Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The thinky post

I liked the image I used in the post the other day so well that I am reusing it. Why not? Pinky and Brain are symbolic in a lot of ways of my thought process.

Brain represents my methodical planning part - the part that sat down with a pen and paper last night and started making lists. I'm not going to tell you what all my specific goals and dreams are for 2011, but I will tell you what the categories are and what some of the things on the list are after this digression about goals and dreams:

Goals v. Dreams: They are separate things, you know - make no mistake about it. A dream is something you wish or hope for, whereas a goal is a specific, measurable target that it is within your own power to complete. That's a little something I learned at a time management seminar I once took in order to fulfill my Continuing Education requirement back when I was an attorney. It's good to have both, but it can be bad to confuse them, because you start to feel like a failure when dreams don't come true, even if it's not something that was ever within your control.

In the world of publishing, you can dream of selling a particular manuscript or of becoming a best-selling author, but whether it sells or not is not usually up to you, because it requires someone else to decide to buy it. This holds true whether you are trying to sell a manuscript to a publisher (some publisher must want to buy it for this to work) or if you have a book out there in the wild (some purchaser must want to buy it).

Your goal can be to finish a particular manuscript by a certain date (specific and measurable - see?). Or to send out a certain number of queries or submissions each week/month/quarter. It has been handy for me to remember this sort of thing over the past few years, and on the occasions when I manage to remember it, I am far less downheartened. See, when some of my dreams keep carrying over from year to year, I can remember that I met my goals that were designed to try to move me toward those dreams, or (sometimes) I can acknowledge that I did NOT set goals that would help me to move toward those dreams. Either way, if I've done my part - completing the draft, the revisions, the additional revisions, sending out the submissions - then I know I'm still moving toward the dream, even if whoever it is out there in the wide world that needs to get involved for it to happen hasn't acted yet.

For 2011:

It will not come as a surprise to many of you to know that I set things up in categories and in list form, in part because many of you do the same thing and couldn't think of another way to do it (I'm guessing) and in part because if you read my blog, you know I like to compartmentalize. Compartmentalization is what gets me through life - sometimes it's good (as when I am able to pack away something horrible or stressful in favor of working on something else) and sometimes it's not (as when I am able to pack away something horrible or stressful in favor of working on something else - after all, packing it away doesn't actually DEAL with it). Anyhoo--

The first things I thought of were writing related, so I have two lists - WRITING and NON-WRITING. My writing dreams are probably similar to yours - they include things like "get an agent" and "sell the Jane project, the body poems, the gnomes, the Shakespeare poems", etc. My writing goals include these categories: submissions, new writing, revisions, conferences, retreats, events, marketing and web presence. For each of those headings, I try to set measurable goals - they tend to be monthly, weekly, or daily sorts of goals (e.g., "write at least one blog post per day" or "attend at least two writing conferences in 2011"). There are some categories that still need actual goals set - a goal needs to have a target end date, even if it's far off; the Jane Project, for instance, took over three years to complete, but I always had August of 2010 as a target end-date - and I ended up finishing early, actually (although had I required an extension, I'd have given it to myself - still, having the date in mind helps you shoot for something).

My NON-WRITING list is subtitled "goals for me (not kid-related)". It's really easy as a parent to put things like "take M to look at colleges" on your own list. And yeah, I have to start that next year, and I want to do it, and I will enjoy it, but it is not for me. It is for M. So this portion of the list is stuff that I want to do for me and only me. It includes things like "yoga, 4-5x/wk" and "go to at least one movie or theatre event/month (concerts count)".

It occurs to me that I need to add yet another category of goals - the goals that I'm setting that aren't exactly for me - goals that have to do with cooking and house-cleaning and home improvement projects and finances. They benefit me, but they're for the good of the family, not just me.

And I still have to go back through those categories and set specific goals. Like, I know my web site needs a re-design, and badly, but "NEEDS re-design!!" is not really a goal. It's an observation. And I need to make a real plan, because that item's been on my list for three years running now, and without specifics, it is never, ever going to happen.

So, there it is. A weird little window into my thought processes. Or a window into my weird little thought processes. Either way.

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Tara Maya said...

I love Pinky and the Brain. I haven't written a list of goals or dreams in a while. Mostly just To Do lists three days worth at a time. Sigh.

I suppose that's why it's useful to have a holiday specifically designed to remind you to look at the big picture.

Kelly Fineman said...

I really have to find a Pinky and the Brain collection. My kids would love them.

And I hope you found a little time to think about goals and dreams!