colour of sludge.
And try as you might,
the bunnies won’t slightly
move if you give them a nudge.

Reading my ‘Dead Pet Shop’ poem at The Woodshed

Then Covid struck and no one could come to my fucking workshop anyway.

Have ten paid articles published

6. Have ten paid articles published (print or online)

This was quite a lofty goal. As I mentioned, I had three articles published last year and now I was aiming for almost one a month. But, seeing as I wanted to make a living by writing feature articles, one article a month shouldn’t have seemed such a lofty goal, seeing as you can’t make a living on one article a week, let alone one a month.

But, as you’ll now know if you were paying attention above, I haven’t pitched any articles at-fucking-all which, unsurprisingly, has amounted to me having zero articles published in magazines this year.

Before you write me off as a complete loser though, although I haven’t had any ‘proper’ articles published, I’ve had 23 articles published online, mostly on the topics of HR, company culture and productivity.

The bad news? They weren’t published under my name.

The good news? I got paid well for them so I don’t care whose name is underneath them.

We’ll call this one a win.

Get placed in a writing competition

7. Get placed in a writing competition

To get placed in a writing competition, one has to actually write something and send it off in the first place. After all, to quote that olde English proverb, ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’.

Gareth Brierley reading out my story

Still, although I’m at the risk of dislocating something with the reach here, after attending a wonderful workshop hosted by professional kindness-spreader Bernadette Russell and coming away with the germ of the idea for my time-travelling story, I submitted the finished story to a live event Bernadette, along with Gareth Brierley, were putting on with stories chosen from those submitted.

Mine was chosen (YAY) and, although it wasn’t a competition, some stories that were submitted weren’t chosen, so I’m tenuously taking this as a competition win.

I told you that reach was long.

[N.B. The event was planned for the end of March 2020 but… yeah, you know what happened there. The event was eventually put on ‘live’ on Zoom in December 2020 and I’ll blog about it another time and share the video of Gareth reading out my story with you then.]

Finish my song

8. Finish my song

At the beginning of 2019, I wrote a song for my friend Gary’s 50th birthday.

Man, I was PROUD of that song.

If you watch the video below, you’ll see I’m clearly neither a singer nor songwriter but I was really pleased with myself because I not only started the song, but I put a lot of effort into it and actually finished it.

And, not only did I write an actual song with lyrics and chords, but I then had to learn the fucking thing off by heart so I could record myself singing and playing it.

I had no idea learning YOUR OWN SONG was so difficult.

I mean, I wrote the damn thing. Shouldn’t I know how it goes? No, it strangely doesn’t work like that, as I now know. Still, I WROTE A SONG!

Here it is. Happy face.

The Happy Birthday Gary Song

It was 1993
When you handed me the key
To that houseshare in Leyton
I’d never lived in E10
I’d only been there for a week
When I caused a gas leak
(Actually that was your fault,
but we won’t go into that now)
Asha stole a cat called Tallulah
from the prostitute two doors away
And renamed him Billy
Which wasn’t quite as silly
Billy put up with my cat
Although he thought she was a bit of a twat
They weren’t quite sister and brother
But at least they didn’t kill each other
Other housemates came and went
It all helped to pay the rent
There was one we could have done without
That Norwegian girl who walked round wearing nowt
But most of the time in the Road of Huxley
The residents were just us three
(five if you include the cats)
(but not the mice and not the rats)
Coach & Horses on a Wednesday night
Buying drinks for a pound a pint
Served to us by the Scottish man
That none of us could understand
Then I got my own place
But you were still a regular face
We’ve been hanging out for twenty-six years
Fuck, that’s a lot of beers
And now we’re here to celebrate
Your half a century
Which is great
I hope you like what came from my pen
I know it’s not quite Iron Maiden
But you’ll have to suffer for my art
I’m sure you know it came from the heart
And I hope you like my little song
But if you want it to be over, it won’t be long
So Gary now you’re 50
And that’s really old
Gary now you’re 50
It could be worse
You could be bald
Gary now you’re 50
and a joy to behold
Gary now you’re 50
If you were a Jubilee, you would be gold
Happy birthday Gary
I hope you had a good time
Happy birthday Gary
You’re still in your prime
Happy birthday Gary
You’re one of the cool kids of 69
Happy birthday Gary
I’m so glad you’re a friend of mine

As I was also going to turn 50 that year, I decided to write a song about turning 50.

Yeah, well, I’m now 51 so that didn’t happen and, although the year isn’t over yet, I don’t think I’m going to finish the song in the next (at the time of writing) nine hours. And when I say, ‘I don’t think’, I mean ‘I’m not’.

I did have a few good lines though (I look in the mirror and think ‘blooming heck’/I’m getting the beginning of a Deidre Barlow neck), so hopefully I’ll pick it up again one day soon.

Grow writing group

9. Grow writing group – advertise/leaflets

Although I was happy with the core members of my writing group, The Write Space, I would have liked a few more people to join, so Tessa and I planned to get together to put together a strategy to get more members that didn’t involve kidnapping men in Wetherspoons who were innocently eating their breakfast, just because they happened to be eating it at the table at which we usually sat.

The plan was to get some flyers printed and placed in various venues around Folkestone and grow our group, but what actually happened was we went into lockdown and none of us met again until the summer when we met in a pub beer garden and spent a pleasant couple of hours idly chatting away talking about stuff other than writing.

Kind of the same as our usual meetings then.

So (my apologies to those of you out there who hate sentences being started with ‘so’), there’s my writing goals for 2020 and how I got on with them.

I may not have achieved all my goals but I did quite a lot of writing, namely:

  • 23 articles ranging from 700-2000 words;
  • 3 short stories;
  • a couple of journalism assignments; and I should probably mention the
  • 93,960 words that made up my ‘Boring Lockdown Diary’ I started just before lockdown at the end of March. I wrote this every day until some time in July when I forgot a day and then the momentum was gone and I couldn’t get it back again.

    My almost-100,000-word Boring Lockdown Diary consists mostly of me moaning about people not sticking to social-distancing (until I decided to not give a shit what other people were or weren’t doing and when I decided that oh my god it was liberating and I felt so much better).

    I was going to start publishing My Boring Lockdown Diary on here but the first entry was 3,000 words long and needed far too much editing before unleashing on the general public and so it remains in a Word document on my computer never to be seen, which is probably for the best.

Writing goals for 2021

My writing goals for next year? I’m going to try and make the effort to post more on here and that’s about it really.

Oh, and finish my ‘Turning 50’ song.

I could change it to ‘Turning 52’ and write it to the tune of ‘Turning Japanese’.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea.

Leave it with me.

Last Updated on 4 January 2021 by Cathy

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