I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. I don’t believe in setting goals that are too big, though. “I’m going to be a best-selling author” is too big for me, even though my husband and I always said that our goal was to have our books on supermarket shelves everywhere. It may be good to have that in the back of your mind, but focusing too much on it can lead to being overwhelmed (at least for me) and depressed that it isn’t happening. I actually got to be on the New York Times Bestseller list, and I did get there through setting goals. But the goals were more along the lines of:
1) Finish a novel-length project, just so I know I can do it.
2) Uh-oh. It’s not very good. Okay. Get better at writing.
a) Take a class in writing.
b) Get into a critique group.
c) Go to some writing conferences and take seminars on writing.
d) Read some books on writing.
e) Rewrite the book.
f) Re-write the book again. Repeat as needed.
3) Figure out how you sell a book.
a) join RWA and talk to others
b) Go to some writing conferences and take seminars on selling.
c) read some materials on how to sell a book.
d) learn to write a query
e) learn to write a synopsis
f) rewrite query and synopsis until they’re good.
4) Submit query and synopsis to agents.
That went on for a long time while I wrote a second book and rewrote it and rewrote it until I thought it was salable.
You get the idea here. It’s making the steps little and achieving each little goal that keeps you on the path to a big, scary goal. Keeping the big, scary goal in the background keeps you on the path without scaring you into immobility.
Now, the big scary goal does play a role. When a tiny press that specialized in specialty historical books about local areas offered for my second historical romance book, it gave me the courage to turn the offer down. They had no plan for distribution. They didn’t know much about fiction, and that would waste the potential of my book to get me to my goal. I knew I needed the resources of a big publisher to get me where I wanted to go. That offer brought me to confront my big-scary goal, and I admit it frightened me. But because I knew where I wanted my path to lead, I did have a way of evaluating that offer that could combat the lure of just “seeing my name in print.” Seeing my name in print wasn’t my goal.
I say all this because every day, our dreams bubble up, demanding to become reality. And it’s useful to have to have a way of approaching that. This year, my husband and I wanted to go to Spain. Okay! Time for goals. Read about Spain to figure out where we want to go. Make a calendar. Book flights and hotels. Renew passports. Make reservations for the dogs at a kennel. Figure out how we will make phone calls and get data in Europe. Get a class to study conversational Spanish….
Did all that. But it didn’t work out. My husband wasn’t feeling well enough to go. The goal is still there. We still want to go to Spain. After cancelling our reservations, we decided to go next year. By the time we make our reservations again, we will know a lot more Spanish! We’ll get some tips from people in our class which may modify our plans. And we’ll execute those reservations again.
Sometimes our goals need to be adjusted along the way. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have goals. But we do. So breaking the path down to the larger goal makes it seem possible. And executing those steps can make our dreams come true.