Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Goals

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately – people who don’t understand what a “goal” is.

Webster’s defines it (outside of the playing field) as “an object or end one strives to attain.”

Strives. Strives.

I’ve noticed a trend among friends, colleagues and students, that, when they don’t attain what they’ve set out to do, they don’t strive harder or figure out a better, smarter way to attain their end – they lower the goal. They bring it closer. They make it easier.

That’s like putting the goal posts five feet from the center line so all the quarterback has to do is reach across and pop the ball in.

There’s no point.

The reason you have a goal is to stretch yourself beyond what you consider your normal capacity and your normal comfort zone. That way, when you actually achieve it, it has meaning. It’s not simply an item crossed off on the “To Do List”.

“To Do” lists are useful because they help break down the goal into bits – instead of trying to leap an entire mountain, it helps you chart a path across it. It contains the practical steps on the journey to go beyond where you thought you could.

One of the most important parts of reaching for a goal is the frustration when it doesn’t immediately happen. Then and only then will you learn what you need to do, how you need to stretch and grow in order to achieve it.

Or, you discover that maybe you set a goal not for yourself, but for someone else, and you really don’t want it. And you change it accordingly. Because, if the goal is not for yourself, you won’t feel satisfaction in reaching it.

As a writer, it’s important to set goals outside your comfort zone. To say, “Oh, I’ll get frustrated if I attempt a novel; I’ll only do three chapters because that’s what I know I can do” is sabotaging yourself. You say “I ‘m going to write a novel” and then you sit your butt in that chair and you do it.

It’s not supposed to be easy. Everyone thinks they can write a novel. Very few actually do it. Be one of those few.

Writers starting out feel like they’re outside an exclusive club, scratching at the door, trying to get in. What they don’t understand is that the only way to get in is to get outside of the comfort zone, to strive, and to sit down and get the work done. Not whenever it’s convenient, or whenever there’s time. Time will never magically appear. It has to be created to meet need.

In order for your piece to be extraordinary enough to catch attention in this highly competitive market, you have to move beyond the familiar, beyond the comfortable, pull a few creative muscles, get frustrated, refigure, and, most important, you have to strive.

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