It’s starting to feel more like 2021 with every passing day, and I’m still in a goal-setting frame of mind as I think about what’s next for my creative life and business.
I blogged a few weeks back about the approach I use to set meaningful, holistic goals for my life, but I wanted to hone in on writing goals in particular.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are driven to write for reasons that may not be entirely apparent even to you. In fact, you might not have even thought much about it. You just do. And you may have entered the psychic slipstream of the things writers tend to want.
Of course you want to get published. Of course you want to be a massive bestseller. Of course you want to be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare and Toni Morrison.
But why? Have you really thought about it?
Get beneath the surface
When I’m working with authors who are struggling to get in tune with a character, I often ask them a version of this question: “If the character could wave a magic wand over their life, what would it look like, all the way down to the embroidery on the couch in their penthouse apartment?”
Hopes and dreams tell us an immense amount about a character. And it works in real life too. Your dreams will reveal a lot about you too if you sketch them out.
Maybe you want to cross the finish line and get traditionally published, but keep interrogating that desire. What is it about traditional publication? Is if the validation? Is it the money? What are you imagining it will get you if it happens?
Chances are there’s something deeper that’s driving you, and if you can hone in on that thing you’ll be more laser focused on getting the thing you actually want and won’t sweat the rest of it as much.
For me, I was drawn to the challenge of writing my most recent novel. I took on an immensely difficult premise to make realistic, and I just wanted to pull it off. I just wanted to finish it and to feel like I made it work. That was my ultimate goal.
Everything apart from that, including whether it sees the light of day or if anyone reads it? That would be gravy, but I’m not living and dying by it. Even in the midst of being really sick with COVID last year, one of the thoughts that calmed me down was, “Well, at least you finished that damn novel.”
Make sure your actions line up with your goals
Once you know what’s really motivating you, you can hone in on it and make sure what you’re doing is leading you closer. You might even think of other ways of accomplishing your goal that don’t involve the standard “script” of traditional publication or bestsellerdom.
If you want to use your book to connect with more people, maybe you can get there by being more involved in your writing community. If you want your book to make you money, you can start operating with a clearer business mindset. If you want validation, you can think of who you want to get it from and how you can get those people to read your book.
Particularly with all of the options available to authors these days, there are so many ways to go about getting to the thing you really want. If you can find creative ways to get what you need that don’t involve the whims of agents, publishers, and reviewers, you’ll also be able to shed a lot more of the stress of the publishing process since so much is out of your hands.
Have you spent some time thinking about your goals? What did you find helpful?
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: A View near Tivoli (Morning) by Thomas Cole