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Dreams vs. Goals: What if my Writing Goals Change? What if I Fail?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Yesterday, one of the things I mentioned is that you must write down your goals. Writing your goals—handwritten in a journal, typed on the computer, emailed to yourself as a list, however you want to do it—makes them real. By having them written down, it gives you the opportunity not only to go back and check things off that you’ve accomplished or completed, but also to remind yourself of the other steps you promised yourself you’d be taking.

Yes, by setting goals, you’re making yourself promises. You promise yourself that you are going to take this journey and that you’re going to help yourself succeed.

The Risk of Failure
Dreams vs. Goals: Risk, Failure, and Re-evaluating Your Writing Goals |

One of the reasons why I believe most dreamers are hesitant to actually sit down and go through the process I’ve described over the last few days—setting goals, writing them down, and setting a timeline—is not only because doing that makes it more concrete, more real, but also because by defining exactly what it is that we want to accomplish, we are defining exactly the ways in which we can fail.

For anyone who’s set a self-imposed deadline and missed it. For anyone who’s stated a certain number of words to be written every day and not done it. For anyone who’s submitted manuscripts to editors and/or agents and been rejected. For anyone who’s joyously told family and friends that we’ve decided to write novels and get them published, only to have those same people lose faith in—or even mock—you when you can’t show tangible results. We know what failure feels like, and we don’t want to be there again.

HOWEVER, by breaking the dream down into a personally achievable goal with short-term and long-term actionable steps, you have more opportunity to show how you’ve succeeded when you—or others around you—deride you and call you a failure because you still aren’t published. Remember, it may be your dream to be a published author; it’s your goal to do all of the work that gives you the ability to chase that dream. And if you do the work, if you write the manuscripts, work with critique partners, go to conferences and workshops, rewrite and revise, edit and re-edit, do your market research, enter contests, network, and get those appointments to pitch your work, then you’re successful. Because you’ve met all of your goals, and you’ve done everything you can to chase your dream.

What if my writing goals change?
Dreams vs. Goals: Risk, Failure, and Re-evaluating Your Writing Goals |

Just because you’ve written your goals down (even if you used pen!), doesn’t mean that they’re written in stone—as your circumstances change, as issues arise, as it becomes apparent that the timelines you set don’t work, then, by all means, re-evaluate and, if necessary, change your goals. But when you change them, make sure to write the new/revised goals down, too—after all, how will you measure your success if you don’t have it written down so you can check/cross it off?

Should I share my goals with others?

Some goals should be kept private. Sometimes, though, we need accountability to help us meet our goals. This is when we need to carefully analyze who the people are that will support and encourage us—who will rejoice with our successes and support us when we feel like we’ve failed. Just as you’ll have many smaller or short-term goals/steps you want to take and many larger or long-term ones, there are multiple levels at which to consider the ramifications of sharing:

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Critique partners
  • Writing group
  • Blog/social media

It is a very personal decision, whether or not to make a goal, a set of goals, or even a dream public. While many self-help books and inspirational speakers will encourage you to share your dreams and goals with others so that you have support and accountability, I think when it comes to writing and the dream of being published, you must weigh very carefully, first, with whom you share it; and, second, if you are strong enough to handle the risks that come with sharing this particular part of our lives with others.

When we share our dreams and goals about writing with others, we make ourselves vulnerable to criticism (for the goals themselves or for our thinking we could achieve them) or to ridicule if we don’t reach the goals—or if we have to change them when circumstances change. So be sure that if you go public, whether to one person or hundreds through a blog or social media, you know you will be able to handle any negative comments that may come your way. Don’t go public and then let the naysayers keep you from working on achieving your goals so that, one day, you can attain whatever dream it is you have for your writing.

Dreams vs. Goals: Risk, Failure, and Re-evaluating Your Writing Goals |

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