In all likelihood, each one of us has expressed that our writing is a dream. Some dream of becoming a New York Times bestselling writer. Some dream of traveling the world to promote their books. Others dream of reading glowing book reviews exclaiming their genius and celebrating their every word.
Having a dream can be valuable. It gives us something to work toward, something to look forward to, and a vision we can focus on. But a dream is just that—a dream. Dreaming allows us to be passive and wait patiently for fate to deliver our dreams on a silver platter. Dreams rarely come true, because they do not require that we work for them. They occur while we sleep, while we gaze out of the window, and during moments of spacing out during staff meetings.
Most dreams remain dreams, and that is the real problem.
If you think of your intentions for your writing as dreams, then you are less likely to reach them. Making a shift and thinking of your writing outcomes as goals, instead of dreams, can change your entire mindset and make an enormous difference.
When we have a goal, we tend to plan, study, and work in a different way than when we have a dream. When we have a goal, we are willing to work, because hard work and dedication were on the path we walked to reach other goals in life.
Think back to when you were a kid. Maybe you wanted to be the soccer team captain, but you were too young or too slow or too much of a follower. The goal was important to you, so you set out to achieve it. You made changes to your practice, you worked harder, you got help from the right people, and you set out to improve yourself. In short, you made yourself into a soccer team captain, because you wanted to meet that goal.
The same scenario plays out for us as adults. We wanted to earn a college degree, date the guy/gal of our dreams, or move into a better work position, so we set a goal and took steps to achieve the goal. When we work toward a goal, we know that we have to change our behaviors and activities to make it. We also recognize that we have to give up things in our lives to make the goal happen. And most importantly, we accept that we need to change ourselves to meet the goal. To become something different, we must let go of who we are and accept an updated version of self.
So, if writers genuinely want to achieve their goals, what steps should they take to be successful?
Shift Your Mindset
If you have been writing for some time, you have likely come to the realization that nothing really happens with your writing career unless you dedicate your whole self to it. Writers spend decades scribbling down poems and stories but never land a book deal to match. If your writing is a dream, that is what it will stay.
Make the mindset shift to change your writing from a dream to a goal. The mental change you make can be the catalyst that bumps your career from uneventful to overbooked. Dreaming is not going to get your book picked up by a big publisher, but setting that as a goal is the first step to making it happen.
Analyze What Is Working
We all have complicated lives: work, kids, pets, commuting, and the stress of keeping it all together can take its toll on our writing productivity. Keep daily notes on how much time you spend on your writing activities: reading, researching, writing, and editing. After a week, evaluate the notes. What is working for you? When are you most productive? Where is your creative work coming from? Is there a location where you are getting your best work done? Does your time with a writing partner or writer’s group produce higher-quality writing? What day or time of day are you spending more time on your craft?
Analyze what is working and add it to your calendar. If your notes suggest that writing at night allows you to compose 500 words a day on a consistent basis, then add that time onto your evening calendar. If your notes show that meeting your writer friends on Saturday results in great conversation but an insignificant progress of your novel, then reconsider that event. Find what is working to move you toward your goal and do more of that.
We sometimes self-sabotage our creative endeavors. I have spent decades calling myself a writer while writing infrequently. The idea of writing was there, yes, it was there in a dream state where I thought about writing and talked about writing and read about writing. But I did not write.
It takes courage to put pen to paper. When we write, we express ourselves, challenge our skill set, and fulfill the personal drive to compose on the page. But we also make ourselves open to the world for personal and professional criticism. Writing for a goal requires courage not unlike the courage it took to achieve any other large-scale goal.
Take the Steps
The steps to reach your writing goals are straightforward. Decide on your goal, learn the skills to achieve the goal, and work toward the goal. Do not stop until you have reached the goal.
If you do not step onto the path, then you cannot possibly achieve the goal. No one is going to sneak into your house in the middle of the night and read the poetry you stashed in boxes under the bed, exclaim you a genius, and offer you a million dollar writing deal. No, your path will be wrought with hard work, significant personal and professional development, and celebrations of milestones achieved along the way. To achieve your writing goal, you must take the steps.
It is one thing to set a goal and create a beautiful plan and another thing to push yourself to achieve it. One of the best ways to keep yourself on the path to achieve your goal is to have an accountability plan. When a professor tells us to turn in the paper on time, we do it. When a supervisor gives us a deadline for a project, we meet it. Having some kind of accountability can make all the difference between failure and success.
Your accountability could be self-imposed with deadlines attached to rewards and consequences. It could be external through an app or system that keeps you on track and acknowledges when you have completed a milestone toward the goal. Or it could be a partnership where you and another writer keep tabs on each other and keep each other accountable. Whatever works for you, do it and be accountable.
Your writing does not need to be a dream. Instead of daydreaming, restate your writing as a goal and create the path to achieve that goal just as you would for another life purpose. Why would you stick to the path of dreams and fantasies when you can achieve your goals and accomplish what you have always wanted? Start working toward your writing goals.
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