I saw someone say recently that “Goals are nothing but dreams with deadlines.” That resonated with me. So often, we put things off until tomorrow – paying bills, making that phone call, doing that thing that needs to be done – and constantly avoid committing or fail to put ourselves out there for fear of being rejected or let down. We think “If I don’t expect anything then I won’t be let down.” But, in the end, it isn’t the time you failed that you will regret; it’s the time you didn’t try.
From the outset, I’ve made a point of setting goals for my writing. I haven’t met all of those goals but, in the course of pursuing them, I continue to get closer and closer to my ultimate goal: publishing my first book. I participated in National Novel Writing Month last November. The goal (for everyone who participated) was 50,000 words. At the end of November, I had about 5,000 new words. At first, I was disappointed – I’d hardly dented the goal I’d set out to achieve. But, looking through a different lens, I realized that, though I hadn’t achieved the lofty goal I’d set out after, I had achieved something: 5,000 more words I didn’t have at the beginning of the month and my most productive month writing since the beginning of the year.
In January, I set another goal for myself: 10,000 words. I didn’t make that either but the (approximately) 7,000 words I wrote over the course of that month was another huge encouragement and achievement, in itself, and helped me to continue writing on a regular basis. With every day and every new word, I slowly chipped away. Two weeks ago, I got to see the fruits of that chipping when I finished my first draft (yay!). Though I know there’s still work to be done, it feels great to have the entire story. Yes, of course, I would prefer to be able to write full time and finish a first draft in six weeks or so but that’s just not the way it happened.
And, to be quite honest, that’s not usually the way anything happens. The sorrow of failure and the elation of success go hand-in-hand – without one, the other wouldn’t exist. This is the constant challenge we face: “How do I persevere when it seems hopeless?” Just keep going. Set goals – big ones (and smaller ones). Bite off more than you can chew. And don’t get down on yourself when you didn’t get everything you set out to. Instead, focus on what you do have, what you did get. Dream big… but don’t just dream. Put a deadline on that dream and keep your eyes on the goal.
My next goal? Publish by June 2015. Will I make it? I’m looking forward to finding out.
DISCLAIMER: this is not an April Fools joke. You can find a first chapter excerpt of my novel here.