Goal setting is crucial for a serious writer. Intuition and our natural rhythms are a very real thing for artists, but one must also take measures to progress in one’s writing, before the whims of the world cast a sleepy spell of passivity.
Which way do we go?
When I was a younger writer, I didn’t even know what my thing was. Was I a poet? A novelist? A journalist? A rhetorician? A blogger? I thought there must be one best road for me, and I embarked on trying each of them in various ways – which took many years to be honest. As I matured, I came to see I was not just one, and the road would never really end. I was simply a writer. I gave myself permission to explore forms and genres indefinitely. Why put myself in a box?
Is this subject boring?
I still hit a few roadblocks. For instance, when I had a monthly newspaper column, my goal was specifically to learn from it, as well as establish myself as a true writer in the community. Sometimes I wanted to write about X when I knew full well my audience did not care about X. So, I would have to find a way to write about Y without losing my drive. This required me to dig deep mentally and spiritually, to sift out the part of Y that meant something to me. I had to talk it out with someone to build emotional energy behind it. Honoring my own authentic motivation mattered, but so did my commitment to the publication. Having conversations helped me to pinpoint what mattered to us both.
Go slow, but keep going.
Another roadblock for me has been with writing short fiction. Whenever I get to a climactic scene in the plot, and a lot of moving parts have to come together seamlessly within a respectable timeframe, I get a bit of paralysis. How will I pull this off? Is this just stupid? When did I decide I could be a writer? Who am I fooling? Then my fear of failure keeps me from tackling that story to the ground and standing on it victoriously!
According to Jeff Haden, author of The Motivation Myth, https://a.co/d/7E20l2E we should, “Dream big. Set a huge goal. Commit to your huge goal. Create a process that ensures you can reach your goal. Then forget about your huge goal and work your process instead.”
My process requires one step at a time – one scene or one page or even one paragraph at a time, until the rough draft of the plot all gets written down start to finish. Then I can go back and smooth it out later. Without the initial goal of opening up that laptop and taking a risk for a solid half-hour, the story will sit half-baked for all of eternity.
When Overwhelm Hits
Right now, I have decided to take my beta reader’s advice and switch up some parts on an old novel, bringing a backstory into the prologue position, which is sort of fun, but again, I want to fix the entire novel in one sitting. Well, that is not going to happen folks. I need to set a goal, just for today. Instead, I will read and revise wording and build the cultural setting on just Part I, the first fifty pages. This could take me a couple days, and until then, I am not going to worry about the rest.
Make sure it feels right.
Setting goals that excite me are the right goals. They must feel manageable and within my capacity to keep the process in play. Another writer once told me to start writing my next book before I even submit the current one. At the time, that repulsed me. I needed time to loosen my grip on the first book. My most recent goal is to publish a book with a reputable publisher before I turn 60. I will finish two books already close to completion, and pursue up to 60 literary agents within the next 20 months. I am hopeful.