I’m on several author loops and social media groups. Not a week goes by without somebody posting about goals. Writing goals, publication goals, revenue goals… Everything they do is justified because it satisfies some sort of goal.
And goals are a craft unto themselves. They must be SMART, (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound) or better still, FAST (Frequent, Ambitious, Specific, Transparent), unless you’re working with a group, in which case your goals should be CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable, and Refinable). But if none of that works (how could it not?) then maybe your goals should be DUMB (Dream-driven, Uplifting, Measurable, and Behavior Driven).
This all leaves me a little baffled. I get up in the morning and write the next scene because I like to write fiction. I also like to polish my prose and educate myself about how to craft better stories. I enjoy interacting with readers (wave to my bloggin’ buddies), so I post blogs and occasionally show up on social media. I know the IRS takes a dim view of tax avoiders, so I tend to my ledgers too.
Compared to many of my writing friends, I sometimes feel un-ambitious and backward. I don’t have goals. I just write stuff because it’s fun.
Except that’s not quite true. I do have goals–I want to write good stuff that people enjoy, which sells well enough to keep me solvent–but I don’t focus on that goal. I focus on the process for getting there. I focus on, “Get up and write. Don’t post about writing, don’t complain about writing, don’t compare writing productivity with others. Write.” I focus on what I need to be happy and creative–avoid the emotional vampires of social media, read a lot of good books, nom some good writing webinars, be on the look out for creative inspiration.
I was trying to put my finger on my approach to writing when I came across this quote from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits: “The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to keep playing the game.” He goes on to point out that everybody who competes at the Olympics has a goal of winning a gold medal. Are the silver medalists losers because they failed to reach their goals? Are the gold medalists superfluous to their sports once they stand in the center of the podium?
He stops short of saying that we’ve been hornswoggled by capitalist productivity obsessions to think goals are some sort of panacea, but I do know, setting goals just hasn’t been very important or helpful for me. Focusing on my systems–for writing books, keeping my accounts, getting some exercise–has kept me playing the game of life pretty happily.
Are you a goal setter? Are you more system-oriented, or do you trade off depending on the circumstance? I will add three more names to my Lady Violet ARC list. Book six is back from the first proofreader. Wheee!