Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Getting SMART About Goals

Hello, friends! I am happy to report that this week marks the successful attainment of my writing goal for 2015: to get a publication in a literary magazine. In fact, I got two! The first one is already posted for your viewing pleasure at Lunch Ticket, and the next one will be published at The Toast next week. With only 21 days left in 2015, I made it right under the wire, but at least I made it!

Riding the high of checking a big box off my list, I decided to set another goal. “In 2016,” I told anyone who listened, “I want to be published in Salon!” But the more I said it, the more nervous I became.

“What are you scared of?” Cait, my best friend and writing partner, asked.
“Well, speaking it out loud means I gotta do it. And what if I… don’t?”
Being the former high school teacher that she is, Cait was ready with a foolproof plan. “Make it a smart goal,” she said.
“As opposed to a dumb one?” I asked.

And so she explained. SMART is an acronym that people (entrepreneurs, teachers, etc) use in order to make headway in their professional and personal lives. I did some research and decided to give it a try.

Step 1: Write down your goal in as few words as possible.
My goal is to: have my writing reach a larger audience

Step 2: Make your goal detailed and SPECIFIC. Answer who/what/where/how/when.
By the end of 2016, I will have several mainstream media publications (online or in print) in order to advance my career as a freelance writer. (I am using the term “mainstream” loosely. Of course, I’d love to be published in The New York Times or The Atlantic, but I’m aiming at places where a newbie like me might have more of a chance, publications like Salon and HuffPost. I’m dreaming big but also staying realistic!)

HOW will you reach this goal? List at least 3 action steps you'll take (be specific):
1. Speak to writers who publish regularly in mainstream venues about the process.
2. Read an abundance of writing published in magazines where I’d love to place my work.
3. Pitch articles to publications such as Salon, Huffington Post, and Outside magazine.

Step 3: Make sure your goal is MEASUREABLE. Add details, measurements and tracking details.
I will measure/track my goal by using the following numbers or methods:
·         I will submit 2 polished articles to mainstream publications per month.
·         I will spend 4 hours per week working on pieces for publication.

I will know I've reached my goal when:
ð  *I have 2 publications in mainstream venues.*

Step 4: Make your goal ATTAINABLE. What additional resources do you need for success?
Items I need to achieve this goal: my computer + butt in chair
How I'll find the time: I will dedicate at least 4 hours per week on these pieces.
Things I need to learn more about: the editorial expectations and submitting process at mainstream magazines.
People I can talk to for support: writer friends who have bylines in major publications [get in touch with said friends ASAP!]

Step 5: Make your goal RELEVANT. List why you want to reach this goal:
If I want to develop a long-lasting writing career (working in multiple genres), I need to set the groundwork now and establish myself as a reliable and capable freelance writer.

Step 6: Make your goal TIMELY. Put a deadline on your goal and set some benchmarks.
I will reach my goal by (date): 12/31/2016
My halfway measurement will be one major publication (eek!) by 6/31/2016.
Additional dates and milestones I’ll aim for: continuing to publish my creative work in literary magazines like The Normal School, Lunch Ticket, etc.

Looking forward, my ultimate goal is to make my living as a writer. This is different than just writing. Lots of writers have a day job and write when they come home. I could do that, too. But what I’m saying – committing in print – is that I’d like my day job to BE writing. Just writing the words feels terrifying. And I am fully aware that writing this in my weird little blog does not guarantee that this will happen for me. But what I am saying is that I’m going to give this crazy thing my best shot.

For me, creating a writing life often feels nebulous and scary in its haziness. I think the practice of setting goals will be good in the long term, since being a freelance writer means that I will probably be my own boss, which means being organized, setting deadlines, and motivating myself.  

Hopefully this SMART goal concept is helpful to you, too. Think about something you want to accomplish in the next year, whether it’s creative, professional, or personal, and break it down using these steps. It’s also interesting to explore the reasons WHY you want to achieve this goal, and how accomplishing it will further your greater purpose in life.