Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Careful What You Wish For (Er, Set Goals For)

Maven Darcy Burke...Or, what to do when you, gasp, reach your goal(s).

You've used Erica's methods for setting up your goals. You're going to diligently monitor your progress and work harder than ever before. You've written a masterpiece and it's been vetted by CPs, contests, beta readers, etc. and you know you have a winner. Now what?

Mr. Burke told me an excellent story that perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of achieving your goals. Yes, there can be pitfalls...such as never doing anything on that project again. Mr. Burke plays guitar and has since we were in college. Over the years he has played in a few bands. They'd get together, plan a gig, and then practice a lot for that specific gig. Had lots of fun, put a lot of time into it, played a really fun show. Band over. They never saw past what they would do after the show.

Another good example is the movie The Full Monty. I love that movie (garden gnomes!), but I always wanted to know what happened after the show. Did they do another strip show? How'd the main character continue to make money to avoid being a deadbeat, albeit loving, dad? I'd like to think they became this famous UK male nude revue, but somehow I doubt those blokes planned past that big show.

So what do you do after you write the first draft? After you get an agent? After you, gasp, sell a book? After you celebrate (and you must celebrate), you get back on the goal wagon and set more. Maven Lacey wrote an excellent post on her blog that talked a bit about setting new goals when you achieve the ones you're working toward. She said:

"I recently heard someone theorize that a lot of people set the wrong long-term goals or forget to change their goals once they reach them. They do make goals, which is great, but between poor planning or stagnant execution, they forget to go for the follow-through.

Here’s how it works. He said our brains think up ways to get to our goals and then our brains stop thinking. So, for example, if my goal were: Write a Book, then when I’m done writing the book my brain would stop finding ways/time/excuses for me to write the book."

That is so, so true. This is why revisiting goals is so important. Make sure you are always on top of where you are, where you're going, and where you want to be. And remember that those things are bound to change as life happens, and that's okay. One of the goals I set in January was to revise and submit my first ms to agents and/or editors. I revised the hell out of the poor thing and, because I loved it so much, ultimately decided to set it free. I obviously didn't plan for it to be the start of a Magical Underbed Mulch Pile, but there it is. And you know, I even celebrated that achievement.

What goals have you achieved? How did you celebrate? What new goals did you set? How do you keep your goals current so that your brain is always working forward?


lacey kaye said...

Being quoted is fun.

Seriously, though, great post, Darcy. I think I've been suffering from my own lack of planning. Or maybe it's execution. Either way, it's time to figure out what's next and do it!

ERiCA said...

Great post, Darcy! You are absolutely right--it's sooo important to celebrate successes and then immediately start planning for more.

How do you keep your goals current so that your brain is always working forward?

I try to take a good hard look at my goals every six months or so for the long term stuff. That seems to keep me on track. (I have issues with the short term stuff, like conveniently "losing" today's to-do list, etc, but that's another story. *g)

I'm a good planner, but like Maven Lacey, sometimes it's the execution factor that bites me in the rear. =)

B.E. Sanderson said...

You're absolutely right, Darcy. Accomplishing goals is awesome, and you should celebrate, but you should also have something on the horizon for when you've completed them.

Since I already said I'm not a goal-setter per se, I'll allow that I do have undefined goals and when I reach them, I do the happy dance around my living room. I bask in the glory of them for a short time, and then I get back to work. I finish a novel, the next step is to edit it and start another book. I finish editing, the next goal is to submit to agents and keep working on the next book. That's why I'm a little lost right now. I'm editing several books, but not writing a new one. *shrug* I can't start new words until the old ones are finished.

Vicki said...

Loved the post! And yes, you must celebrate the achievements. For me, I need to set the long rang goal and then the smaller ones in between.

Like I said (I think yesterdays), too often I find myself setting goals that are crazy and not reachable. Then I have to re-evaluate them for what they are.

I have this agreement with myself. Don't worry, I figure if your muse can talk to you then I can have an agreement with myself. :)

Celebrate each success for a day, okay maybe two, and mope around only for one day, never more for the things I did attain success in. After that, it's looking the failed ones over again and putting them back on the goals list or realizing that I don't need to attain those and casting them aside.

Jill James said...

In writing I've just started to achieve the goals I set soooo long ago. So I really am going to give this some thought.

Most important goal: celebrate the goal achieved, start working on a new one.

Jacqueline Barbour said...

I think one of my problems with goals is probably that almost as soon as I achieve them, I'm already moving on to the next one. (This is also why I never remember to put away the nail clippers or the scissors, a constant source of irritation to my husband. Hey, I'm done with them, I forget about them. It's my way.)

This means I'm always changing my goals and working forward, but I do shortchange myself the pleasure of celebrating successes. To the extent that I sometimes think I haven't actually HAD any.

Tessa Dare said...

Ack, Darcy! You're scaring me. I have to keep thinking ahead? I just got back from vacation!

Seriously, for the past year or so, I've just been going with my gut. I do have goals and hopes and dreams, but in the moment, I've found that doing what just feels "right" has worked out for the best. So I'm gonna stick with that approach for now.

Darcy Burke said...

Lacey, if anyone can figure out what to do next and do it well, it's you.

Erica, you are very good at setting goals (and achieving them!). So good, that you've made me better at it.

B.E., for a non-goal setter, you are remarkably process-oriented! Sounds like you have a system that works, er, except that you'd rather be writing now?

Vicki, excellent point re: moping and not achieving goals. As with celebration, we must allow a little lament for the goals we bury unfinished.

Jill, I'm glad we gave you some food for thought!

Jacq, get on the party wagon! I hear a really good erotic novella's coming out in two days!

Tessa, I'm a big fan of instinct. I always, always go with my gut, goal or no goal. Glad to hear it's serving you so well! (And welcome back from vacay!)

I should note that I sometimes hate thinking ahead. For example, I LOVE the feeling of balancing my checkbook or paying that month's bills. Great accomplishment, check it off the list. Except it's automatically back on the list for next month. Sigh, didn't I just do that? (I know repetitive goals are way different than one-time goals, but I had to throw that in because I need to, er, balance my checkbook.)

B.E. Sanderson said...

Process-oriented... I like it! I would rather be writing new words right now, but if all I do is write new stuff, the other stuff will never get finished. (I know me. It won't.) I like editing, too, but not as much. Ya know?

Isabel said...

Your post rules, Darcy. :)

I'm still working on my list of goals. Good news is, I think this time I will actually stick to them.

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