Monday, August 10, 2009

Goals: How Do You Know When You're Successful?

The irony of this poster is that writers ONLY get paid when they believe in the power of their dreams. Heheheh.

I've been thinking today about goals.

Many writers (and normal people) find it difficult to be satisfied in life unless they know when they'll be able to say "I'm successful." Many of us also find it hard to get started if we don't have something to aim for, and become saddened if we're not sure if we've arrived.

We have to ask ourselves some questions to determine what we want, and how we'll know when we've got it. If we don't, we'll either be too overwhelmed to begin chasing our dreams, or too unrealistic about what will really make us happy. Unrealistic expectations, even ones you put on yourself, SUCK.

So, let me pose a few questions that every writer should probably ask themselves:

1) Why am I writing?

2) How long do I want to do this, even if I never get any credit or money from my work?

3) How much rejection can I take?

4) How much time do I want to spend on my goals, versus with my family, friends, and pillow?

5) What do I want to achieve Big Picture?

6) Will I be satisfied when I get there?

7) Am I satisfied if I never get there?

8) What steps do I have to take to achieve that Big Picture thing?

9) Which one needs to be achieved first?

10) What is my support system?

11) How will I feel if I never achieve this? Is it worth trying anyway?

Here are the answers I've given myself, and what keeps me going (in case it's helpful):

1) Why am I writing? It's my favorite thing to do, and I'm happy when I'm doing it. I'm unhappy when I stop.

2) How long do I want to do this, even if I never get any credit or money from my work? For as long as I possibly can.

3) How much rejection can I take? As much as I need to (be honest here, folks, or you're in for a world of hurt.)

4) How much time do I want to spend on my goals, versus with my family, friends, and pillow? I need to have a balance. I won't be happy meeting my writing goals at the expense of my husband, family, and sweet, sweet sleep. This means I have to make more realistic smaller goals to get to my big goals.

5) What do I want to achieve Big Picture? I want to make enough money to be able to write as a full time job and not starve. This means making about 20-30k. That will be great. Also, I want a Hugo Award.

6) Will I be satisfied when I get there? OH YAH. I don't want to be rich, I just want to have the freedom to write more. And have a rocket statue.

7) Am I satisfied if I never get there? Yes, because no matter what I'll achieve my goal of writing as long as possible. I just won't get to do as much of it per day. Also, maybe I'll get an award after I'm dead. Whatever works.

8) What steps do I have to take to achieve that Big Picture thing? I have to get an agent, have my manuscript sell, promote the crap out of my book, lather, rinse, repeat as many times as possible.

9) Which one needs to be achieved first? I need to find an agent.

10) What is my support system? The awesome people who read my blog (I heart you!), my crit buddies, and my wonderful husband.

11) How will I feel if I never achieve this? Is it worth trying anyway? It will be lame, but I'll still be okay. It is absolutely worth chasing for my entire life. I'll have a blast trying.

The key to getting started and keeping going without driving yourself nuts is creating reasonable goals, and then realizing you'll be satisfied if you meet them or not.

But you have to be willing to keep going as long as it takes. If you're not, then this isn't the business for you and you need to go do something sensible like run a petshop. If so, then chase it with all you've got, and above all enjoy the ride!

*My husband just said he wants me to win two Hugos so we can make bookends. Damn! The pressure! ;)

19 comments:

Tess said...

great questions, but I have to answer them as I go along on this road. If I try to answer them all up front I get stressed out. one step at a time, that's what I'm telling myself :)

Rebecca said...

Great questions! I'll answer a couple of them here.

I write because I can't imagine not writing and I will keep writing as long as I'm able, even if it never brings me another cent.

Sarah said...

Oh, but honesty hurts! Those are such good questions, but also ones that I'm still figuring out.
I know that if I didn't write novels, I'd just spend the time composing lengthy emails to friends because I wouldn't have anything else to do with myself. I write because I can't stop. I love it.
And I'll keep writing for as long as I do. Hopefully, that is forever.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Great questions and interesting answers. In response to your comment about balance, I would note that Michener, who wrote all those huge books, said he wrote every morning no matter what, even if it was only one sentence, but in the afternoons he did not write. And he stuck to that schedule always. Now, there is balance!

christine said...

Great post! I love #8...and I couldn't agree more. For me, I write because I have something to say. And I will stop when there is nothing left to say. Pretty vague, but for me it is truth!

ElanaJ said...

These are great questions and ones that I think writers revisit over and over, no matter where they are on the yellow brick road to publishing land. At least I find myself asking those questions over and over...

Scott said...

Great Post. BTW - I borrowed your questions and answered them on my blog . . . and gave you the credit you deserve!!

S

TereLiz said...

I write because the people inside my head clamor to get out if I don't. Hurts.

Rejection? It's a part of life. Though I fear rejection in real life, there is a part of being rejected via an email that makes the news easier to bear. It still stings, no lie.

Balance is hard sometimes, but I thank the Good Lord every day for the advent of the PlayStation 3, which keeps my husband too busy some nights to complain about how long I'm typing.

What if I never get there? Hey, it's not denial if I'm still trying to get published in my eighties, right? It's just perseverance. "Never" means I'll have to give up or die first, and if I'm dead, I don't think I'll mind.

Luckily I have a great support system in my husband and my online writing/blogging buddies.

Like you. Thanks for giving me so much to think about, Becca!

Rebecca Knight said...

Tess--whatever makes it less stressful is the way to go! :D

Rebecca--you sound like me in more ways than one ;).

Sarah--good luck, and Godspeed!

Elizabeth--that is actually really good to know about Michener. It would be fascinating to look at other full-time authors and see how they prioritize their days... hmm. Project!

Christine--I can't wait to read your stuff and hear what you have to say :D!

Elana--I feel the same way. I think it's just a jumping off point for me so I'm not paralyzed before I even start.

Scott--loved your answers, and thank you for sharing!

Tere--I laughed out loud about the PS3 because TOTALLY. Lol!

Marybeth Poppins said...

I have to admit I did borrow as well...just for my website instead of my blog!

Abby said...

I love how you seperated the writers from the normal people. At least, we have an understanding of our place in the natural order of things. Heehee :D

This is an awesome post! I've actually been thinking about this a lot lately.

When I first started writing, it was only to get published. Now, I've found that I really enjoy it and it's a great outlet for stress. And of all the big creative endeavors I've undertaken, this is the only one I've followed through on. So that's got to mean something.

My ultimate goal is still publication, someday. Hopefully. But, if I don't reach it, I think I'll be okay. I don't know. Ask me again next week. My answer might be different then. ;)

B.J. Anderson said...

Fantastic questions, Rebecca. I realized something the other day as I was editing my WIP. I LOVE this manuscript, and even if it never gets published, I'm going to keep writing more in the planned series. It was so much fun to write, and I can't imagine not going on with it. I may have to answer some of these questions. Great post!

Rebecca Knight said...

Marybeth--yay! Borrow away :D.

Abby--what fun is being normal ;)? I totally agree that following through with something this big has meaning in an of itself. HUGE meaning. Few people ever do anything like this. You should be proud, my friend :).

B.J.--that is awesome! I'm so glad you love what you're doing :D. That's what it's all about, I think.

Mandy said...

I'm right there with you! Procrastinator, uh huh, yep, that's me. I'm obsessive with my projects. One at a time, period. I soooo wish I was a multi-tasker, but it's just not in the cards for me!

Rebecca Knight said...

Hey, at least we're not alone, right ;)? And we can procrastinate by reading each other's blogs. Hooray!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I love the idea of making mistakes across multiple books. Not actually making the mistakes, but that each book is a learning process so taking the time to learn from one will make the next one better :) Great post.

Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks, Shaun! Glad it was helpful :).

cipherqueen said...

Great questions! Answers below...

1) Why am I writing? Because I love it.

2) How long do I want to do this, even if I never get any credit or money from my work? Forever.

3) How much rejection can I take? Infinity.

4) How much time do I want to spend on my goals, versus with my family, friends, and pillow? 3 hours a day to write.

5) What do I want to achieve Big Picture? Being able to put the finished thing in a shoebox for at least one person to read later.

6) Will I be satisfied when I get there? Never.

7) Am I satisfied if I never get there? Yep. Really, though, a shoebox is pretty easy to find...

10) What is my support system? Family and online buddies.

11) How will I feel if I never achieve this? Is it worth trying anyway? It's the learning value in the end.

Rebecca Knight said...

I really like that, Cipherqueen: "It's the learning value in the end."

Great answers, and thank you for sharing!