Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Goals, Mine and Others'

People who write online journals and also write fiction often post writing goals for the year to come. These usually fall into one of two categories: either they are numbers that are theoretically achievable by the writer or they are non-numerical items that are not within authorial control.

By the latter case, I mean, for example, "I will sell a short story to MagazineX." This is not a goal within authorial control. "I will submit at least six stories to MagazineX," for example, is something the writer can do. But selling to them? All you can do is submit, make sure the story is as good as you can make it, and try to aim it at the best-suited market. "I will win AwardY" is also not directly within one's power. To me, these qualify as hopes rather than goals. You could write well-loved, award-winning, wise, witty, fundamentally awesome stories for the next 50 years and never once hit an editor of MagazineX right. Or MagazineX could close its doors next year and wipe out 49 of those years for you preemptively. Or they could stop publishing anything but flash fiction (novellas, alien porn, Christian endtimes fantasy...), which you can't stand. People like to come up with "if you do X, then you will surely get Y published." This is either blatantly false or else so general that it's not useful: "write a great book" is extremely good advice for people wanting to publish books, but the definitional arguments, uff da.

On the other hand, a goal like, "I will write three books this year" or "I will write at least 10 words every day*" is a good deal more under one's control. Sure, you could -- oh, I don't know -- be struck by an undiagnosed illness that saps your energy. Just to take a random case. But for the most part, these are goals about what the person does themselves, not what they are hoping other people will do. And then if they don't meet one of those goals, they can legitimately say, "Here is what I did not do to get there," not, "Guess it just didn't happen." Ideally one sets these goals at a level one can reach without having to become another person or set of people entirely. If you've never finished one novel, for example, it's entirely possible that you'll write three next year, but do start with one and see how it goes.

The problem with this kind of goal-setting for me right now is that I really don't know what is a reasonable goal. I would like to finish the Sampo revisions very soon. There are lots of things I would like to do. Coming up with projects is never a problem for me. But I'm not going to set myself up with a to-do list on that scale just now, because to-do lists are addictive to me, and there are higher priorities than having N kilowords every single day.

So. In 2006, I will continue to write fiction. And in 2006, I will continue to revise and submit fiction. And also in 2006, I will attempt not to further ruin my health or sanity or the health and sanity of those around me in the pursuit of my fiction.

It's what I can do for now.

*Do not scoff at the 10 words. I don't do it this way myself, but I know someone who does, and he explained it to me: if he says 100 words, or 1000, there will often be reasons why he can't do it on a certain day. Some of them will even be legitimate reasons. There will, however, be extremely few days on which he has a legitimate reason not to write 10 words. "Got married to $Spousename" is only four, sure, but it's trivia itself to add "I" to the beginning and "at the courthouse at 4:30" to the end, et voila. "Deliriously happy" is then gravy.
Tags: full of theories, publishing

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