I’m so sorry. Puns are my mortal enemies but I couldn’t resist this one. So … this is not only my yearly post on goals but also where I set out my writing goal posts for the New Year. Setting yearly goals is particularly important for writers. Writing is an activity that relies solely on self motivation and perseverance. Goals give us something clear and tangible to work towards – they keep us focussed through the ups and downs.
But unrealistic goals do exactly the opposite. It’s all about setting the RIGHT goals. As writers, so many things are out of our control, so it’s vital to make our goals only those things we can control. Our goals should be the things that are within our power to achieve by the end of the year. No pie in the sky stuff – no goals for nabbing a superstar agent, or signing a six figure book contract, or for your debut to hit the New York Times best seller list. Those things are mainly within someone else’s control, or the universe’s (or whatever you believe).
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with wanting those things, but I like to think of them as my ‘dream goals’. My current dream goals are for my first picture book, Squish Rabbit, to get great reviews and be a super seller. That’s a lovely daydream to entertain for a moment. But my real goals, the ones I write down and talk about, are more tangible. They look something like this:
- Goals about specific projects: writing the first draft of a new novel, redrafting a certain project, finishing the final illustrations for a picture book
- Goals about submissions: in 2007 I chose to submit just to my critique group, in 2008 I chose to target competitions and magazines, and in 2009 I chose to target agents
- Goals about networking / branding: getting to more book launches or writing functions, developing a website, visiting schools, promoting yourself as a speaker, or my 2009 goal – starting a writing blog *grin*
- Goals about craft: focussing on the areas of your writing you know you need to develop by reading books on craft or attending workshops / conferences
I have goals in all of these areas. I think I probably always will. How about you?
PS. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (I’m signing off for the year, but will be back in the New Year, fresh and chirpy and ready to post)
I’m a logical sort of gal. I don’t like accepting anything ‘just because’. I like to get to the bottom of things – the real reason, the cause, the fault. Why? So I can fix it. I’m like this with writing ups and downs. I’m currently wrangling with the 3rd and final-ish draft of a mid-grade adventure novel and day to day my mood varies widely.
Some days I’m up. I’m positively joyful, loving editing, believing in the story, adoring the characters, daydreaming about this being the next Harry Potter (ok, so I’m never THAT up). I feel like a writer. I feel good at what I do. I feel worthy and productive and like I could do this for the rest of my life.
Other days I’m down. And the downs get pretty deep. I wonder why I’m writing this story when the plot is banal, the characters cliched and the writing woefully unsalvageable. I wonder how on earth I got through two previous drafts without abandoning ship. I daydream about other professions – so when I’m found to be the fraud of a ‘writer’ I am I can make a silent exit. I consider changing my name and skipping town.
The Sherlock in me wants to know the cause of these ups and downs. ‘It’s just a writer thing’ is never enough. So I go through all the possible whys for getting down. It was a chapter that needed more work, so it challenged me more. I got a rejection that day. I had lots of other stressful things on my mind which were the real cause. I needed a day off. I’ve had another story circling my mind, so I couldn’t get into the voice of this one. I had too many e-mails demanding my attention. I had someone asking to see the ms and was feeling the pressure.
So many possible reasons. And you know the conclusion I’ve come to? It’s just a writer thing. Ha (see the humour? Me neither). There’s something about working in creative industries that lead to more self-doubt and ups and downs than other jobs. It’s just the way it is. And although there really are lots of reasons for this, I don’t think there’s a way to fix it. Even in ideal conditions I still get down days. So what can you do?
- Accept it: day to day ups and downs are mostly out of your control
- Embrace it: gotta love yourself, foibles and all
- Give yourself a break: don’t sweat it too much. If it’s a particularly heinous day, take some time off
- Bake: scones and cookies will cure what ails you
Sorry. I think that was self therapy more than blogging. If you managed to stick with me to the end then feel free to add your own solutions for dealing with the downs. By the way, is anyone quite as amused by the WordPress snow as I am? Ah, Christmassy happiness.