Tag: goals

When Reality Interferes With Your Goals

At the beginning of this year, I set for myself what I considered to be ambitious but achievable goals: accumulate 75 rejections and edit my second book. Of course, I wasn’t really after 75 rejections; I was hoping that I could find an agent who wanted my book before I hit that number. But querying 75 times was something I could control, so that was the official goal.

I didn’t exactly hit the ground running—I spent the first week of January laid up with the stomach flu. Ugh. Then, I wanted to wait for a response from the two agents from whom I’d won feedback during my Nanowrimo contest participation. If I’m really honest with myself, I wasn’t hoping for feedback. I was hoping for a stamp of approval, something along the lines of, “Yes, this book is ready. Go forth and query! In fact, query me!”

sad Winona Ryder from What I got was a lot of confusion and a very gentle, “You’re not quite there yet.” Oooof. Reality bites.

And yet, better to find out that way than by getting 75 rejections, right? Since an author can usually query an agent only once per story, I didn’t want to waste opportunities if the story wasn’t ready.

Fortunately, I also got some really good suggestions from a knowledgeable friend, who read my story not once but twice! With a little reluctance (how much longer is this process going to take??), but also a lot of motivation (I will work until I succeed!) and some direction, I embarked on yet another edit. I followed Susan Dennard’s amazing revision process, and spent way more time brainstorming than I had hoped to. I reconsidered nearly every aspect of the story, all the way from scratch, and landed not too far away from where I started.

Finishing the edits again took way longer than I wanted—I had hoped to be done by the end of March, and it was almost the end of April—but I was still able to submit to RevPit, an online mentorship contest run by a group of freelance editors. Though I wasn’t selected as a winner, I got unbelievably encouraging feedback from one of the editors. It was so incredibly validating (yes, I’m using all the adverbs today) to see that my deep, deep edits had indeed made the book better—even good enough that someone could be excited about it!

Of course, the feedback, while good, still means that I have another round of editing to do before I will really want to query this story. But I’m almost as happy as if I’d won the contest. When I’m editing by yourself day after day, I get to the point where I can’t tell anymore if I’m actually improving the story. Now I know that my efforts were indeed helping, and I’ll have a clear direction for where to go from here. Hopefully, making the story even better will mean I won’t have to go through 75 agents before I sign one.

But if I do, at least I still have the second book that I’m anxious to get back to!

New Year’s Goals

I ended 2017 by getting the stomach flu and eating nothing but 7-Up and white bread for three days, so we have nowhere to go from here but up!

See the source image

My 2018 writing goals are pretty simple:

  • Accrue 75 rejections for Alchemist’s Mirror
  • Finish two revision passes on my 2017 NaNoWriMo novel

Of course, if I find an agent before I get to 75 rejections, so much the better! But general wisdom says you haven’t given your novel a real effort until you’ve queries at least 75 agents. General wisdom also says that the best thing to do while you’re in the “query trenches” is write the next book! (And, of course, keep improving the work you’re querying if you get actionable feedback.)

In fact, I’ve already secured my first rejection! Technically, it arrived Dec. 29, 2017, but it arrived after I made the goal, so I say it counts. It was a very nice, personalized rejection that complimented my talent—so while it didn’t have actionable feedback, that might just mean I’m on the right track. Here’s to your success in 2018, however you define it!

Proven Strategies for Actually Achieving Your Goals

It’s been my “goal” to be a published author for a long time. I say “goal” in quotes because really it’s been more like a dream, not something I can control. I could make a goal to actually finish the book, but I haven’t been successful at that, either. (Not a draft that I like, anyway.) So I set an achievable goal of writing 8 hours a week. I haven’t quite been hitting it, but I have been putting stars on the calendar, and that has actually been a great tool for showing me how close I’m getting to really putting in the time I need.

Now I’m reading a book called The ONE Thing. I picked it up after watching a highly motivating session (no longer free) about it by its coauthor, Jay Papasan. In chapter 14 of the book, the authors mention research that asked one group of students to visualize an outcome (e.g., getting an A on an exam), while “the others were asked to visualize the process needed to achieve a desired outcome (like all of the study sessions needed to earn that ‘A’ on the exam)” (their emphasis, p. 152 according to my eBook). Students in the second group were far more successful; in fact, the paper’s abstract states, “Envisioning successful completion of a goal or resolution of a stressor–recommendations derived from the self-help literature–did not” produce meaningful progress.

So basically, all this time I’ve been spending dreaming about my life as an author hasn’t helped me at all. I mean, I could have told you that, but now I know why and I have a tool to help me.

But wait, there’s more! Gail Matthews did further research that illuminates additional ways to tilt the odds in your favor. The most effective things you can do are (in order, cumulatively):

  1. Write down your goal
  2. “Formulate action commitments” and write them down (e.g., “at this time in this place I will <your goal> for this long”)
  3. Send your goals and action commitments to a supportive friend
  4. Send your friend weekly progress reports

The study has a total of only 149 participants who completed it, but the positive effect of doing all four things was noteworthy! The ONE Thing recommends starting with your “someday” goal and doubling it (dream big), then working backward to your five-year goal, this year, this month, this week, and today (although if you plan weekly you probably can figure out your daily goal). I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to start that process!

Making S.M.A.R.T. resolutions

It’s almost 2016! How did this happen?!

I was thinking over possible New Year’s resolutions and, as usual, bemoaning that I haven’t achieved any of my writing goals yet. My dear husband asked, “Well, when will you be done? How can you break this up into small steps and turn them into a list you can check off?” (We are both engineers, so half of me loved this question.) The writer half of me was like, “That’s just not how it works!”

However, we did figure out that you can set lots of goals for Butt In Chair time. Coincidentally, creative output always and only follows BIC time, so ensuring the latter is pretty much the only way to (eventually) ensure the former. Hence, I am making BIC goals. But they should also be SMART goals. So, for your edification, and to provide some public accountability, here is my goal:

  • Specific: I will spend 8 hours a week doing actual plot work on my story (brainstorming, outlining, drafting, or editing).
  • Measurable: I will put a gold star on my calendar page for every hour thus spent, so that I can count them at the end of the week.
  • Attainable: As previously discussed, outcome measurements in creative work are demoralizing. But there is nothing that can prevent me from sitting down. (Or walking; I have a tread-desk.)
  • Realistic: I work three days a week, so between my two days off (during which I also do a fair amount of self-care, errand-running, and housework) and a few hours of naptime or in the evenings, 8 hours is realistic at this point in my life. Of course I wish it was more, but this is the minimum. And if I get past 8 hours? Gold star! 😉
  • Timely: Every week. Forever. (Yes, you’re supposed to kind-of time-box the goals, but again, the thing about outcome measurement being demoralizing.) The weekly nature fits in well with human psychology and will allow me to create carrots and/or sticks to ensure that I do this.