Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Writing Goals and When to Beat Yourself Up (or not)

I have a confession to make--I recently failed at a goal I'd set for myself. A writing goal, to be precise.

It was sometime in October or November that I set it, and I don't think it was an entirely unreasonable goal: To outline and add in scenes to Fate's Awakening from another character's perspective.

But things got in the way--mental exhaustion from the busy year we've had, holiday prep, less-than-ideal (for me) writing conditions. All legitimate reasons to fail. And some not-so-legit ones, too--Netflix, finishing Buffy and devouring Jessica Jones.

No matter how you slice it--fail fail fail fail fail.

In case I wasn't clear...

The carrot at the end of this was to enter a writing contest I was interested in. The deadline was sometime in mid-December.

But first, let me be clear--the contest involved an excerpt from my story that wasn't going to change, so it's not like I needed to meet my goal before entering. I consider my story finished, but going through rewrites due to feedback I've received. It'll add to the word count, sure, but it's more to add depth and polish the story.

So, the day of the contest deadline, I sat and stared at my computer. I really wanted to enter, but I felt I needed to punish myself. How else would I know I meant business? I needed to be held accountable for my failure. Missing out on this opportunity--good exposure, sure, and if I did well in the contest, yay, but the feedback would be good either way--would teach me a lesson.

Didn't make your writing goals? That's a paddlin'.

I debated, alternately beating myself up over it and convincing myself that it was a good idea to do it anyway, until (literally) the eleventh hour.

Eventually I tracked down the husband and I explained my problem and why I was being so melodramatic. This is more or less how the end of the conversation went:

Me: "But should I enter the contest? I really want to, but I didn't meet my writing goals like I promised myself."

Hubs: "Was the goal unreasonable?"

Me: "No, not really."

Hubs: "You got some done though, right?"

Me: "Yeah, I finished the timeline of events and have a few pages of character study so I can get a better idea of who he is."

Hubs: "Okay, that's good. But you didn't finish the scenes?"

Me: "No. That's why I'm conflicted--I was hoping to be done with it all. But I don't need them for the contest. That scene is done and dusted minus editing."

Hubs: "The way I see it, you should enter it and stop beating yourself up. Just because you don't have a completely polished product doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Tech companies like DARPA go to trade shows all the time with incomplete tech and show off what they have--like that freaky robot dog you hate--even if it's not perfect."

He had a point. The story was done but not perfect; I was just beating myself up. And I'd done some important work with the character study and all, things that were necessary for writing the scenes I'd promised myself.

So I did it. I entered the contest. I still feel bad about not making my goals and getting what I wanted anyway. I almost--almost--wish I could say I stuck to my guns and didn't enter, but I'd be lying. Though I've always been very hard on myself when it came to things like this.

As for my story and goals, they will get there. I don't normally set out to do something that can't be achieved, but maybe in the future I need to make more bite-sized goals as part of a bigger one. This has been a learning experience, that's for sure.

Also, that DARPA dog still freaks me out. Good luck sleeping tonight after watching that video.


How do you set your goals? Any good tips you can share? I'd love to hear what your thoughts and strategies are!

xoxo Sarah

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