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Dreams vs. Goals: Give Your Writing Dreams Marching Orders

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Participate in an online version of me teaching the Dreams vs. Goals class on SkillShare.

If you don’t know where you are going,
you will probably end up somewhere else.

~Lawrence J. Peter

Yesterday, we looked at what it means to be a dreamer—to dream about being a writer. As a reminder, here’s how dictionaries define dream:

  • a visionary creation of the imagination
  • a state of mind marked by abstraction or release from reality
  • a cherished hope; ambition; aspiration
  • a vain hope

And I know we all agree that dreams can be good things. But if we want to accomplish something, we’re going to have to do something more than dream about it. That’s where goals come into play.

What Is a Goal?
If we once again turn toward the dictionary for a technical definition, a goal is:

  • the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end
  • target; purpose, object, objective, intent, intention
  • the aim or object toward which an endeavor is directed
  • the terminal point of a journey or race

Do you notice a difference in the words that define these two terms? The definitions for “dream” are largely passive while the definitions for “goal” are active. You have dreams; you set goals.

In other words . . .
Dreams vs. Goals: Give Your Writing Dreams Marching Orders |

Dreams are hopes. Dreams are wishes. Dreams are visions of an outcome . . . without a visualization of the steps needed to reach that outcome.

Goals are what we need in order to figure out how to reach the end we’re dreaming of.

I dream of being a traditionally published author.

Great. Now, what part of that dream can you actually control or influence? What can you realistically do in order to move toward the fulfillment of that dream? In other words, what part of your dream is personally achievable?

Dreams vs. Goals: Give Your Writing Dreams Marching Orders |

It’s fine—wonderful—to dream of becoming a traditionally published author (i.e., being paid an advance/royalty by a traditional publishing house so they can have the privilege of making money by selling your book). It gives you an end toward which to set goals. However, aside from setting goals for daily/weekly/monthly word counts, learning everything you can about craft, finding and working with critique partners, attending conferences, pitching your work to agents and editors, and polishing your manuscript to a fine sheen, there is one major part of the equation you cannot control. You cannot control the decisions made by publishers to reject or accept you. You have now taken away your own ability to control whether or not you achieve your goal. This is what I mean by realistic and personally achievable—you must be able to affect and control the outcome in order for it to be a viable goal, not just a dream.

You dream of being a traditionally published author.
Your goal is to do everything within your ability to create a publish-ready manuscript and pitch it to editors.

So, dream away! But then step back into reality and look at your dream to see what parts of it you, personally, can achieve.

Tomorrow: Let’s Start Setting Some Goals!

  1. Marie Pinkham permalink
    Tuesday, October 14, 2014 7:26 pm

    Thank you, Kaye, for the reminder that having a dream is good, and having a plan of action for working toward that dream is imporant as well.



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