Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goals--Dreams into Reality

You hear lots of folks talking about turning your dreams into reality. And you wonder how to do that. Easy--set goals!

There's so many good articles about goals and goal setting that all you need do is Google, Bing, (or whatever search engine you use) and you'll be overwhelmed with great information. I don't profess to be an expert on goals or setting them. But I do love to cheer everyone on as they work toward their personal goals. That said, I'm not going to go into all the ins and outs of setting goals, but just give you a few brief thoughts and ideas.

So, what is the difference between dreams and goals? Dreams is what you yearn for--and goals are how we get there. Goals are more than just a list of resolutions like many of us make at the beginning of a new year. A good goal must be measurable and attainable. And to be a success at goals, you should combine both long term and short term goals.

The long term goal of completing a manuscript and submitting it can seem huge and perhaps impossible. However, if you break the goal down into smaller, short term goals, conquering each one will bring you one step closer. Such short term goals could include completing character studies, writing a synopsis, writing 10 pages a week, taking a class on a pertinent subject, querying editors and agents. Can you see how each one of these will bring you closer to your big goal? And can you see how each one is measurable? You'll know when you complete each step. Short term goals are often measured by output--like the number of pages per day or queries submitted. And they usually have a shorter time frame (for example, pages per week).

Now you're closer to completing your long term goal and achieving your dream. Yep, these are still two entirely different things. Your goal of completing a manuscript and submitting it are achieved. Strike up the band and have a party! A vast majority of folks never make it this far!

But publication is my goal, you say. Nope, that's still just a dream. Why? Because you have no control over what an editor thinks or what a publishing house is looking for. A long term goal usually ends in a result--such as publication.

One great thing about goals is that they are not set in stone. You're not gonna look like Marley from A Christmas Carol wrapped forever in chains of goals you don't meet. Heck, if you discover your short term goals aren't moving you toward results--change them! In fact, it's important to reevaluate your goals frequently. What you thought was important and achievable last month may not be today. Something you may not have considered part of your dream may suddenly seem attainable. So change your goals rather than dumping them into the river and watching them sink. Interests change, the market changes, dreams change, your skills change...get the idea?

Beyond finishing a manuscript and submitting it, what do I think would make a great goal for each and every one of you reading this?  Easy. Long term goal: Make writing a priority in your life. Take a long, hard look at how and  where you fit in writing. What can you do to improve in your craft? Cheryl St. John picks one writing related concept and works on that for a year. Measurable? Yes. Attainable? Yes. and moves her toward a long term goal of increased aptitude in the craft of writing. Be honest with yourself and make an advance plan on how you'll handle all those little things that get in the way. And there's gonna be a lot of them. Unless you live a charmed writer's life. If so... pass on the secret!

Now... fist bump and get goaling!

Goals? Get 'em. Got 'em. Good.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Party Pictures

Just wanted to post a few pictures from the Christmas Party.

As you can see we had a wonderful time. Mary Karen and the Captain enjoyed some fun in the sun.

Meg did a hula dance.

A great beach escape to party with friends.

HWG rocks!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Goals, Calendars and Dachshunds

I’ve served as the Goals Guru for HWG for a number of years. We’ve experienced a whole slew of ideas designed to help Heartlandians meet their writing goals. But even though the writing derbies, challenges, visual representations and bookshelves have gone through a variety of changes, one goals idea has remained constant.

The calendar.

I don’t remember how many years ago I first brought up the idea of using a desk calendar for keeping track of goals. The concept has been successful for some, and not so for others (like any writing tool!). Let me explain a bit about the Heartlandian calendar concept.

First…find a desk style or engagement calendar that shows one week per page. Find one that has pictures that are meaningful for you. Doesn’t matter what makes your smile, or dream, or encourages you…find that calendar. For me, it’s a dachshund calendar. My brother bought me my first one, and had provided most of them since then. Last year, neither of us got the calendar, so I thought I’d try a different design. Along came Paula Deen. Now, I love Paula, and the calendar was great with recipes, stories and pictures, but it wasn’t what my creative mind needed for writing. And, my writing suffered. This year with my doxies, I’m more on track.

Now that you have a calendar, what should you use it for? Anything you want to.

Donna says... “I use my calendar to record time spent writing, editing or researching. I also record my page counts with times to give myself an idea of the productivity level I can achieve when I sit my butt in the chair and work at it. I also record any contests judged or entered, critiques attended or given on-line, workshops attended or taken on-line, meetings attended, etc. In the back of my calendar I keep a list of all of the books that I've read during the year (recorded as I read them). In the front of my calendar I keep a list of my writing goals for reference. My calendar always sits on my desk by my monitor, as a silent reminder that I need to sit down and get to work."

That covers a lot, doesn’t it? In my calendar I have my goals broken down into different categories, lists of editing I’ve done, contests I’ve judged (It’s so great to see when one of your entries makes finals--or more), contests entered, contacts made AND the books I’ve read. This list helps me see how much I have read, I make notations for favorite authors to look for again and whether the book is fiction or non-fiction. So, use the calendar in whatever way it works for you. Oh, and use it ONLY for writing!

Besides having the pictures or quotes for inspiration, using the calendar can be a remarkably visual for your progress. Stickers are a popular way to show you’ve met your daily or weekly goals. Take a look at Cheryl St. John’s writing calendar.

One year we used colored sticky tags in a set of five colors. Each Heartlandian chose their favorite color and the least favorite. The fave color was obviously for achieving a goal. The least favorite--for those weeks when you didn’t quite reach that page or word count, or whatever your goal was for the week. Other colors of flags were designated for meetings, classes, any number of writing related things. Placed along the edge of the page, these flags show how consistent you are in meeting goals.

I encourage you to consider using a desk calendar for your writing. Post your own ideas here on the blog. Perhaps your idea will help another writer!

To close, Cheryl says…”My datebook is my lifeline. I keep track of deadlines, submissions, page progress, appointments, blog schedules, goals, my online class and just about everything. My goals are printed in the front, and the books I've read this year are listed in the back. I'm already out of sync because I don't have a 2010 datebook yet, and I have things scheduled into the new year. A new one is a must on my to-be-shopped-for list.”

Let’s go calendar shopping!