Skip to content

Setting Up For Success: Writing Goals You Can Control

Since it’s a new year, plenty of people have been talking about setting goals and how to choose good ones. Last year, I set writing goals I thought were reasonable. I wanted to sign with an agent and get a book deal. When I achieved neither of those things, shit, it was disappointing.

I revised my NaNoWriMo 2015 novel six or seven times, queried dozens of agents, entered contests, and still came out without either of those things. I wrote a whole new manuscript and revised it once. In November, I won NaNoWriMo 2016.

2016 was a good writing year.

Despite its challenges, 2016 should have been a year I looked back on and said “damn, I did a lot.” Because I compared it to a piece of paper I wrote when the year started and only crossed off two things, I didn’t say that.

(Also, in this post, I talk about coming to terms with not achieving them all.)

But when you set eight or ten goals and cross off two, it’s hard not to feel like a failure.

Those goals weren’t great.

Tons of people have dug into why they were bad goals, but the key component in why having “Get A Book Deal” on your list of things to do in a year is control. You can work your ass off and still not get a deal or an agent or good sales. The work you put in is all you can control in the situation. Once you put all your effort into creating a thing, you send it into the world.

You lose control of it.

People might love it or hate it or be kind of meh about it. Some of that has to do with your work, sure, but some of it also has to do with the subjectivity of it. You can write the best thing ever, and there will still be someone who doesn’t like it. You can’t make them like it.

The thing I achieved in 2016 was a thing I had control over.

Work played a role in my achieving my travel goal, sure. They sent me to the weirdest places and, yes, I did volunteer for most of the trips I took. Even the one to Tulsa, where all the armadillos were dead and ruined Oklahoma for me.

The thing that made me so happy with how that aspiration to travel a lot turned out was in how I treated the opportunity. Going to South Dakota? Neat, I’ll make a side trip to Badlands National Park. Going to rural Mississippi (to a town that literally wants to be Louisiana)? Do research and find the cutest coffee shop on earth. I controlled my attitude and ended up having a blast.

I need to do that with writing this year.

My 2017 goals are things I can control.

I can control whether I revise my last manuscript and finish the first draft I’m writing now. Me. That’s all me. Even if I work 80 hours a week and travel to Kansas every other week, if I want to cross it off my list in December, I’ll make it happen.

All there is to do is keep going forward. I’ve mastered finding little chunks of wasted time to write, so no matter what goes down in 2017–I have to keep myself focused.

Eventually, one of these years, that focus and mindset will get me where I want to be professionally. Maybe it’ll be this year. Who knows? I don’t.

Don’t get discouraged by other people.

You can’t control how much others achieve. You also don’t know how long their journey has been to get to this point of signing with an agent or selling their book. Getting discouraged by them doesn’t impact anyone except YOU.

Allow yourself a short period of time to process whatever natural emotion hits you. (They say don’t be jealous, but sometimes you can’t help it!)

Process your emotion, then do your thing. Do it doubly until you feel like you kicked ass.

What kind of goals do you have for 2017? How are you going to keep your head up in August when you’re behind and everyone else is getting ahead?

Published inInspirationLifestyleNaNoWriMoQueryingResearchRevisingSubmissionsWritingWriting Process

One Comment

  1. In 2017 I want to complete the first draft of my current novel, Inbetween, and return to my older project, The Dreams, to write its third draft.

    I tend to think of things outside of my control as hope and dreams for the year. That way I can acknowledge them while not discouraging myself by putting them in the same category as goals fully within my control.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: