Working with writers is a lot of fun because many of us are goal-oriented. The fact you're reading this is probably in relation to a goal you have to write a book, publish a book or get an agent. All of which are amazing goals.
Where writers can get goal setting wrong, is in almost the "desperation," to achieve the goal. The desperation to hurry up and finish writing their book, so that in the finishing of it, they get to get to feel good. They think that when they’re book is done, or when it’s published, then they get to feel all those good feelings. So they’re in a hurry to get there.
Honestly, this is super common. I wrote this way for years. Before I discovered thought work, and even after. My brain always wants to fall back into that pattern of wanting the goal to make me feel proud and accomplished.
If you find yourself in a hurry or feeling urgent to have “the thing,” you’re probably doing goal setting wrong.
The reason why we set goals is not to hustle to our self-worth, it’s to push ourselves to grow. It’s to ask more of ourselves and to evolve into the best version of us.
The version of you who doesn’t have a book written is just as worthy as the version of you with the published book. But the version of you with the published book has had to learn so much on the way, both in knowledge and in self-discovery.
The version of you with the published book has had to learn how to manage their mind. They've had to overcome doubt, fear, and the primitive version of themselves that wanted to stay in the cave. That journey is 100x more valuable than the published book.
The other way I see writers doing goal setting wrong is not being 100% committed to that goal.
Have you written down your goal? Have you told people your goal? Or are you keeping it secret, being one foot in and one foot out? Kind of that mentality of “I really want a published book but part of me doesn’t think I can do it... so I’m just going to see how it goes and write when I can.”
If this sounds like you. This is also normal.
Most people resist setting goals because it’s really uncomfortable. As soon as you write that goal down on paper, or tell someone about it, suddenly it exists outside of you. Suddenly it’s a possibility, that something that doesn’t yet exist in the world, could be created.
And it’s that notion, that makes our brain freak out with a lot of very uncomfortable thoughts.
“I don’t have time.”
“It’s going to be hard.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“My stories aren’t good enough”
“I’ve never been able to.”
All these kinds of thoughts, probably dozens of different variations of them.
Setting a goal for something we’ve never done before is going to bring up a lot of doubt. Anytime we’re reaching beyond our capacity, our brain is going to freak out.
But your brain’s reaction is not a reason to not go after it. In fact, it’s your brain’s job to bring up all of its concerns, so you can stay safe and things don’t have to change.
How writers often compensate for this, is to set goals we know we can achieve. So instead of writing your 80,000 word YA novel, you set a goal to write a 7000 word children’s book.
When we set easy goals or easier goals, we don’t have to experience all that doubt and all those uncomfortable thoughts.
And there’s nothing wrong with this. There’s nothing wrong with you setting a goal for a children’s book. But know why you’re doing it, if that’s where you are right now. Own it and say "I’m not wanting to go through the doubt of writing a YA novel, so I’m setting this goal I know I can achieve."
Most of us don’t want to set goals if we don’t already know how to achieve them. The problem with this is that it means we are setting goals based on our current knowledge which is based on our past. And not setting goals from a place of who we want to be in the future.
These small goals are often just “improvements” to already existing goals. So saying you want to write a 7000-page book might just be an improvement to your goal of wanting to write 5 days a week. Do you see how that works? It’s just a slight step up.
Again, nothing wrong with a slight improvement. But you’re robbing of the experience of not knowing how to do something. Which is an amazing place to be. Think about it. If you already knew how to do something, you’d do it. If you already knew how to write your book, publish it, get an agent, you’d do it. But it wouldn’t require any more of you. It wouldn’t make you evolve. But a new goal, something you’ve never done before, means your brain needs to expand and evolve.
Goal setting isn’t supposed to be easy, and it doesn’t always feel great. But it does feel empowering to take responsibility for them. And as much as our brain my protest against the fear of the unknown, the brain also likes structure and focus. When we set a goal and direct our energy and attention to it, we’re telling our brain what to do. And it likes having a job.
If you’re willing to go through the discomfort, to become the person on the other side of it, I invite you to set a big goal with me.
And I want you to set it in a specific, measurable way. Include the date and how you will know you are done.
For example: By May 16, 20201, I will have written the first draft of my YA novel. I will know I’m done because it will be between 50,00 and 80,000 words and will have written the words "The End."
Write this goal on a piece of paper. This is important. It goes back to what I said about the goal living in the world outside of you. And read it as often as you can. Every day at minimum.
Now just commit to your goal.
Bonus: Share your goal in the Blockbuster YA Community Forum