I've been obsessing a bit over goals lately. When I sold my first short story earlier this year and realized that yes indeedy somebody thought I could write worth a darn and would pay for it, I set a goal to make ten sales in 2006. As of today, I've made nine. In addition to these nine stories and articles, I have seven short stories and six articles out there in submission-land to three different magazines and one publishing house. And any one of them could sell at any moment. I could meet my goal yet because there's still time left in 2006. Not meeting my goal isn't for lack of trying. But maybe I could have tried harder. Written a couple more pieces. Not taken time off when I visited my sister and when she visited me. Written in Atlanta instead of spending time with friends from around the world.
What is a goal, anyway? It's a dream with a deadline. A specific task. To say "I want to be a writer" is a dream. Add some parameters -- a specific number of pages written each day, a certain number of queries to editors -- and it becomes a goal. And once you have your target clearly in sight, it's a lot easier to hit.
Why have goals? So you have something to ignore! Just kidding. Goals give us direction and increase our motivation. Having that big number 10 sitting out in front of me made me write when sometimes I'd rather have grabbed a good novel or just done nothing. Goals can benefit you in all areas of your life -- personal, professional, spiritual. A goal lets you control your activity. It must be realistic, however, as well as flexible and measurable. And most importantly, it must be YOUR goal -- not your best friend's or your spouse's or your critique partner's goal.
Write it down too. Put it somewhere you can see it every day and focus on it. But don't become so obsessed by the goal itself that you don't do the work to achieve it.
Sorry for the digression.
My goal made me start a list of ideas for stories. It made me search out other places to submit short fiction. I've learned what I love to write best (short romance stories) and have begun to write more of them, but if I stumble upon an idea for a good "confession" I'll write that too. I try to seize every opportunity.
One of my favorite quotes is this: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars. I met with Problem Child today and over a couple cups of chai latte we talked about this, that and the other. One comment she made stuck with me. She said she often gets so caught up in the goals she didn't meet that she forgets the ones she did. Don't forget to celebrate the accomplishments, no matter how small.
- Decide on a goal
- Write it down
- Make it realistic and measurable
- Set a deadline
- Set a reward for meeting it
- List possible obstacles and how you might overcome them should they arise
- Review your progress regularly
- Learn from your failures and successes
Did you have goals for 2006? Are you planning to set goals for 2007? How do you stay on track during the year?
P.S. Amy S is yesterday's winner! Please email Colleen to arrange for your prize. Congratulations!
P.P.S. White Christmases are a rarity here in Alabama but here's a place where you can Make your own White Christmas. Have fun!