The beauty outside my window is almost incomprehensible. White snow, chandelier ice cycles, blue sky. Colors that the Rocky Mountains flaunt so well that if the expanse were a celebrity, he’d grace the cover of People Magazine as the World’s Most Handsome Man. It’s a Frank Sinatra kind of beautiful day that boldly sings, “I did it my way.”
And I can end my year on that note. I did it my way.
Last week writers tackled visions. From the grand to the practical, from the remembered to the hopeful, a vision is what guides us. We hold it in our imagination and often refer to it as our dream. In business, we say that a vision is an organization’s north star. It guides growth and transition. Goals are therefore the tools by which we orientate to that north star.
I’ll readily admit that I’m a pantser as a writer (meaning, I prefer to write by the seat of my pants). Pantsers can be found in other businesses, too: the baker who loves to make cookies; the jeweler who collects his own stones from the beach; the pilot who lives to soar above the earth. People who are passionate about what they do aren’t always successful at it for a living.
The baker may shy away from dealing with people and neglect the front-end of her business. The jeweler may not know how to sell his beautiful beach-found jewelry. The pilot might not make enough money to keep his plane in the air. The writer might have a vision of finished books, but have no idea how to shape the stories into a book.
Goals can help.
I’m not talking about a planning process formulated by corporate drones and followed like doctrine. I’m talking about looking at your vision in a practical way and creating steps to get you closer to actualizing what it is you can imagine. Goals can be invigorating, and even pansters can plan.
Consider FAST goals. FAST: flexible, actionable, sound and timely. Start with your vision, that big dream. Like a good story it needs to be fully detailed. Last week I wrote a flash fiction that was a partial glimpse at my own vision. It included turquoise boots that said, “You’ve arrived, Writer.” But the turquoise boots are not a goal. Publishing a book is.
To make my book publishing a FAST goal, I would detail it like this:
- Publish my finished manuscript by first securing and agent or publisher; if not, then seeking a small press or considering independent publishing (flexible).
- Create an action plan that includes querying agents or publishers; seeking industry feedback; redirecting the process in light of feedback (actionable).
- Learn as much as possible about publishing options and what readers are interested in reading in an over-saturated market (sound).
- Give the query process a six-month try before considering other options, including a possible revision (timely).
What’s important is that writer’s goals be flexibility because there are cumbersome factors in this industry. Rewrites, feedback, queries, rejections and enough indie options to boggle the mind of mathematician. A goal is going to require action. I’m not going to wake up one morning and find that a magic goose laid a golden book on my desk. I have to work my goal. And it has to be sound in the sense that it doesn’t bore or overwhelm me. I know what all else is at stake in my life so I’ll make the goal fit who I am as a writer and what my circumstances are. Time is sometimes a guess. I always think it will take less time than it actually does, but still, it’s necessary to set deadlines or else it may stay in limbo as year after year passes by me (and my goal).
As trite as New Year’s resolutions are, it’s good to set goals when it feels like the right time to refresh. And maybe this is not the right time for you. For example, you might be a teacher and that fresh start is when the school-year ends. Or perhaps the rhythms of your personal life don’t jive with the turning of the New Year. That’s fine. But do try to find time to reflect annually, adjust and carry on with what it is you want to achieve as a writer.
Of course, you can have multiple goals. I certainly do! If you have more than five, pull back on the reins and take stock of which goals are most important. Too many goals can compete for your time and energy. Take a holistic look at how writing fits into your life, too. One of my goals is to make enough income from writing (business and freelancing) in order to work on my novel writing. Because I work at home, I also include a personal fitness goal to walk, get sunshine and talk to people face-to-face.
So where does planning goals lead us this week? To the mysterious (or otherwise) staircase. We have to take steps on our writer’s journey, so let’s consider stairs and where they lead.
December 31, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about steps, stairs or a staircase. Where do they lead? Who is walking or avoiding them? Are they clearly defined or ancient? Why are theses steps important? Lead us on a 99 word discovery!
Respond by January 6, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.
The Ascent by Charli Mills
Nothing was going right. The driveshaft that fell off Elvin’s 1991 Ford spiked the grill of the Prius behind him. He let his insurance lapse the week before because he got laid off from the mill. His girlfriend left for Seattle and the coyotes ate his cat. Elvin sucked air and examined the smooth quartzite wall before him. He began to see steps, some no bigger than toe-holds. In his mind he mapped the perfect ascent and in no time he reached to summit that overlooked Lake Pond Oreille. Now if only he could find the steps in life.