Goal Setting for Writers for 2012
Ahh, all those New Year’s resolutions. Writers are notorious for setting goals. And failing to achieve them.
This is often because all those goals we set don’t have a strategic goal, which they support. The #1 key to success in any endeavor is to set a strategic, overall goal and do whatever it takes to accomplish. I’m gearing up to teach a Write It Forward workshop on-line for the next two months (registration closes Thursday night) and the first thing we work on is goals. The excerpt below is from our Guide to Writers’ Conference: How to Get the Most Out of Your Time & Money, but it’s also a version of what’s in Write It Forward.
Strategy First: Know Your Goals
Understand Why You’re Going
We’re opening this book about conferences with an adapted excerpt from Bob’s book Write It Forward: From Writer to Published Author. In this section we discuss goal setting, because the first thing you have to do, even before you look for a writing conference, is know what you want to achieve both with your writing and with your conference experience. Every decision you make before, during and after the conference depends on what goals you set.
Let’s talk first about your strategic writing goal. It can be anything, but it’s important that you lock it down in one sentence. Here are some broad examples:
- I will be a NY Times best-selling thriller author in five years.
- I will write my memoir for my grandchildren in the next three months.
- I write part-time simply because it is a hobby and spend an hour a day on it.
- I want to be published within 2 years by a major, traditional press.
- I will have my book in print within 2 months via self-publishing.
- I will write a book that will help people with —– and spend the next three years using it to bolster and complement my speaking career.
The Importance of Your Strategic Goal:
- It starts your creative and practical process.
- It determines your supporting goals.
- Remembering it keeps you focused.
- It is the core of your work regime.
- It is the core of your marketing campaign.
- It determines what conference(s) you will attend and how you will plan for them.
- All supporting goals must align with it in the hierarchy.
Your supporting goals are designed to help you achieve your overall strategic goal. Thus, everyone’s path will be different based on having different strategic goals. What conference you pick to attend, what workshops you will go to, how you will socialize and network, who and how you will pitch, etc. all will be shaped by your goals. Each of those decisions are based on the supporting goals for each one.
Everything that you are getting in this book is filtered through your specific strategic goal. When you go to a writers’ conference, everything you hear is also filtered through your strategic goal. So two people attending the same session are going to walk out with two different impressions, each filtered through their point of view, which is shaped by their strategic goal.
When you state your goals, they should be done in one sentence. The sentence should have a positive verb that indicates the action you’ll want to use to achieve your goal. The verb must indicate an action you control—to an extent. In publishing, you control the writing and the way you approach the business. Beyond that, the publishing gods are fickle. I will become a NY Times Bestselling author in five years seems a bit lofty. But here’s the bottom line: if that’s what you want to achieve, then state it. And then develop a plan to do it. This greatly increases your odds of achieving the goal than the hit-or-miss method. Studies have shown the #1 key to success is setting a long-term strategic goal and doing whatever it takes in order to achieve it. Once you have that strategic goal, it determines everything you do, because everything you do has to support that goal.
Your goal should have an external, visible outcome. Just as in your novel your character’s goal should be something concrete and external, so should yours.
You should have a time lock for achieving the goal, unless time is of no consequence to you. For most of us, time is the most valuable asset we have.
Keep It Positive- A Negative Goal Accepts Defeat
Here’s another thing about stating your goal: Putting it out there, verbally and in writing, is a form of making a commitment. We know many writers get some static from those around them about all the time and money they invest in writing when they are unpublished and there seems to be no payback. The expense of a conference might be hard to justify. If people just see you sitting in front of a computer staring into space and then going off to conferences, they might start to question what you are doing. Letting others know your goal is committing to trying to achieve it and also lets others know you’re serious about it. Then showing your supporting goals such as how much time you allocate each day to writing, attending conferences, taking workshops, etc. will make sense in terms of the framework of the larger, long-term goal.
It also puts pressure on you to stick to your goals. We know many people who are afraid to clearly state their goals because by not doing so, they can slack off day after day. Also, some are afraid to state goals because they fear ridicule.
In 1987 Jim Carrey was 25 years old and a struggling comic. He drove his Toyota up Mulholland Drive in LA. Overlooking the city he wrote himself a check for $10 million. He dated it 1995 and noted it was “for acting services rendered”.
He was wrong. In 1995, his price for a movie was $20 million.
We can guarantee you one thing: if you don’t state your goal and strive for it, you are guaranteed never to achieve it.
Write goals out. Post them where you can see them every day. Put your conference goal on the inside of your notebook where you can see it every time you open it up to take notes.
What do you fear doing? (Often this is exactly what we must do). We have often found that many writers are afraid of writing about the things closest to them. Which means they are afraid to write their passion. Most writers are introverts, so going to a conference is against our instincts. Socializing is difficult for us and we don’t like crowds. We know many writers who go to conferences and hide in their rooms, rather than attending sessions.
Questions to ask Yourself
They key to answering these questions is the ability to do so in one sentence. This is important because it forces you to focus on what you really want.
- What do I want to do?
- Why do I want to do it?
- Why should anyone else want to do it? (History & Research)
- What is the most important thing I want to achieve?
- How will I know when I have achieved my goal? What will have happened?
- How have others defined it?
- How long did it take others to achieve this goal?
- What was your original goal when you began writing? The good news is you had one. The bad news is you might well have forgotten it. That original goal is key. It’s usually the spark of inspiration. It is the foundation of you as a writer, the seed, from which all else comes. It is your Strategic Goal.
Strategic and Supporting Goals Worksheet
My strategic writing goal is:
My tactical writing goal regarding mode of publication is:
My tactical business goal/priority regarding agents is:
My tactical business goal/priority regarding editors is:
My tactical business goal/priority of attending conference is:
My tactical goal regarding priority of workshops is:
List all the things you intend to do to help ensure your goals are met:
Write It Forward!
(PS: We’ll be doing a bunch more blog posts this month about Writers’ Conferences because many of you are planning on attending at least one in 2012)