I’m all for big dreams and Big Hairy Audacious Goals [1. A term coined by Jim Collins in “Built To Last”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Hairy_Audacious_Goal] (after all, I’m the one who set herself the goal of completing a short story every day in May!) but not all goals are appropriate at every stage in our development.
What Is Success?
Maybe you will get published in Granta or Ellery Queen or McSweeneys one day. But if you’re still grappling with so-so feedback from your writers’ group perhaps today is not that day. That doesn’t mean you can’t shoot for a closer target. Perhaps you can submit to a smaller-circulation market, a newer publication that hasn’t attracted as much attention yet, a regional contest or anthology.
Or maybe you don’t need to ‘be published’ at all right now.
Reasons Not To Publish
Perhaps your version of success is ‘good feedback from my friends’. Perhaps you want to put together a collection of your stories and have it bound by a print on-demand publishing service to leave to your heirs.
Perhaps you can dedicate the next year to writing and revising rather than submitting stories, freeing yourself from the pressure of thinking about ‘success’ in terms of ‘acceptances’. File your stories chronologically and, at the end of the year, look back and see how far they have come. Then—and this is crucial—review your progress and decide what your next set of goals should be. Base your decision on where-my-writing-is-now rather than where-I-wish-it-was.
Reaching and Stretching
Whatever you decide to focus on, try to set your expectations at a level just a little beyond your current abilities. Give yourself something to strive for, but don’t set yourself you up for failure.
Having Said All That…
– Don’t let your inner critic obscure all that is good about your writing.
– Don’t let fear hold you back from finding out if your writing really IS ready for the big leagues.
– Don’t be timid in the face of challenge.
– Do set yourself ‘stretch’ goals that push you to improve.
– Do allow yourself to dream about your perfect reader, curled up in a comfy chair somewhere, transfixed by your stories, feeling the same joy you feel when you read a really great story.
– Do work hard towards your goal of being the best writer you can be.
– Do keep writing.
This post is part of the Becoming A Better Writer series. Find the other parts here or buy the ebook and help support StoryADay May:
Becoming A Better Writer Pt. I: One Skill You Must Master To Become A Great Writer
Becoming A Better Writer Pt. II: How To Ask For — And Deal With — Feedback
Becoming A Better Writer Pt. III: Learn From Your Writing Heroes
Becoming A Better Writer Pt. IV: Practice Makes Perfect (Or: Write More!)
Becoming A Better Writer Pt. V: Adjust Your Expectations