I’ve got big dreams. All writers do. We’re aiming to see our books published and build careers around our stories. For some of us, that means getting signed on by an agent; for others, that means self-publishing. And you know what they say: a dream is just a dream until you turn it into a goal.
I’m pretty good at setting goals, but lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m not that good at achieving them.
I made a lot of noise earlier in the year about how I wanted to finish Lady of Daemons in time for Pitch Wars 2018. And before that, I made a lot of noise about finishing my major edits by September 2017. And before that, I was flicking through an old writing journal and on the very first page, I had written “ULTIMATE GOAL: FINISH LADY OF DAEMONS BY 2017.”
I probably don’t need to tell you that I didn’t do any of that.
I only finished my major structural edits in March 2018, and I’m not going to be submitting to Pitch Wars this year. And somehow, knowing that I’m not making Lady of Daemons my priority because I’m finishing my MA within the next two months (oh, god, there’s only two months between me and my deadline 😱) doesn’t make me feel better. It somehow makes me feel worse—as though by not making my novel my top priority, I’m not being serious enough about it.
I suspect that I’m not the only writer out there who panics at the thought of not being serious enough. I mean, we’re all out here trying to build careers. We don’t want potential agents to have any reason to doubt us. I worry that an agent will see me lay out my goals, fail to break those goals down, fall short of them, and think, Wow, that is NOT a person we want to place our bets on.
Which is, you know, a bit mad. I’ve done a lot in the past year. I smashed my initial social media goals several times. I worked up the nerve to ask multiple CPs for their harshest feedback. I’m two bouts of line edits away from finishing my novel. It’s not as though I’m incapable of setting big goals and meeting them. And if my master’s degree interferes with my writing life…well, that’s just the way it is, isn’t it? You can’t complete a postgraduate degree in a single year if your focus is truly divided.
Similarly, you can’t complete a novel in a year if your focus is truly divided.
At this point, the real question is, what can I do about this? Because after seeing two big goals collapse within the past year, I feel like just wanting to finish isn’t enough.
I need discipline. I need a plan. And I need a realistic and attainable goal that can fit around a dissertation.
And that’s why I’m not setting any more big goals.
There are twenty-six chapters and two bouts of line edits between me and finishing Lady of Daemons for good. The temptation to just say, “Well, I’ll just edit one chapter every day and be done by September!” is O V E R W H E L M I N G, but you know what else is going to be overwhelming? The next two months. Ya girl is doing her dissertation in the next two months. Lady of Daemons can be my escape, but it can’t be my priority.
So here’s my new goal: I want to finish Lady of Daemons by November 2018. That gives me four months to do what could theoretically be done in one. It spreads the work out past my dissertation due date.
Most importantly, though, it takes the pressure to succeed off me without lessening my goal. I have enough time to work, and I’m not making this goal as a knee-jerk reaction to a big, sudden deadline.
There’s a saying in my family: “Do you want it done fast, or do you want it done right?” I know I want Lady of Daemons done right. I’ve worked on it for four years—another four months won’t hurt it.