Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Monday Morning...Do You Know Where Your Goals Are?

This is a lesson for both readers and writers so I hope none of my reader friends look at it and think...Oh, it's one of those Monday things for writers! Stick around...there's something for everybody!
Last month, to simplify my website, we took down the goal setting workshop. Yikes! It's darned near January...that was supid.

Well, yeah. Writing and teaching, creating an ezine, remodeling a kitchen, caring for a disabled son...I get a little overwhelmed sometimes and make snap decisions that don't always make sense. LOL!!! (:0

So here's the intro of the goal setting workshop and right below that will be lesson 1. I's not January, seriously, you should be thinking of your goals for next year now...Goals should not be set in ten minutes while you're waiting for a latte. Or when you sit down at your desk January 2 and say, Hey, I should have goals. LOL

You need to give your goals, your career, your personal life, your finances, your relationships, your spiritual life, your health...some real thought.

So let's start thinking now. December 9...week one of December.

Here's the intro...

Goal Setting

A few decades ago when I decided I want to be "a writer" I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I was also working with a very forward thinking man, who pointed me in the direction of motivational tapes.

Many people think I should hang my head in shame at the admission that I listened to every tape in the corporate library. Most of us recognize those tapes are propaganda that bosses use to turn unsuspecting employees into overeager sycophants always working for the next promotion -- victims of the carrot and the stick.

But a funny thing happened. Because I wasn't thinking of these principles in terms of my day job, but modifying them to help me organize my writing life…The principles really helped me.

I've listened to the greats: Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightengale, Brian Tracy, Tom Peterson … and many others. I got several very good takes on goal setting, which I examine and explore in the upcoming lessons. But based on my own experience I've also sprinkled in other things I think will help you to understand what I call the "psychology" behind why you set goals and why the goals you've set to this point might not have worked.

Don't worry about the fact that this workshop is being given in increments. There's homework that needs to be done, so you will be glad for the time in between lessons. Also you may find yourself needing to think through some of the principles and really examining your life. The time in between lessons will be perfect for that.

So grab a cup of coffee and maybe a pen and tablet and let's talk a bit about organizing your life as a writer and setting some goals that will help you live your dreams!

susan meier

Session One: Introduction – Which came first the chicken or the egg?

We all love goals. In fact, it’s been proven that people who regularly set goals and “check up” on their progress accomplish something like fifty times more than people who don’t! It amazes me when I hear someone say he or she doesn’t set goals because I know they work.

But, my friends argue, that’s exactly why they don’t set goals. Their goals never seem to get accomplished the way mine do.


Being a person who apparently has too much time on her hands or who is maybe a tad too curious for her own good, I wanted to know why. But, I also had to admit that not all of my goals were accomplished, either, and that made me doubly curious.

So I analyzed which of my goals were accomplished and compared them to the goals I had which were not accomplished to see if I could figure out why one goal comes to fruition yet the one right beside it, maybe even one that should have been simpler, doesn’t. And I made an odd discovery.

The goals I accomplished “fit” my life. The goals I did not accomplish did not fit my life.

What the heck do I mean by that? Well, I reached the goal of getting published and earning a few extra thousand dollars each year when I desperately needed it. I reached the goal of selling enough that I could write full time, quit my day job and stay home with my kids when they became teenagers and refused to have a baby-sitter anymore.  Notice that I needed to achieve both of those goals!

Conversely, I haven’t reached the goal of keeping off my twenty pounds of yo-yo weight. I haven’t read any of the classics. I really don’t know anybody who has, so I wouldn’t have anybody to discuss them with anyway. So (aside from personal fulfillment) there’s no “reason” for me really to accomplish either of those goals. Which means that as soon as my doctor tells me that my extra twenty pounds is causing a health risk, I will probably lose it and keep it off. 

In other words… We will find a way to reach any goal with a compelling “reason” behind it. And that means success or failure in goal setting all boils down to motivation.

Motivation (or need of a specific result) is what keeps you working when you would rather be watching Wheel of Fortune. It nudges you to read an hour a day when you think you don’t have time. It causes you to think creatively about your time, to find little blocks you didn’t realize you had and to use them. Because, let’s face it, we can all find the blocks of time…but do we always use them?

So, if we do what we are motivated to do – what we need to do – then why do most of us set goals then try to manufacture motivation? Or ,worse, why do we set goals with no thought to motivation at all?

Good question. And one that I can’t answer except to say that’s why we fail. We don’t “need” most of our goals and a goal is only as good as the reason you want to reach it.

Let me tell you a story that proves that. (And, by the way, here comes my usual disclaimer. I use stories about myself, not to promote myself, but because I don’t want to be sued. Please don’t think I’m an egotistical nutcase, just know that I’m someone who would rather not have to call her brother-in-law the lawyer and get a lecture about talking about other people on the Internet!)

Okay, here goes…

Years ago (probably close to 20, actually, but who’s counting) I went to my first writer’s conference. The trip was one of those last ditch efforts. I had been writing unsuccessfully for four years and I was depressed and defeated.  Something either happened for me at this conference or I was quitting.  So I packed my bags and left for the airport more depressed than excited. I felt I was walking through the last chapter of my writing career story. I was sure nothing good would happen and come Monday morning when I returned I would no longer be a writer.

Pretty darned sad, huh? I get misty just thinking about it.

Anyway, on Saturday morning when the workshops began I made the mistake of attending LaVyrle Spencer’s session on description.  For those of you who don’t know, LaVyrle Spencer was the master when it came to description. She read passages from her books to illustrate her points and I swallowed hard. I could not write like that. In the first workshop I had attended I believed I had found the answer to my write/don’t write dilemma. I had no place in this world and no business calling myself a writer. 

So I went back to my room in the hotel, drew the drapes and started repacking. (In the dark. When I get depressed, I pull out all the stops.) About fifteen minutes later my roommate found me. She was shocked. And a tad angry. She couldn’t believe I was leaving when I hadn’t really given the conference a chance!  I explained that I had but she said I hadn’t and the next thing I knew I was promising to go back downstairs.

But I couldn’t face another workshop. So I took my cigarettes (back then I was a chain smoker. I no longer smoke.) and sneaked to the lobby seating area and settled in to “be at” the conference, but not really go to another workshop!

I sat next to a woman who gently told me she was taking a break and didn’t want to talk about writing. To her surprise, I said, “Great. I’m sick of writing, too.” Feeling I had found a kindred spirit, I proceeded to chain smoke while we chit-chatted about nothing in particular. After about a half-hour of discussing anything but writing, she asked if I wrote. I told her I used to. I explained that coming to this conference I realized I knew nothing about writing. I didn’t know all the “rules” everybody kept talking about…

Heck, I didn’t even know there were rules. All I knew was that I read two books a day for five years and loved them so much I wanted to write them, but apparently I couldn’t because everything I sent in got rejected.

She said, “Hum. Are you writing what you know?”

I told her I was writing what I liked. Marriage of convenience, secret babies, and larger than life heroes. She said, “Can you somehow take the stories that you like but infuse them with your life experience?”

I said I didn’t know but what she said made sense.

We chatted some more about my kids and husband and her family and what it was like to live in NYC. Then she rose. She really had to get back to things. But she also handed me her card. She said, “I’m Lucia Macro from Silhouette books. Send me your next manuscript and we’ll see if you really should quit.”

I was surprised, but my friends almost fainted. I was so out of the loop I didn’t realize Lucia was an exceptional editor and that most writers would climb Everest to work with her. I wasn’t even going to send her anything. I thought she was just being kind by asking me to submit to her.

Well, technically, she was just being kind, since she had never seen my work.  But through our conversation she recognized that I loved the genre and love for any genre frequently translates into good stories for that genre. And she made the fair assessment that if pointed in the right direction, I could write good books.

So, that night my friends and I set about to figure out a plot for a new book. (Since all my others had been rejected.) And that Tuesday night, after work, after the kids were in bed, when I could have been watching television, I was back at my computer.

I had a reason to write. After years of getting form rejections, I had someone willing to give me more than a cursory glance, maybe even someone who was willing to help me. If I didn’t send her something I would miss what other people considered to be the chance of a lifetime.

That’s motivation.

Now, the rest of the story is that I couldn’t use the plot my friends and I came up with because it wasn’t “me.” It was a reflection of a combination of their life experience and mine, and as Lucia said I had to figure out a way to take the well loved story lines and infuse them with my own experience. I did that, sent the book to Lucia and Silhouette bought it, ultimately launching a career that I love.

Motivation, I think, is the promise of something good or the fear of something bad that compels us to take action. Without action, we don’t reach our goals. So when you’re thinking about setting goals, you should be trying to figure out the things you are willing or eager to take action to achieve.

And that means that when you set goals, you should be looking at your life. Not just randomly deciding that within the next year you would “like” to publish a mystery or learn to rock climb. You should be looking at your life thinking: I need exercise so I’m going to …

You fill in that blank.

Learn to rock climb might be the answer, but it might not. It might not be a realistic way to get the exercise you need and might actually prevent you from accomplishing the goal of getting exercise. Conversely, if you’re a person who bores easily and likes to do interesting, exciting things, you may have missed the mark on your goal of “exercising” every year because running, video aerobics and floor exercises bore you. So, “learn to rock climb” might be exactly the kind of answer you need to your exercise dilemma.

There needs to be a link between real life, your personality type, and your desires. And, that, I think is where most of us miss the boat.

And that’s also the end of our lesson today as well as today’s assignment.

Dig out last year’s New Year’s resolutions or think of the last goal/s you set and examine them. Do they fit your life? Do they fit your needs? Are they YOUR resolutions or things you think your husband, your mother, or your writer’s group wants you to accomplish?

What do you want? What fits your life? Who are you?

Next answer the question: What do you need? You cannot leave behind parental responsibilities, marriage responsibilities, or your day job just yet. There are things you want and things you need. Responsibilities you must meet. Make a list of both.

susan meier

Please don't forget to get a copy of KISSES ON HER CHRISTMAS LIST! This is one of my best books to date. I want everybody to read it. LOL


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Bex said...

Susan, I loved this goals post. After eight years of writing and feeling very similar to the feelings you described at that first writer's conference, I have finally started to think about my writing in a different way. A few weeks back I wrote a blog post where I talked about writing a list of the things I love. As I thought about that list, I had a real palm-smacks-forehead kind of moment. I could not believe how so little of the places, traits, or experiences I loved actually made their way into my stories. It seems so obvious now, but over the years I had become so earnest in trying to get things "right" that playing to the rules seemed to strip a lot of creativity and personalization from my books. Anyway, I am thinking about my writing in a different way now, and I hope to improve upon my goal setting for 2012 with this new knowledge. It is amazing how close to home this post really struck for me. Thanks so much for sharing it. Now... off to read part two!!

Susan said...

Bex...That was me! I wanted so badly to write the kinds of books I was reading I forgot that readers want to "feel" your experiences, your knowledge, come through in the stories.

Hope you enjoyed lesson 2! And that 2012 is YOUR year!