There is nothing quite so annoying as sitting down with a teacher/guidance counselor/employer and having them ask you what your goals are.
High school goal: To get out of this place alive, with my sanity intact, and get into a college where no one knows me or cares how smart I am. Also where there are a lot more boys to flirt with.*
Pointless job in college goal: To make enough money so that my husband and I will be able to eat out once a week, then graduate and forget I ever worked here except when the same calling center calls me asking for donations, and then laugh and wax nostalgic at the fact I'll never have to do that again and agree to donate.
But today I'm going to ask you to sit down with me (umm, metaphorically or imaginarily, because I am sitting in a rocking chair and there is definitely not room for both of us. Also, I am still in my pajamas, so I would not open the door if you knocked) and think about what your goals are as a writer. Or as a person in general if you aren't a writer. Because you don't have to be a writer. (For the record, being a writer is AWESOME. It is also really hard, and there are a lot of other awesome things to be. Like a pastry chef. And if your goal is to become the world's best pastry chef, my new goal is to live next door to you.)
A while back the luminous Aprilynne Pike posted on what her goals as a writer were. She didn't specifically say what hers were, the point being that you simply had to know what yours were. It's very easy in this industry to catch the "not enoughs." Because in a way it will never be enough. Someone is always going to get agented faster than you. Someone is always going to have a bigger deal that you. Someone is always going to have cooler opportunities, or more marketing and publicity, or more buzz. Someone is always going to have a better cover. (Fortunately that's one area I've never had to be jealous of anyone else in. Love, love, love my cover designers!) Someone is always going to win more awards and be higher regarded. Someone is always going to make more money.
If you never know what your goals are, it will never, ever, EVER be enough. I promise. So decide now what your benchmarks for success are.
I have several. One of them is sales-related, and I'm not going to talk about that one. (Although I am doing everything I can to do my part to make it happen, I try not to focus on it.)
But my other goals I'm willing to share.
1) Be someone publishers want to work with. I always try to be professional, I try to do everything I can to make my publishers' jobs easier, and I always, always make my deadlines. Along with this comes writing the highest quality books I can so that we can both be proud of this product we've made together. I also make sure that my online presence is never something that would embarrass my publisher, and that I only speak of them in the highest terms of praise. Which isn't hard, because HarperTeen has been nothing but an absolute joy to work with. They make that part really easy.
2) Be someone people want to read. I write fairly commercial books--I want them to appeal to as many people as possible. I have no issues with this. Someday I will write a crazy, niche book that most people will not want to read, but for now my goal is to find the biggest audience I can and make them happy.
3) Create a sustainable career. This goes along with the first two. I love what I do. I'm amazed on a daily basis that I get to do it and get paid for it. It's so incredible it almost doesn't seem fair. With that in mind, I want to do this for the rest of my life. I try to plan beyond what's happening right now to make sure that I always have something else in the works, that my fabulous agent and I have an action plan for at least a year in advance, and that I'm continuing to learn and grow as a writer so I'll be able to continue to write things that I enjoy writing and you will (hopefully) enjoy reading.
4) Be someone's favorite author. This one's a little different. I want someone--anyone--out there (hopefully a teenage girl) to love my book so much that when someone asks her what her favorite book is, she'll say without hesitation, "Paranormalcy!" That's all. It doesn't have to be thousands or even hundreds or even dozens of people. Just one person. I think that'd make my whole career worth it.
5) See someone reading my book on the beach. This probably falls more under the realm of daydream than goal, but every time I go to the beach and see people reading, this little flutter in my stomach starts and I think, "How amazing would that be, to see someone reading something I wrote?" And then I would run over to them, but I'd accidentally kick sand on them so they'd be annoyed, and then I'd start babbling about their book and how I wrote it and I'd probably start crying I'd be so happy, and they'd think, "This crazy woman in board shorts, ugly beach hair, and sunburned skin looks nothing like the polished, pristine woman in the author photo." And then they'd get scared and start screaming and the lifeguards would come over and I'd probably get tased.
Which, given Evie's weapon of choice, would be poetically hilarious.
What? You don't have daydreams where you accidentally terrify people and are attacked with a Taser? Huh. Maybe your goal should be to get a better imagination, because nothing says Author Daydream like being violently electrocuted.
Anyway. Those are my main goals. (Except the Taser part. I don't really want that to happen. Promise. Please don't tase me in the name of making my dreams come true, because I would totally prosecute you and we would not be friends.)
And, for the most part, they are things that are up to me. That's important in setting goals--make sure they are things YOU control. You can't control sales. You can't control being nominated for or winning awards. You can control what you do and what you write to make those things more likely to happen, though. So focus on what you can control, decide what your goals as an author (aspiring author/pastry chef/world's foremost expert on rare evolution type Pokemon/professional beach Taser operator) are, and then figure out what you can do to make them happen.
As for me, my newest goal is to think of an author daydream in which I do not end up twitching on the sand.
*This goal of being a massive flirt lasted until I met Hot Stuff seven days after I moved to college, at which point my only goal became: GET HIM TO DATE ME. Nine years later and I am still succeeding.