Created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, the IWSG’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
To join, simply sign up by clicking on the button below and adding your name to the linky list. Then post the first Wednesday of each month and visit your fellow bloggers to lend your support.
This month’s optional question: “What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?”
Aspiring in the New Year
It’s the time of year for resolutions, and it is easy to get swept up in the promise of a new year. Everything is a blank slate. You can change yourself. You can change your life. In that moment of newness, anything seems possible. That hope and optimism is a powerful tool and one I try to use each year to drive me.
Every January, I sit down and think through all the different areas of my life. Health-Art-Business-Family-Mindfulness. Then I consider where I am in each right now and where I would like to improve. I make a list of all the things I would like to do. Things like finding more balance in my life, spending more time with my family, writing more, and being a better pup mom. The list is lengthy and filled with aspirations. It is fun and freeing to just make a list of everything that tickles you in that moment even if it wouldn’t be achievable.
Then I turn these aspirations into goals.
Goals are completable tasks. They have clear and definable measures of success. At last year’s South Jersey Writers’ Group goal-setting meeting, Jessica Walsh gave a great mnemonic for determining if something is a goal. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.
For instance, my aspiration might be to get more Twitter followers. This is not a goal. First, it is not measurable. How many more? I could easily change this to getting 1000 Twitter followers, but it still would not be a goal. Although it is measurable, it isn’t attainable. Others are determining the success of the task, not you. A goal would be to post on Twitter twice every day or by engaging in a Twitter chat once a week.
For each aspiration, I create a goal for it that is specific, measurable, and attainable. I try to build time-measures into as many as I can like tweeting twice a day or editing 6,000 words a week. The goals get sorted by priority based on my initial assessment of area I would like to improve this year. Then I get into a fight with being realistic. Maybe my battles with realism are why I write fantasy because I just don’t like realistic goals.
Getting to know your limits
Creating a list of realistic goals to me means having a list that you can definitively accomplish in the set time. I love checking tasks off a list. It is satisfying and motivating to achieve things, but I struggle with the concept of having a list of goals that you are assured to achieve. Is the pursuit to achieve or to improve?
One of my college professors once said to the class, “You don’t know who you are. None of you have been pushed hard enough.” I was offended for everyone in the room. He didn’t know us well enough to make such assumptions. However, years later I realized he was right about one thing. You don’t know what you are capable of unless pushed to point where you fail. You can’t know your limits unless you hit them.
The problem is failure isn’t fun.
Putting failure in perspective
Graham Bower wrote a post on how he was beaten by his apple watch. It describes incrementing goals using a paradigm that is setting yourself up for failure. When he finally reached the point where he couldn’t meet the goal he felt “deflated. Humiliated.” However, I wonder if it was his perspective that was the problem. He pushed himself more each week than the one before. Even though he fell short at the end, would have pushed nearly as hard if the goal hadn’t been increasing each week? Would he have found his limit?
I want to live each day as fully as I can. I want to be able to achieve all that I am capable of achieving. The first step in that for me is using goals to direct my energy. But when I am setting these goals should I only stick with the S.M.A.R.T ones? Should I shoot to achieve or to push myself?
If I only set goals that are realistic, I will tick off the checkbox and then move on to something I haven’t set a goal for, reading blogs or researching something that struck my fancy instead of editing an extra 3000 words. I feel satisfaction in achieving my goal, but I sell my priorities short. Isn’t that a bigger failure than not ticking off a checkbox on a list?
Shooting for the moon, preparing for the storm
So, I set unrealistic goals. Goals that could only be achieved if life goes perfectly and I can devote the time I wish I could to them. Then, I have a realistic fallback point that I still consider a success. I try to set my fallback goals to levels I can accomplish even when things are a complete mess in my life. This lets me push myself beyond what is easy to achieve and not feel like I am failing if I don’t manage to complete something on my list.
Then I go into each month, week, and day trying to achieve the unrealistic goal. I use the priority of each goal to determine when I move on to the next one. If I achieve the unrealistic goal it feels amazing, and if I don’t, I knew I was stretching myself to begin with. I may feel a hint of disappointment, but I don’t spend more than an aw-shucks moment before moving on and continuing to push toward the next unrealistic goal.
I shoot for the moon but prepare for the storm. Does that make me a realistic optimist or an optimistic realist?
In the end, goal setting is what works for you. I will stick with my S.M.A.U-R.T. goals and keep pushing forward knowing failure is a good thing and celebrating the successes I achieve (with motivating mochi balls when applicable) because it works for me. What works for you?
Aspirations by E.M.A. Timar
Goals by E.M.A. Timar
Questions Marks by Qimono
Failure Fortune by Yevkusa
Shooting for the Moon by Luizclas
Mochi Magic by E.M.A. Timar