Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Step 6: The Goals: The Long and Short of It

If you've been watching yourself to avoid negative thinking, bolstering yourself with some affirmations, and have figured out what things you can and can't control, you should definitely be ready to think about your creative or writing goals. :-)

Let's start with this: If your writing goal is to become rich or famous you need to re-examine some things.

I won't tell you that you can't be both as an author, or that you can't at least be one of the two (amazing things happen all the time and maybe you're the one it'll happen to). BUT. If the only reason you want to write is to be rich and/or famous, just stop. It's like someone naively saying they want to be a teacher because they get summers off. *twitch* Not only is it the absolutely wrong motivation, it also shows an utter lack of understanding of the value of the task.

So let's cross rich and famous off our list of goals, okay?

Let's also cross off anything remotely related to competing with another writer, friend or family member. You shouldn't live your life constantly comparing yourself to others--it'll make you bitter, self-destructive, will break your heart and ruin your friendships. I've seen it happen.

If you're driven by competition, that's cool. COMPETE WITH YOURSELF. Just like professional and Olympic athletes. They are trained to work to achieve a personal best every time and/or learn how to improve each time they compete. Those are both healthy attitudes.

Now. Let's think about intrinsic motivation. What about writing makes you feel good? Me? I like knowing I can create worlds and characters and watch them grow and change. It's my itsy-bitsy god complex. ;-) I also like the feel of completing a story--knowing I bring things to an emotional resolution and a justifiable point in the action and in characters' evolution.

How about you? Why do you really enjoy writing? Let me remind you that if you don't enjoy doing something I believe strongly you should stop doing it if it won't adversely impact your future.

Once you know distinctly WHY you enjoy writing, you should be able to better identify your goals.

One of my general goals could be: to create and complete a story with believable and engaging characters who evolve and change based on their circumstances and actions.

To make that goal better I need to make it more specific. Perhaps I could use my WiP like this:

I will complete a 70,000 word rough draft of book 1 of CREATIVE LICENSE by [date--be reasonable here, you'll always feel better completing it ahead of time than not in time], making sure my characters are believable, generally likable and engaging and that they evolve and grow based on their circumstances, actions and logical cause and effect.

That goal (which I'd consider a long-term goal because it will take more than a week or two--probably a month or two) will make me definitely feel a sense of accomplishment when I'm done with it. Have I tied money directly to it, saying "I will sell blah-blah-blah by blah-blah-blah and make blah-blah-blah dollars off of it?"

NO.

Why not? A.) That's not tied to my intrinsic motivation. B.) A lot of that (the date I'd sell it by and the money I'd earn) are things that are outside my "circle of influence." [If you don't know what that means, please pick up a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.] In short, there are things we have direct control over and things we don't. Keep your limitations in mind as you set your goals.

If completing CREATIVE LICENSE is my longterm goal (which it is--one of several), I need to also consider the short term goals that will lead me there. Short term goals can be monthly, weekly or daily, depending on your needs.

Think of your longterm goal as a fabulous meal with all the foodgroups represented. To fill your plate appropriately you must first make sure you have all the dishes prepared to be plated, right? So what components do you need to prepare--and in what order?

Me? I need to hit a certain wordcount daily. Considering how I trim and edit, 2-3K a day is necessary if I'm to finish in a month and a half (I already have a start on this WiP thanks to NaNoWriMo, btw). I also need to include a goal related to my internal editor (she's a pesky wench who needs to keep her mouth shut as a story evolves--she'll get turned loose on it soon enough). I'll also include a few goals about the story itself (to keep me focused) and things about the characters. I'll also include a short term goal about editing and revising. All these things lead up to my longterm goal of the book's completion.

So think about one longterm writing goal you want to hit this year. Remember the things you control and the things you don't. Remember what makes you want to write in the first place.

Now write that goal!

Think about the steps you need to take between right here and right now to get to the longterm goal successfully. Write them out and order them appropriately.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Step 5: Circles Within Circles--Your Influence

I must apologize for my absence. I finished my book 2 revisions for 13 to Life, am working through book 3 and have a short story prequel due (plus other stuff). But let's get refocused, shall we? ;-)

Part of what tends to make us frustrated is forgetting that some things are simply beyond our control. We can influence many things in life, but not all. Realizing where that boundary is will help you set achievable goals (and stay happier, too).

This does NOT mean accepting or embracing a phrase/philosophy like "It is what it is." NO. Many, many things in life are exactly what we make them or allow them to be and we attract things to us by being either proactive or reactive.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen R. Covey mentions our circle of influence versus our circle of concern. We may be concerned about getting a publishing contract but we have to consider (and focus on) the things we CAN do to get closer to achieving the goal of publication. These are the things we have direct influence on--generally because they relate to our perception of our world, the way we process that perception and the habits we hold to as a result.

Below you'll see a modified circle of influence. The center shows the things I influence in my writing life (there are a few more, but those are good ones for this example). Any hey, they're things you control in your writing life, too.

The outer circle or "The World" shows things we really have no control over. Different economies and emerging target audiences desire different books (and different numbers of books). Different agents, editors and publishing house have different response times and different pay scales. Heck, the postal service even has control we writers don't--believe me, I know!

So we have a choice. Waste our time and energy on things we can't influence or control, or focus on the things we can. These are differences between proactive and reactive personalities, in case you didn't know (but I expect you did). It's very important when you're setting your long and short term goals to be realistic about the things you do control and the things you don't.

Think about it for a minute...

Can you control the date a story or book sells by? No. That's based on market projections, trends, the publishing houses and the economy. NOT your circle of influence.

Can you control how much money you make from a book or the rights you retain? Only to an extent. You may have expectations of what you'd like to see or get from a contract, and if the offer's not made that reaches your expectations you can certainly walk out on the deal (that's within your circle of influence--your control). But will you have met your monetary aspirations (or goal of being published--although there are many paths to publication nowadays) by walking out on it without a better deal in place? Probably not at that point. See?

So think about the things in your writing and creative life you can control and the things you really can't. You'll need to be able to identify the difference between them before setting your goals.

Wednesday--Goals: The Long and The Short of It

See ya then!
~Shannon