Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Obtainable Goals

Okay, so I taught a class at the first ever Teen Author Boot Camp last weekend. It was loaded with awesome authors and awesome classes and awesome teens! (Special thanks to the people at Writers Cubed who organized the whole thing.)

Kiersten White was the keynote speaker. Besides her mad drawing skillz, she said some really great things.

The one I liked best concerned goals.

She said: Don't make other people your goal.

I've done this. It's not pretty. You can't count yourself unsuccessful because Author X is only 22 and published. Since you're obviously over the age of 22, you'll never be published.

Sounds stupid when you put it like that, right?

I liked this advice a lot, because often I compare myself to other people. They become my goal. And that's not healthy. I can't control what happens to them. I can barely control what happens to me.

What I can control is what I write and how hard I work. So those are the things that need to be focused on when setting goals. How much I write in a day. How many pages I edit. Which story gets my attention. That sort of thing.

So. What are your goals? Are you using other people to make your goals come true?

49 comments:

Bish Denham said...

Oh...I have been guilty of this. And I'm too old to be playing THAT game! Thanks for the smack up-side the head.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I am guilty of that too sometimes. I try not too. Right now I'm accepting my progress may not be as fast as I'd like with blogging, working, and my daughter keeping me super busy. But I work hard like you. And that's all I can do.

Natalie Zaman said...

Gosh that sounds familiar--I often have to stop myself from comparing myself to other people (then I turn around and give the same advice to my kids...)It's a life lesson--and the time wasted comparing and angsting over it is all sunk. Thanks for the reminder--great post!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I guess I am in a way. Unless I self publish (not happening), I have to rely on an agent and editor falling in love with my books in order for me to be published. Not much I can do about that, other than write a kick ass book and query.

Fortunately I don't measure my success as whether or not I'm published. When I finish a first draft, that's success. When I finish editing it, that's success. When I grow as a writer, that's success. So based on these three things, I'm successful. And the only way I can achieve these three things is through HARD WORK!!!!:D

J. L. Jackson said...

I try not to focus on what others have done. I want my own accomplishments to be a reflection of the person I am.

Liza said...

This is so wise.

lynnrush said...

It's difficult to not compare yourself to others, isn't it? If I fall into that, my crit partners usually yank me right out of that. Thank God for awesome CPs.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I try not to compare. But it is a bit frustrating when after the same amount of years I put in others have contracts and movie deals.

SO i sulk for around a second and get back to work. I am honestly happy for other writers who have success. I KNOW how hard it is. I realize timing is everything in life. I had great success in my early twenties in a different career. So I know how exciting it is. So now that I am in another point in my life my turn will come again... as the name of my blog states, In Time ...

Michael

Theresa Milstein said...

I feel the same way. I try not to compare myself with others, but it's hard not to do. Age 23? First manuscript? Bestseller on your 1st book? Sent 5 manuscripts and landed an agent? 3-book multi-k book deal? A bidding war on your manuscript?

Sigh.

It looks so easy for them from where I'm standing. Agentless.

Last March, I wrote a post from Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. Some get it early, but others need to spend years perfecting their craft. Yeah, I'm in the latter category.

We need to compete against ourselves. Period.

How cool you got to do the bootcamp, and with K. White.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm right there with Theresa. I mean, I try not to compare, but when I read about someone half my age getting an agent after 5 queries and then their first book becomes a bestseller, I can't help myself. I hate them a little. (And myself even more.) Bleh. It's not healthy and all that jealousy takes up mental real estate I could be using to write.

Thanks for the writerly kick in the pants this morning, Elana. I needed it.

Chelsey said...

That's such a hard one for me. I'm always comparing myself to other people, especially the young ones who get published because...well. I am 22.

Another one for me is remembering that I AM good at what I do. I've been writing for years, and I now I can get better but I also know I'm not completely pants at it. Sometimes that's hard to remember

Matthew MacNish said...

My goal is to write a great book. That's basically it.

Well, then hopefully more great books, but we'll get to that later.

Claire Dawn said...

I don't compare. Because I'm not doing half as much as I could be. And everybody else is working really hard.

I guess there's a perk to beign a bum :)

Kelly said...

I try not to compare. I think it gives me hope when I see friends in blogland succeeding.

Jessica Nelson said...

Sometimes I shy away from goals, maybe because I'm commitment-phobic or afraid or something? I don't know...but I don't really compare myself to people that often. When someone gets pubbed young, that encourages me.
I need to work on some goals...ack.

Julie said...

Guilty as charged, but usually only when I'm in the already low points. When I'm on my game, positive about myself, excited to be working toward my goals, and jazzed about my story worlds, I am immune to looking over fences and comparing. But when I'm in the stinky, self-doubting places, I can't take my eyes off of all the things (not just writing related) that everyone else has that I don't (i.e., she has a successful book AND a wonderful husband and children!!!! How is that fair!!!)

But I work my way back to being grateful for what I have and accepting of my path. But sometimes it takes a while. And maybe someone out there looks at me and says, "She has all those story ideas AND the cutest puppy in America. How is that fair!!!!" :)

Carolyn V said...

I have the habit of comparing myself. It's a terrible habit and sometimes stunts my growth. I need to stop doing that.

Katie Mills said...

this is great advice. I try not to get caught up in other people's successes. After all, at some point they were where I am, right? Like you, I just do the best I can and keep at it.

Kelly Lyman said...

Great advice. I never really realized that I was/had done this until I read this post. Now, it's time to stop.

My goals (at least for now): I just finished writing my first query letter (yikes!). Now, I just have to finished my edits and get the courage to send the MS out...hoping to do this by the end of June.

Julie Musil said...

Elana, I sometimes do this, and then I correct myself. I can't compare myself to other writers. I didn't take writing seriously until 40, and right now I'm just happy to be in the same game as the rest of you. Thanks for the never-ending inspiration.

Jenna said...

I have a horrible habit of comparing me to other people. "That guy's published and he's only 19! I HAVE TWO YEARS TO BEAT HIM." I think it's a combination of my overly-competitive side and my insecure side. I've gotten better in the past few years, but the little green monster of jealousy crops up every now and then and pushes me to a breakneck pace so I can "catch up" with others. It's a dangerous road...fortunately I think I've mostly left it behind with the help of my phenomenally awesome crit pals.

Awesome post, and mad props to Kiersten for being so smart. And, of course, her mad drawing skillz. :P

Jonathon Arntson said...

I overuse other ppl to make my dreams come true. But that's what happens when you don't quite believe in yourself.

Kathe Anchel said...

So true Elana. Thank you for the advice. I am constantly comparing the amount of time I have to write with the others seem to have and always think - if only I didn't have a full-time job and two kids and another kid on the way...then maybe my view of the world would be a lot more like Author X. But the truth is my view of the world and my process is just fine. And thank goodness I have a passion as great as writing at all to fuel my life. Imagine not having that!

Jennifer said...

I have told myself many times that it is too late to write. That I am too old as I look at others being published and they are so much younger. I have set realistic goals for myself and now I am much happier. Thanks for sharing with us!

Ishta Mercurio said...

Oh, man. Guilty. But, I know it's stupid.

You know, Tahereh Mafi wrote a great post that touches on this. She talks about how parents want their kids to have "success" mostly because they see their kids as still having a chance to achieve what they themselves failed at or never even tried. We so often see ourselves through that lens of "what I should have done back then, but didn't."

Thanks for the reminder to keep it real, and keep on going.

Jessica Hill said...

This is something I've really struggled with, and I'm still working on changing that view. To make my goals my own, based on what *I* can accomplish, not what others can.

Marisa Hopkins said...

I'm probably pretty lucky that I'm not the jealous type - and when I am, I only use that jealousy to inspire me to keep going with my own dreams. But then, I'm not even at the query stage... I wonder if things will change once I'm getting rejection after rejection... Hopefully I can stay strong and not fall into comparing myself to others.

ajkulig said...

When I read this, I thought right away I do that. I make other people my goal. Then I thought about it, and realized that is not wholey accurate. I use other peoples success to motivate me, but my goals are my own, and often just out of reach. I learned a long time ago that I work best under pressure. If I give myself goals I know I can make, subconciously I slack off, because I believe they will be easy to achieve. I think I tend to miss more easy goals than totally unreachable ones. The impossible goals always keep me on my toes, and even if I never reach them I did a lot more on the jounrey there than otherwise.

Hannah Kincade said...

Currently, my goal is to edit and revise my first draft. I'm enlisting the help of a couple of friends.

Also, I'm moving soon so you know, packing and crap. :)

Krispy said...

That is really great advice because I know I'm guilty of comparing myself to other people all the time. I try to turn it around though and make it a motivator.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What a great post! I try not to compare and to remember that everyone has his or her own style or story to tell. No two writers will tell the same story in the same way. It's much easier to applaud the successes of others.

Kerri Cuev said...

I like that advice! I set baby step goals and try to take a day at a time :)

Jo Schaffer said...

As long as you love what you are doing-- it doesn't matter as much when and how you "get there". (=

"It's all good"-- is my mantra.

Christine Fonseca said...

Dude! It's my hula hoop advice ;)...and so so true!

Marsha Sigman said...

UHHH NO. I can't, otherwise Kody Keplinger would make me want give up and hide in a corner.

My goals are to be the best I can be, not someone else's best.

Christine Danek said...

I'm definitely guilty of this. I've noticed I've been doing it a lot lately. I must stop because it does affect my work.

Right now--I'm trying to finish the first draft of my second novel and hope to query it by the fall.

Lydia K said...

When I think I'm too old, I remember there are plenty of people older than me trying to get published and I feel foolish for complaining. The comparison thing tends to make me feel bad, so I try not to. I'm not always successful, though.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Such a good point! The comparisons only ever make us feel inadequate anyway. I think it's okay to admire a person, but the most successful among us were the rare gems, the individuals who couldn't really be compared to anyone. They were the trailblazers that did things their own way.

And the truth is, who can we be if not ourselves? Mere copycats.

Sounds like you had a great time at the boot camp. What a cool thing to do!

Jemi Fraser said...

Yikes. I never thought of it this way. I don't do it too often, but there are definitely people I can't keep up to. But, you're right - as long as I keep up to myself, I guess I'm doing okay :)

Jeff King said...

Awesome, just Awesome...

Jessica Love said...

I love the internet for bringing this community together, but it really does make it easy to look at what other people have and want it, too. This is a good reminder. Thanks.

Amber Argyle said...

I try really hard not to look/notice how other authors are doing. It's hard though. When I find myself feeling jealous or down on myself, I try to think, Good for them. I hope they make it all the way.

And maybe, just maybe, they'll take me with them.

Sara B. Larson said...

That is definitely one of my failings. I tend to compare myself to others quite a bit. I know I need to stop, and I do try to. Sometimes I succeed, and other times not so much. But you're right, there's nothing I can do about it. I have to focus on what I CAN do.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I try not to compare myself to others, published or unpublished, but sometimes it's hard. I have to remind myself (often) that my voice is my voice and if I stay true to myself and push myself one day I'll reach my goal of having a book on the shelf in the library. :)

cherie said...

Nice reality check. I'm not the jealous type, so I can honestly say I haven't looked at a successful writer, or even an agented one, and think I'll never be like her or him. Because the thing is, I will NEVER be THEM. I can only be ME. So what can I do about it?

Work, learn, and work some more. And have fun along the way. ;)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I have been guilty of this, but I try to ignore it. It's better not to compare UNLESS you're comparing yourself to yourself. When I first started to write, it was bad. Awful. Trash. Now, with each story I write, I want it to be better than the one I wrote previously. I want to keep trying and learning to be a better writer. I never want to become complacent.

Martha Ramirez said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing, Elana.

Michelle McLean said...

excellent advice :) I've definitely done this before, but I've been doing pretty good of keeping my goals pointed at me :D

Karen Lange said...

Good advice, and something to keep in mind always!