Sunday, January 07, 2007

On the Reality of Goals

What I'm reading: Summer by the Sea, by Susan Wiigs.

What I'm writing: Chapter 20. Goals for the year.

After yesterday's workshop on Goal Setting by Roxanne St. Claire, I'm crawling around feeling like a total slacker. It's not that she's the self-proclaimed Goddess of Goals—I have no aspirations to outdo her for the title. Heck, I have no aspirations of even coming in tenth. But she did make us examine how we were fooling ourselves with broad, generic dream-goals.

A goal is an objective, which has to be broken down into quantifiable and measurable units. With time limits, too. These are not things like, "Make the NY Times Best Seller List." Goals are attainable via means under your control, not someone else's. So, although I do have a real goal at the top of my list—"write at least 500 'new' words a day", there are a whole lot more vague things I need to sit down and plan out.

And you have to write them down. According to Roxanne, in a notebook, where you can look at them and see if you've accomplished anything.

Rather than 'improve my craft' I have to decide HOW I'm going to attack that. Read more examples of good writing? How many books a month? What about craft books. How many of those? Submitting to agents? That needs to be broken down into bite-sized chunks, too. For example:

Research the agent listings on the web and find 15 agents who represent what I write.

Draft a query letter.

Specialize the letter for each agency.

Mail the first 5 query letters no later than (set a date)!

Make sure I have 5 active queries at all times.

Those are goals that can be achieved.


Christine said...

This year I'm doing Habits and have set up an Excel spread sheet to track my habits...write 100 words a day - walking 20 minutes and 45 minutes - weight lifting - flossing teeth - taking a vitamin. I put an X in the box each time I re-enforce a habit.
For me it seems to work - except that when my word count is down my weight goes up...
Talk about motivation for writing.

Terry said...

good for you, Christine. I should broaden my horizons and add 'lifestyle' goals as well--plus isn't it nice when you get to check something off, or draw a big, fat black line through a list item! So far, I'm having enough trouble being honest with myself about my writing goals, and trying not to list only the 'easy successes.'

Marty said...

Very motivational. I've always been a goal-setter and user of the reward system on a nearly daily basis. I take something I don't like (cleaning bathroom) and reward myself with writing time when it's complete--because that's something I want. Right now, I have a March 1 deadline for a novella, and my goal is 10 pages/week for the next 5 weeks.

Terry said...

Way to go, Marty. Someone once said goals are dreams with deadlines! But having something you can measure sure helps. It's hard to say, "I'm being more productive." But it's easy to see that word count rise.

I like your reward system, too. I would rather write than so many other chores; I do tend to 'allow' writing time after doing something I'd rather not do.

Adelle said...

Hiya Terry
Since this is what I have been working on lately, I thought I'd chime in. I find it helps me with my goals if they are staring me in my face. Every morning I make a short list of daily goals and write them on one of those boards you write on with erasable markers. It sure feels good at the end of the day to see an empty board. That means I've accomplished all I've set out to do. Just a little tip I've found helps me immensely. Good luck!

Terry said...

Almost as good as seeing a huge list with black lines drawn through everything -- I need a visual of how much I've actually done. I'm afraid it would be too easy for me to cheat and not write much, if anything, on the daily board, which would make it nice and empty at the end of the day, but I wouldn't remember what I'd done! That CRS syndrome.
As long as you have a system, and you're getting things done, that's great!

Stacy Dawn said...

I'm really trying to focus on short, realistic goals for myself. I find if I make them too far in advance there's more opportunity for disappointment. Whereas if I make them short and attainable, I can pat myself on the back more than I kick myself LOL.

Terry said...

Yeah, Stacy--that's pretty much the idea of "goals" over "resolutions." They have to be measurable, though, to fit this system. So, maybe you promise to write XXX words a day, which is a measurable task on the way to a bigger goal, like, Finish The Book!
One of my goals is "get organized" but I'll break it down to "Clean my desk every Sunday night" and "Keep notes for my WIP in a 3-ring binder." Then I can look back after a month or so and see if I'm doing the little things that will get me to the 'big' goal.

So, you can have the big ones--those are the dreams--and then you figure out what it'll take to get you there, and break those into little bits you can manage. And measure.

I also find I need to categorize my goals--productivity goals separate from craft goals.

Elizabeth Delisi said...

Terry, thanks for sharing your info from the goals workshop. I know I'm guilty of either setting vague goals, or else thinking of goals at night in bed and they don't make it to the morning light. ;-)

It would also help for me to break them down into daily goals (i.e., Write 500 words today) instead of yearly (Write 500 words every day this year). Even a specific goal, when put on a yearly basis, is too vague for me. I need a checklist of things to do TODAY in order to make me do them!


Terry said...

Thanks for stopping by, Liz -
Roxanne insists a notebook is the only way to do this--I'm so used to the luxury of a "delete" key that it's taking me days to lay out my goals in an orderly fashion. And I confess doing them on the computer first!

So far, I have the title page done! And the pages at the end for "Surprises"

some of our chapter members are being very bold and posting their goals on their blogs and websites. I'm not brave enough to do that yet.

Julie S said...

I did it! I did it! I posted my goals on my blog! LOL.

I haven't started my notebook yet. I think I'll check out the fancy schmancy ones at Target this weekend.

Terry said...

Brave woman, Julie!