As we come to the end of the year, I’ve been examining some of my writing goals, and I discovered a few interesting, if not alarming, things. First, somewhere along the way, I inadvertently changed my dreams into goals. I knew there was something amiss about my goals, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I’m discovering all the time, that many authors have similar goals. Many want to get published, they want to be successful, become best-selling authors, and make enough money to support themselves by doing what they love: to write. Granted, not every writer has these ideas, but I do, and I’m not alone.
I don’t think these are bad things to dream about, but that’s where the distinction should be made. They should be dreams, not goals.
I recently found myself fixating on this end goal for my writing, this successful career, and I realized it was so much pressure that it was hindering my current work. I mentioned this to my husband, and he said I needed to work on making good goals. It was such a simple statement, but it made me realize that this idea of where I wanted to go with my writing wasn’t even a goal. It was a dream. And I suddenly realized there’s a definite distinction between the two.
What is the difference between a dream and a goal? Maybe you already know, but I let the line blur until they became one.
Here’s what I realized. A dream has very little to do with me other than I’d like to be involved in that outcome. But there’s nothing in the dream that I can control. I can’t control whether one of my books or stories is published. I can’t control whether people will read it once it is published. I can’t even control whether the people who read it will like it.
So, a good goal should be things that are within your power to accomplish. Here’s a brief list of some of the qualities a goal should have:
- Make it specific.
- Make it about something that’s within your power to control.
- Make it reasonable and achievable.
- Give yourself a timeframe to achieve it in.
I had a conversation with Sara Letourneau a few weeks ago that started with a question she posted on her blog, “Do you often worry or become emotional over things that are out of your control?” At that time I was aware that I worry about things outside of my control, but I hadn’t realized that the goals I had been creating were largely and more frequently becoming things that were outside of my control.
Here are some examples of goals that are within my control as a writer:
- A set word count for the day or week.
- The number of chapters I want to edit for that day.
- Finishing a draft of a poem or chapter to have my writing group review during the next meeting.
- The number of literary magazines or literary agents I want to submit my work and the timeframe within which to submit them.
These are all the start of goals that I can tweak to fit my day or week, and which I can add more specific information for the goals to fit my current project.
I often wish these realizations cured all the worry and doubt that this profession holds for me, but it doesn’t. I know it’s easier for some writers, and if it’s easier for you, be thankful. I know there are plenty of writers out there who have the same battle as I do. For me, I know it’s because of how important writing is and how much I want to succeed at it. I could be doing a different career and not dealing with all these doubts, because I wouldn’t feel so emotionally invested in it. But I also know that writing is worth the worry, the doubt, and the fear.