Creative Life – Defining The Goal

The idea about this article sprung from something I read about language learning. A man had set a Duolingo goal to reach diamond league (the highest you can go on the app) when actually the real goal was being able to talk with his German girlfriend’s parents. You can reach your goal, but if it’s not tied into your vision, it won’t give you what you want.

I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting and its importance. In the past, a good deal of my job was figuring out the actual question someone wanted an answer to.

The question and the answer may seem obvious at first, but then when you get the person on the phone to ask for clarification, it’s something totally different or the person will open up with the why – the real reason they’re asking and how important this question is. It was important to figure that out because I could waste a whole lot of time researching to find the right answer to the wrong question.

And this is what I’ve done with writing. I focused on the tactics as the end goal instead of as simply a way to get to my vision. I’ve learned to work in inches, to work in dribbles and drabs and as long as I’m moving forward, that is success. My vision is my compass. Guideposts, may be leading the way, but if they aren’t taking me closer to the vision, then it really doesn’t matter.

Okay. If you’ve known me for any period of time, you’ll know I have 6 rejections from application-only SFF workshops. I thought attending one of those workshops was a necessary part of my career.

In my brain, this was what success looked like:

Application-only prestigious workshp acceptance

Publication in one of the Big 3 SFF magazines.

Establishing a series through my short fiction to build a fanbase and then moving on to writing a novel…which of course would be published by one of my two target publishers.

Yea. Uh. None of that happened. And guess what? Those were tactics. It wasn’t my vision. My vision – writing my stories for my readers and letting them know about it so my readers can support me and my work – needed to be at the front of my mind. And maybe if I didn’t get into the workshop or published by my target publishers, just maybe my readers aren’t there and those were not good tactics for me.

Maybe I needed to try to reach my readers in a different way.

I confused the goal with tactics. Never a good thing and it can have you wasting a lot of time answering the wrong question and being miserable while at it.

So, I ask myself – Am I defining my goal correctly? Am I being honest? It’s so easy to fool yourself into saying what sounds right. Before I would say that money isn’t important, but it is. I want my readers to value my work enough to buy it. That means they have to know about it.

Am I ready to put out a big marketing push? No. Because I feel my shoulders cringing.  I just want to get to the point where I like writing again. And concentrating on tactics took that feeling away from me.

As long as I get an inch closer toward my vision, which in some ways include what I want to avoid, I’ll be fine.

Copyright © 2022 Irette Y. Patterson

About Irette Y Patterson

Irette Y Patterson is a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and romance. She has been published in FIYAH, Strange Horizons, Translunar Travelers Lounge and on the website of The Saturday Evening Post. When not writing, you can find her digging around in her garden or catching the latest musical in the theater.
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