Monday, December 01, 2008

How Do You Set Your Goals?

So I recently interviewed a well-known actress, and when I asked her if she had a designated plan for her career, she said that, "no, she didn't, but that she always had goals. " What she meant by this was that she couldn't chart every single step in advance, but as she worked her way up, she always recalculated what her next aspiration was. I thought this seemed like really smart advice, especially because I tend to view my career steps similarly. When I first started out, my aspiration was to see my byline in a national magazine. Then, it became for editors to assign me articles rather than have me pitch them. Then it became a financial goal. From there, once I shifted into fiction, it became finishing my novel, then publication...and well, you get the idea. In other words, when I first started out, my goal wasn't to hit the Times list or to have my book adapted into a movie. It was these smaller steps that accelerated and led me to the big steps.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I've started thinking about what my goals are for the next step of my career. It seems like apt timing as I'm just about to start book #3, and I've been thinking a lot about what I hope to accomplish with it. The truth is that I do feel some pressure with it: I've never sold a book on a pitch, and while it's thrilling, it also means that I have no choice but to deliver with a capital D. So while I feel a tiny bit paralyzed by this pressure, I've decided that my only goal with this book has to be to make it better (in my mind and my satisfaction level) than my last one. That's all I can do. I can't make my goal to hit the Times list because so much of that is out of my control. I can't fervently wish that it gets adapted to a movie because that, too, has little to do with me. I can only put my head down and craft a book that I'm incredibly proud to have written. So that is my goal right now.

I'm also toying with the idea of attempting to adapt the screenplay (if and when it sells) because that truly will stretch me as a writer, and it seems like a great goal, in terms of continuing to learn what I'm capable of. So if it sells, that's a reasonable and good goal for me to keep in mind. But we'll see. Right now, the above feels like enough.

So tell me, what are your goals for the coming year? Big or small, they still count.


Angie Ledbetter said...

Congrats on the successes and concrete goals. When I get my ms revised, I'll start on the dreaded agent hunt. The small goals will be to submit more short stories, articles and poetry, and to continue editing projects.

Larramie said...

Do you realize, Allison, that's why you've been successful, taking everything step-by-step? Sure, some success may come overnight -- as in fifteen minutes of fame -- but how long does that last after fifteen minutes? ;)

Anonymous said...

Nice, Allison. A screenplay is a great idea to go with the novel. You can do it! You might want to attend a Robert McKee STORY seminar if you haven't already. Good stuff. Or not.

My goals:

1. Build a platform (read Christina Katz's book last night) and build my tribe.

2. Ready some nonfiction proposals that relate to that platform.

3. Keep learning everything I can about fiction and keep writing my fiction.

4. Be courageous and try new things, even if I fail.

5. Stay grateful every day. What a great career to be able to try and do new things.


Anonymous said...

I smiled when I read this post, Allison, because I always set goals in stages -- time and time again, I'm amazed at how one thing connects to the other. Case in point: I took on the 2007 Weight-Loss Diary for Shape magazine on a whim and a column I wrote as part of that became the springboard to a book proposal.

I'm thrilled to say that book will be published this coming May. My goal for this year is to promote, promote, promote that book (a job that I find a little scary, I must say). But already my wheels are turning because I feel like I've found the connection between this book and the one I want to do next.

Not to get all woo-woo on you, but I think that sometimes, not having a set-in-stone plan for X, Y and Z helps me stay open to the possibilities -- and connections -- that present themselves.

I'm looking forward to your third book!

Dawn said...

My goal is to finish my children's story. It should be so easy to sit down and just write it, but I keep procrastinating. I'm about 1/4 of the way through.

Anonymous said...

Goal-setting is such a strange and wonderous thing. You need to set goals in order to move in the right direction, but you also need to be flexible about them in order to change course when unexpected opportunities arise. While working on building my platform for a book proposal, I was approached to do some magazine writing... of course the answer was "Yes!" And, although unplanned, it's like, "Hey! This is exactly what I want to be doing right now!" I think I'm still working towards the same goal, but my path has changed, and now I have some new goals to add to the list!

Bonita Rose said...

My goal is to finish my manuscript and start working on my book proposal and queries, get the process started and see what happens! My goal is to just see my book in the bookstores one day!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a writer but I love to read. I think in life it's all about taking baby steps to reach that big goal and being flexible along the way. I've read both of your books and can't wait for book #3 and the movie!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see what happens when you write a screenplay.

My goals for 2009 (I'm excited!)
1. Launch my freelance writing career.

2. Start writing my novel when I've built a platform for myself (I'm with you on there Trish on Christina Katz' book). I'll be taking one of her classes in order to cut my learning curve. =)

3. Finally launch my own website.

4. Wake up at 5AM daily

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Kate - that last goal is just bananas!

Thanks everyone for posting your personal goals. I think it's great food for thought for all of us to see what others are aiming for!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your insight. I've dabbling for 20 yrs yet find myself in other careers. A friend said to get the big goal out of my head and have fun with the process. That's your message too. Take each step and stay open to the possibilites.

Anonymous said...

Hi Allison -

Funny you should ask about goals (I know I'm a few days late on this topic). I'm anxiously awaiting publication of my first book, working on the proposal for my second book AND trying to figure out how to shape my career as a writer - rather than to leave it to chance. I believe that's the sort of thing you've done and I'd love to learn more. said...

My goals for 2009 are:

1. Complete the revisions of my second novel and send it out to agents.

2. Get signed with a great agent!


Anonymous said...

My main goal is to ramp up my career in freelance writing, which I've primarily been doing through oDesk, but I'd like to be able to it exclusively by this time next year, so I can stay home with my daughter.