Even though we’re entering our second full week of 2010, many of us are still thinking about what we hope to accomplish during the New Year. Whether we set resolutions or frame our year in the context of goals met, it’s this initial push that shapes our experience of the next 350+ days.
. . . And I want to save some of you a bit of heartbreak.
During the recent holidays, I met many people who told me their goal for this year is to “get published.”
That, along with a series of blogs on motivation (read all of them from 12/23 on) at Dean Wesley Smith’s site – and my time at the Master Class – make me think we should discuss the distinction between dreams and goals here.
To me, dreams are hopes and wishes. They should be grand, marvelous, BIG. They should make you feel good when you think of them, smiling with the giddiness of magnificent possibility.
Do me a favor. Right now, before I continue, I want you to think of some of your dreams. Go on. Knock yourself out. I’ll watch the following video while I’m waiting.
Goals, on the other hand, are the nuts and bolts. They are the steps that help you walk toward your dreams. The key here is that YOU have total control over whether you achieve your goals or not. No one else does.
So . . . I have a real problem with the idea of “Getting published” as a tangible goal. At least when it comes to traditional publishers (paying markets: novels, magazines, ezines) because, basically, it’s out of your control.
Someone else judges your work and decides.
I can hear you now: “Pari, you’re being a real downer here. Are you saying I don’t have control over my own writing career?”
Not at all. In fact, you’re totally responsible for your career. Yep. It’s all you.
But “getting published” as a goal is setting yourself up for incredible disappointment for all the wrong reasons. We’ve all read enough really crappy books to know that just about anything has a chance of publication no matter how awful.
So getting published isn’t necessarily a measure of your work, your effort, or your abilities.
NOT getting published doesn’t tell you anything either, except that you’re not getting published.
The problem is that we humans spend a lot of our time inferring. Writers are particularly bad about it. We parse rejections for hidden innuendos. We take book reviews to heart. And we’re prone to embrace the negative far more quickly than the positive.
So why set yourself up for that kind of pain? It’ll just shut you down or make you angry or bitter (when you read one of those shitty books). And, I bet, it’ll hinder your productivity and the quality of your writing, too.
Why not formulate real goals instead?
JT gave us a helluva primer on that last Friday.
Even though it scares me to go public, I want to share my professional goals for this year with you too:
- Write at least two pages of fiction daily.
- Write and mail at least one short story/month.
- Write (and market) at least two new novels this year.
- Reach 10 items in the mail/email simultaneously at least once this year.
Right now, those don’t seem particularly difficult. By the end of the year when, I hope, I have a full-time job AND am working intensely on Left Coast Crime 2011 (why don’t you register while you’re checking out the website? Then I can work on my own goals a little more easily.), they’re going to be doozies.
So, what do you think?
Have you mistaken dreams for goals?
Is my framework useful to you or did you already know it?
Am I overreacting to the “getting published” meme as a goal?
As always, I look forward to our conversation.