Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Importance of Goals

When you think of goals, what comes to mind?  A few years down the road, a year, a month, next week, or today?  All of us are wired differently.  Some possess the ability to look far into the future, while the rest of us have a hard time envisioning the end of the week.  But that's the flexibility of goals, and there's no reason we can't have long-term, and short-term goals at the same time.  In fact, I find the two merry together rather well, and are an essential combination.

For example, your dream is to be a published author.  You want to land the ideal agent, have them pitch your novel to a major publishing house, and get an offer you can't refuse.  Things like these are dreams and ideals, unless you are doing something about them.  This is where short-term goals project you to the finish line. 

Let's think of the steps needed to reach publication:

1) You have to write
2) Edit (do we have to track the number of times?)
3) Send to trusted beta-readers, or critique partners
4) Revise/edit based on feedback
5) Construct an effective query letter
6) Develop an interesting synopsis
7) Query agents

Each of these steps require a great amount of commitment.  No way around it, writing with the view to publishing is hard work (not that I have to tell you that).

Why not set yourself "stepping-stone" goals?  Set a word count target to reach either on a monthly or daily basis.  Set a target as to when you want to complete your work.  Then after that, give yourself a deadline for edits, and when you wish to submit to beta readers, or a critique group.  Give yourself a deadline to finish the perfect query and synopsis.  And from there, give yourself a target number of queries to submit.

Goals not only keep us on track, they keep us from going off.  Yes, that's a little play on words, but it holds a lot of merit.  For myself, I believe in setting goals at the start of every month.  I believe this instills in myself some sort of accountability.  You might say, oh, it's only a goal, how can it have that much influence?  Trust me, you might be surprised.

The thing with setting goals, though, is not to become so weighed down by them that you have no flexibility.  Maybe things came up in life that made it impossible to reach your goals.  Don't get down on yourself.  If you tripped and fell, would you allow yourself to lay on the pavement?  Of course not!  Same with this!  Pick yourself up!  Take pride in what you have accomplished, and renew the zeal for what you want to accomplish!

Goals should work with you, and for you.  And you can't allow yourself to be burdened by them.  If by the "goal date", you don't have a check mark by each one, don't let yourself be weighed down.  Things take time, but if you go about it with goals in mind, you'll fit a lot more in than you thought possible.

Here's an illustration:  have you ever gone on a long walk, and found yourself tired on the way back?  Did you find yourself slowing down, or speeding up?  If you're my husband, you slow down (sorry honey).  But, for myself, I tend to walk faster.  After all, the faster I move, the faster I'll be home to rest.  I believe this can be applied to our writing and/or publishing goals.  For example, we have the first draft, maybe we've edited it and refined it to the point it's ready to be queried - now what?  Do we stall, letting fear of rejection (maybe fear of success) hinder our forward momentum?  Or do we plunge ahead with overwhelming zeal?  When the rejections start coming in do we sulk, thinking we'll never "get there"?  Or do we take what we've learned, grow, and move forward with more determination to reach our goal?

What about you?  How have you found the making of goals beneficial to you?  How far off do you envision your goals?