Wednesday, December 20, 2006

*sigh* It's THAT time again

I'm not talking about Christmas; I'm talking about that part of the year where you look back, evaluate how (or even if) you met your goals for the year and start thinking about goals for the next year.

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.

In review
  • 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!


Smarty Pants said...

PM, one day you're going to get me in trouble with those blog pics when I'm at work.

I think 9 sales, even though it didn't meet your goal of 10, is AWESOME! I sold...uh...NOTHING this year. I won $15 for a contest I paid $25 to enter, but that's it.

As for my goals...I need to look back at where we posted resolutions for last year. I think I did pretty well.

I finished FE, submitted it, revised it, submitted it again, submitted the full and now...wait... I even submitted it to the GH, so that was a big goal for me too. (We won't talk about actually finaling or anything).

I finished the sequel DD in record time I didn't know was possible for me. That made me feel good.

I plotted the third book and let it sit to see if anything happens with #1 and #2.

I started my next book, PIMPS, which is sitting at 120 pages right now. I would've liked to finish that book before year end, but it wasn't even a twinkle in my eye at last New Year, so I won't fret.

I got a CP and started working with her. She doesn't think I'm crazy, so that's always a plus.

I bought my domain names and have a website up and running for me that is mucho nifty...

Good year, overall, methinks.

Linda Winstead Jones said...

PM, 9 stories sold this year is great! Congrats.

I always like to have a number of goals for the year. Some aim high -- those things I wish for but which are a real long shot. Then there are my more reasonable goals -- those things I actually have some control over. You can't kick yourself for not meeting a goal which is not under your control. Sales are out of your control -- writing is not.

I usually write down a few of my goals/wishes for the year and put them in a small box, then take them out of the box at the end of the year to see how I did. I consider progress toward a goal a win. :-)


Kathy said...

PM, what a wonderful post! And you should be really proud of yourself for coming sooo close to achieving all your goals! YOU ROCK!

I think I fail in this area. Sometimes goals seem unbelievably hard to achieve. When I start thinking about all the extra things I have to do, all the extra places I have to be and when, it's hard to concentrate on what I want. But I think this year I made certain strides even though the only goal I had was to finish a book.

I've narrowed my focus.
Wrote monthly newsletter articles.
Joined forces with a wonderful CP!
Attended my first National Conference and writer's retreat.
Submitted to contests.
And though I didn't finish the book yet, I learned more about the process through online classes, the conference, my CP, and fellow playfriends.

I like your idea of putting goals in a box, LJ. Though I failed to solidify my goals at the beginning of the year and follow through, I made significant strides. Most of importantly, I shall ever cherish the friendships you, my friends, have given me. And I know without doubt, 2007 will be an even better year!


Problem Child said...

I'm making my goals for 2007. (Big hint as to what next week's blog post will be about.) I usually divide them in to Personal and Professional. Personal includes things that will improve me and the family (less take-out, more cooking), and Professional ones circle around well, writing.

No, I didn't meet many of the goals I set for 2006. But I did hit some. And that's something.

Instigator said...

9 sales is awesome, PM! You should be very proud of yourself - I know we are.

I'm too tired to even think about goals right now. And I have no idea what I set in January for this year - I've slept several times since then. :-) I can probably say with fair accuracy that I met a few and let a few slide. I have a few thoughts in mind for next year but not the energy to put them into words at the moment.

How can Baby Girl (sick with strep - again) be the one acting fine while I feel like I've been hit by a Mack Truck?


Playground Monitor said...

I like the box idea too. I need to find a fancy box that I can sit on top of my desk and put my written goals in that.

LJ had a good point, one which I failed to mention in my little essay. There are performance goals (I will write 5 pages every day) and outcome goals (I will sell a book this year.) Many times, the outcome goal is out of your control. So you should focus more on performance goals that you CAN control.


Kathy said...

Sorry Baby Girl is sick again. As you ease her through this please make sure to take care of yourself, Instigator. With all that's going on this time of year, I'm sure you're frazzled enough as it is.

I agree with you, PM. It's so important to remember to focus on the right kind of goals. Knowing and being honest with ourselves makes all the difference.


Angel said...

Don't get me started on goals... Can my goal be to rent a deserted mountain with a cabin I can escape to 5 out of 7 days of each week?

Is that realistic? :)

JENNA said...

My goal was 2 sales...I made one...there is a slim chance I could hit it by the end of the week...but I'm not putting money on hearing before January.

I think next year I'll set submission goals rather than sales goals, since those I can control.