When Writers Set Goals…And Don’t Meet Them

Failure is a Part Of the Freelance Writing JourneyLike many of you, I set some goals for my writing business for 2010. With one-quarter of the year gone, it’s time to review those goals and consider adjustments.

Personally, I already have that sinking feeling of behinder-ness I get when I see myself not meeting all my goals. I want to be steering the direction of my writing career, not floating along like a leaf on a stream, staying in a rut of familiar clients.

If you’re like me, your to-do list tends to be pretty ambitious. I don’t take things into account like spring break, and kids underfoot, and power outages…which all happened around here last week. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get a bad night’s sleep or be too tired to write. I forget I’ll need to hem my kids’ pants, help them get a science fair project ready…in a word, life will keep happening.

But all those things happen, and the goals start to slide. I also saw my list sort of upended this year by one major goal that I unexpectedly met very early in January…but that dreamed-of new account, while thrilling and lucrative, turned out to need WAY more ramp-up time than I imagined.

So here I am well into the year and I haven’t sent anything like the queries to my targeted new national magazine markets that I thought I would…one of my big goals for this year. And my ebook is STILL NOT READY…and probably won’t be until next month at the earliest.

But a lot got done. Great new clients were signed up. I paid a lot of bills, and this month is set to be my biggest of ’10. The groundwork is starting to pay off.

Now’s the time to forgive ourselves for what we haven’t gotten done. The goal list may need a little judicious pruning — but that’s OK. Breathe and let go of the feeling that we’re behind, that we’re failing. Instead, let’s celebrate the progress.  Every day we can keep freelancing and make enough that we don’t have to look for a job is a day of precious freedom. As I struggle to steer this writing ship where I want it to go, I’m going to try to remember to enjoy the trip, setbacks, bumps and all.

Photo via Flickr user fireflythegreat

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8 comments on “When Writers Set Goals…And Don’t Meet Them
  1. Mandy Harris says:

    Thank you, thank you and thank you for this post! I am struggling to develop the capacity to forgive myself. It isn’t just a karma thing; when I get all bound up feeling bad about not accomplishing some goal, I stop working. You know, just so that I can devote even more energy to reprimanding myself because THAT will help me reach my goals the next go-around rather than actually writing. It all cycles into a paralyzing fear of failure because, after all, who wants to feel that bad?

    I forgive myself. I forgive myself. I forgive myself. I would write it a hundred times on a chalkboard, but that would be punishing myself.

  2. Steven says:

    The great thing about goals is that they can grow with you (and evolve). A great goal set now might not be worth pursuing in 3, 6, or 12 months' time because better opportunities might come along in the meantime. In the end as long as you're moving forward, you have progress to be proud of.

  3. Amy says:

    Oh, man, what a timely posting. It's so easy to lose what's been accomplished in the looming shadow of the yet-to-do list. But if we don't take every step (and misstep) as a valid, essentially good part of the whole, then we miss most of life while waiting for the "great stuff."

  4. Jenn Mattern says:

    The great thing about goals is that they can grow with you (and evolve). A great goal set now might not be worth pursuing in 3, 6, or 12 months' time because better opportunities might come along in the meantime. In the end as long as you're moving forward, you have progress to be proud of.

  5. Angie J says:

    Wonderful blog – I've been reading through it for about a half hour! I found you through a comment on another blog.

    In any case, you're right – life keeps happening (I'm a bit behind on my goals, too) but we have to look at the things we have accomplished to take the sting out of the things we haven't yet gotten to.

    Thanks for posting this!

  6. Aww, Carol, don't despair. Setbacks are less setbacks and more life reminding you to calm down some big ambitions into smaller steps. Trust me, I know-I don't have a computer right now. Luckily the husband just got himself a laptop so I can use it in interim to the arrival of my new precious-my dream computer (a 15.3 inch MacBook Pro fully loaded!)

    Consider yourself ahead on writing this quarter's goals 😉

  7. Oh, man, what a timely posting. It's so easy to lose what's been accomplished in the looming shadow of the yet-to-do list. But if we don't take every step (and misstep) as a valid, essentially good part of the whole, then we miss most of life while waiting for the "great stuff."