Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Because you deserve it!

I met a writer the other day who has yet to complete a novel. He has several beginnings and even a couple of endings (though the endings don't go to his already written beginnings). He asked me for advice.

It seems to me his problem is not one of ability. He writes all the time. I believe his issue lies more with motivation and very likely, a dash of fear.

At a recent conference I learned a little about goal setting. I already do most of what the instructor told us we needed to do in order to have successful careers, but my goals are thoughts in the back of my head, never written down . . . not really.

Never before had anyone explained to me the fine art of good organization and the importance of goal setting with rewards.

It isn't enough for the would-be-writer to say, "I'm going to write a book." Because at the end of that sentence remains words left unsaid. The sentence really is this, "I'm going to write a book SOMEDAY."

Someday always seems so distant. We always have time to worry about things SOMEDAY. But what happens if your someday doesn't come because you never sat down and decided on a concrete goal?

Kay Lockner suggested that first off you need to define a career goal such as: I want to be a best selling author. Best selling is a pretty subjective goal so she suggests you narrow it down into something tangible. Give you concept of "best-selling" a number. In some markets 2000 books is considered best-selling. So you need to determine what best selling means to you.

Next she suggests you consider what this goal will do to your life. Will it offer you financial security? Will it offer you truckloads of fan mail? Will it offer you time to spend with your family? Will it offer you the chance to live a career you love? When you figure out how you want this to impact your life. Write that down along with your goal.

Next you need to do some "snap" planning that will push you along the road to your ultimate goal. Along with the goal you need a target date for completion. If your goal is to finish a novel, then you need a date by which you must complete the novel. Then you need to have three milestone goals so that you can check your progress along the way.

The milestone goals are dates. For example my goal is to complete "the Nightmare Givers" by December 31st. My first milestone is the full introduction of all main characters by October 31st (which I've met. My second milestone is that I must come to the middle of the story where all issues are introduced and all obstacles in the way by November 31st. By December 31st, all obstacles must be removed and they live happily ever after (or happily until the sequel).
You need to set three smaller goals in order to achieve the larger one. She breaks it up into "goal-genre" if you will.
  • Production goal--this is where you create the product. This is the "how many words am I going to write a day" goal.
  • Marketing goal--this is where you plan on how you're going to get the manuscript read by others.
  • Wildcard goal--this can be anything (hence the name). You can have a goal to establish an internet presence or read a few books on the craft of writing.

What I really really love about this is you get to reward yourself when you achieve small goals and reward yourself even more when you achieve the big ones.

So if you meet your target date for getting to chapter ten, you get a movie night, or a manicure, or a new miter saw. You cannot reward yourself with stuff you're going to do anyway. If you get a manicure every week, then what point is there in using that for your motivation?

For me, a simple reward isn't good enough. I take away things I love, and only return them to myself when I achieve my goals. For instance I love to read. I love love love to read. I love to read in a way that could be considered an unhealthy addiction. So, in order to get my writing done, I buy new books that I desperately want to read, then set those books on my shelf at my writing desk so I have to stare at them, knowing I cannot have them until I achieve my goal.

Whatever reward you pick for yourself, make sure it's one that is properly motivating as well as properly accessible. Don't make a Caribbean cruise your reward if you know there isn't a snowball's chance in the hot place you can afford it. But do make sure it's something that will put a fire in your belly. Because whatever your reward for reaching your goal . . . you totally deserve it!


Anna said...

Great post. I may have to do the book reward thing for myself. I can't imagine the agony of having a book I really want to read and not be able to unless I hit a goal. That just may be the motivation I need to keep writing more often.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

Thank you for the great reminders. I need to start writing goals down.

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

Great post, and I'm with A. Riley. How can you even resist that book's seductive voice? It would be like a starving man sitting--not eating--in the middle of a german chocolate cave.

Annette Lyon said...

Great post. A goal (with a reward!) can be a great way to break through the fear barriers. I'm good at the goal part, not so good at remembering to reward myself.

Jenn said...

Your post gave me a lot of great ideas. I'm one of those writers who still hasn't written a full manuscript from beginning to end.

However, I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month and, like you said, having a goal is really motivating me. My first goal is already set for me - to have 50,000 words written by the end of November.

Your post reminded me that instead of just saying, "then I'll finish it after that . . . someday!" I need to set another goal. Maybe by January 15th, I'll have the first draft finished.

I hadn't thought of having a reward attached. I'll have to think of something . . . :)