Thursday, April 8, 2010

G is for Goals; Or, How Not To Run a Marathon

We writing bloggers talk often about our goals. I thought goals would make a great G post (today at work, I mulled over and rejected gold, going green, grinning, guests, grass and girlfriends as potential topics. Some days are better for alphabetic blogging than others). I will begin with a non-helpful illustration.

Once upon a time, there was a young Marine officer who had run track and cross-country in college, and was in moderately awesome shape. So she set a goal: run a marathon.

She did not set any subgoals. Instead, she just went out and ran a marathon (that's 26.2 miles, folks) without any training.

Just so you know, this is a great way to get tendonitis in the arches of your feet that makes it feel like walking on spongy carpet all the time.

Anyway, after some excessive consumption of Motrin and about a year of recovery, she ran another marathon. But this time, she set smaller goals leading up to the big 26.2 mile one: run 30 miles a week, 40, 45. Long weekend runs of 12, 14, 20, 22 miles. 

I'm not going to say the 26.2 miles were fun, but I didn't spend the next month leaning on railings like an eighty-eight year old woman every time I had to transit some stairs. Yay for goals!
So yes, goal setting is our friend for everything, but writing especially.  Most of us don't have the opportunity to quit our day jobs and just write, so goals are paramount to fitting the writing into our real lives.

I like this article from Writing World about setting goals. Goals should be measurable, attainable and meaningful.

Measurable goals are clearly defined. Not "Be a better writer", because really, when are you going to check THAT one off?  But you can take a creative writing class, fix a weakness you see in your writing, complete revisions on your work or complete exercises. Those are all measurable goals.

Attainable. Don't try and run a marathon without any training.  Setting smaller goals makes any goal a lot more attainable.

Meaningful. Make sure the goal leads to your desired endstate.

One thing in the article that I really liked was that the author talked about how our day-to-day requirements are apt to get in the way of accomplishing our goals, and that the way around that is to re-allocate our time, but allow some time for each goal. I.E. we have to have shelter and food, which means we may need a day job, or we may need to take care of our kids, but if we allocated 75% of our time to this and 25% to writing, then you're making forward progress on your goal.

What are your goals?


Matthew Rush said...

Thanks for sharing Guinevere, you make several good points. Still it's pretty awesome that you managed to complete the first marathon without all the preparation you had for the second one. You must have been in pretty good shape to begin with!

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Shelley Sly said...

Ouch about the first marathon. My muscles hurt just thinking about doing that with no training.

You've given some very good advice. Goals do need to be measurable, attainable, and meaningful. I try to be realistic with my goals, for the most part. But for a while, when I've had a WIP, my goal was just "to finish this novel", which I guess lacks in the attainable category. I knew that I wanted to finish the book, maybe even by a certain time (let's say, by July) but I didn't have any short subgoals to encourage me and push me further along.

Now, I'm at least looking at it chapter by chapter. "This weekend, I want to finish editing the next chapter." So much more attainable that way.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL I learnt about goal setting in university (some education based course), but I haven't formally done it for my writing. It's all in my head. I know my goals for the day. I guess they're mesurable. I either did them or I didn't.

Great post!

disobedientwriter said...

You marathoners always blow my mind. Kudos for reaching that goal!

My goal is to sell my novel. Whether or not it's attainable is another question altogether :)

Lisa and Laura said...

This is a great post! Goals are important. Usually our goals end up being around word count, deadlines and etc. It's hard to make goals like publish X number of books a year because so many of the factors are out of our control, you know? Publishing is a tricky business and attainable goals really do help.

Raquel Byrnes said...

This is an inspirational post. Thanks for such great advice. I guess my goal is to finish my book and start a proposal without having a break-down. Maybe...I should throw in a chocolate consumption goal in there somewhere.

Terresa said...

My goals are to write everyday. I set a word count at the beginning of the year, but with my family and being a stay at home mom with a toddler and new puppy, it can be discouraging. Still, I write, just not towards firm goals.

This post is a reminder to me that I could probably review my writing goals and try sticking to them closer, toddler, potty training, and all.

PS: Got the lovely purse in the mail today. Thank you! It was a sweet giveaway!!!

PPS: Happy weekend! :)

Guinevere said...

I was in awesome shape then, Matthew, but now that I'm older and wiser, I'd never do that again! I know I endlessly compare running & writing, but there are many similarities. There's an easy way to do things and a hard way, even if both will get you to the same end result!

Shelley, I think breaking it down that way, like chapter by chapter, is so important. I need the satisfaction of checking off the smaller goals, personally, or I just get frustrated.

Stina, as long as your goals work for you, I don't think you need to make them formal! My goals are always pretty simple.

Guinevere said...

Thanks Disobedient! I have the same end goal, but in the mean time, I try to make goals about revisions, sending out so many queries, etc.

Lisa and Laura, exactly! Goals have to be about what we control, not the vagracies of the market!

Terresa, glad you like the purse! Sorry it took so long to get it out to you! I think just writing every day is a good start as a goal... getting something down every day really helps keep your writing going!

Raquel, I love the idea of a chocolate consumption goal! Now that's a goal i could meet!

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I have to admire anyone who just gets up and runs a marathon. With a little more preparation than you, I finished my first in Jan, and was so dehydrated by the end of it that I wondered why I hadn't just quit.

Great post on reasonable goal setting.