Saturday, December 10, 2011

Goals? Oh, Goody! (Sydney Salter)

I adore setting goals. I jot monthly goals on my writing calendar, daily goals in a little spiral notebook, and, of course, on January 1st my loftiest ambitions go into the daily diaries I've been keeping since high school. So I thought it would be fun to go back in time, sift through my old journals, and peek at my past goals.

How naive was I in 2002? I'd just finished my first novel manuscript--so naturally I set an appropriate goal. Nothing about revision or submission, I planned to win the Newberry (yeah, I spelled it wrong).

By 2004 I'd learned to set more modest goals. "Celebrate your victories, however small--a nice comment scrawled on a form letter." I'd received a lot of those by that time. That aforementioned Newbery-award winning novel? I sent it out way too soon, before I learned how to revise. And revise. And revise.

"I hope I sell a manuscript, but I mostly hope to stay optimistic. (Keep writing! Keep believing!)," I wrote in 2007. Six months later I would sell My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters in a two-book deal. A few months later, I'd sell that first novel, Jungle Crossing, as well. The cheerleading tone of my goal doesn't show it, but I'd come close to giving up on my writing dreams that January. 


An eye-opening debut author experience had me setting this goal in 2010: "Do NOT compare your career path to others. No, no, no!" Two years later I'm still reminding myself about that one as yet another year ends without a new manuscript sale.

Apparently I, too, am a Work-In-Progress. I pull out volumes written by a younger me.

The year I got engaged, 1992, found me scrawling notes about planning a beautiful wedding and beginning a happy new life, but I also wanted to "write (fiction) every day." Back then I filled hundreds of pages of spiral notebooks with practice writing, using every inch of every page, wanting so much to improve my craft. Hey, I smile, all that practice did amount to something.

So I go back further. 1985. Junior year of high school. Oh, this should be good. I probably resolve to get a boyfriend, better grades, maybe start fewer fights with my mother. But this is what I read on January 1st, "I learned something: NEVER, NEVER take another person's doubts and bad talk to be your (my) own."

I'm stunned. I've been struggling with that exact issue all year. (And I'm so much older now!)

My newly seventeen-year-old self continues, "I will be my own person. My own thoughts. My own opinions. I know it's easy for me to doubt things right now--but I shouldn't let others magnify that small doubt." I continue reading, "I learned that I can be my own person and have tremendous self-confidence doing it. I am doing OK."

So my goal for 2012? I vow to be more like my seventeen-year-old self. I am doing OK.



5 comments:

  1. I especially liked the goal of not comparing your career path to others. We're all different people, so it's natural to take different paths. But I've compared myself to other people on more than one occasion, especially when other people I know tell me about what they've accomplished and I can't help feeling envious. Then it makes me feel bad because I haven't accomplished as much as they have. But I know that if I dwell too much on other people's work, I won't have enough time for my own.

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  2. Exactly! Best of luck to you on your own Neurotic Workaholic path :)

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  3. I agree, Sydney! But it's so hard sometimes, isn't it? I'll get some medium good news and think, yay!! I'm on the right path. I'm doing okay And then someone whose career I'm watching gets some HUGE news at the same second and suddenly I'm thinking, bah! I'm not good enough. I'm ashamed at how often this occurs. In fact, it occurred just a few minutes ago. So I'm sticking my nose back in my work, where it belongs. :)

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  4. Thank you for your words, from a non writer, but a reader and friend. That self doubt thing tends to bit most of us in the butt and pull us down. I love hearing you are OK, decidedly, I am too! Have a beautiful 2012.

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