It’s Great to Have Goals – Just Don’t Let Them Strangle You!

Confession: I am an admin nerd. I like to-do lists, checklists, and plans. I like to have clearly-defined goals on a clearly-defined timetable so that I can manage my time, organize and executes my strategies, and reap the desired results in the desired timeframe.

In a perfect world, I would always walk away feeling accomplished because I hit my deadlines. Sadly, this is not a perfect world.

When Goals Go Unachieved

In February, I had very clear goals for working on my Book 4, which meant I had all of March to work on Book 5, so I could finally give my brain a break from Starchaser with Camp Nanowrimo, which I’ll be participating in with a group of friends this April. Unfortuantely, life had other ideas, and I lost two weeks of writing time due to a hard bout of the flu, followed by a bad case of flu-spawned depression (I had no idea that was a thing, by the way, but apparently it is!), followed by work drama…

You get the picture. My February goals flew out the window and it was all I could do to crawl to the finish line. I rearranged my goal to “Just finish Book 4 by March 1 – no, 7,” because I’m an optimist, but I’m not THAT much of an optimist. I did surprise myself by finishing Book 4’s first draft on March 2.

And what was the first thing I did once I hit THE END? I pulled down my accountability board, tacked on all my goals for the month of March, and decided to get rolling on them.

Accountability and Grace

My point is that goals are GREAT, and learning to work within structured deadlines is a useful talent. In the world of publishing, writers have to learn to meet their deadlines on time, or a whole lot of things can go very, badly wrong on every level of the publishing campaign. Accountability is a must-have in any profession or hobby where others are counting on you to have things done by a certain time.

However – and especially when it comes to self-appointed goals – there needs to be room for the unexpected. For a two-week flu. For a plot overhaul. For a life crisis. Writers must find a way to negotiate their craft so that, if a deadline comes and goes, we don’t sink into panic or self-loathing. We renegotiate, get a new plan in place, and move forward with it. How we do this looks different for every writer, and I’ll admit that in my writing world, I have yet to face a deadline that was not self-imposed. So I don’t know how I’ll fare if, when, I’m ever published, and working from somebody else’s timetable.

Set Goals…But Be Flexible!

These are things we all have to navigate for ourselves, from the safety of our own minds. But I highly encourage all writers to set goals, and do their best to meet them – even if it’s hard, even if it requires sacrifice. And just as highly, I encourage all of us to find ways to navigate and give ourselves grace when things happen that send our schedule spinning out of control. Flexibility and levelheadedness can keep a wrecked deadline from turning into a reason to give up.

Goals are great. Life happens. And thank goodness we have the ability to reassess, find a way forward…and set some new goals. Just don’t let them strangle your self-esteem…or your creativity!

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