A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with my local authors group, Writers and Scribblers, about writing goals.
I had come across this great article titled 20 Ways to Become a More Productive Writer by Nina Amir, so I made the article the topic of our January meeting. This list was a starting-point for an interesting conversation about not only productivity, but what success as a writer looks like.
In being a full time fiction writer right now, and reflecting on success as an author, the word “Authorpreneur” (as you can probably guess) is a mash-up of author and entrepreneur — and I think it’s a perfect word to describe what it means to be an indie author, or a writer who self-publishes their work (like me) or publishes with a small press. I like the word so much that “Being an Authorpreneur: Tips for the Business of Writing” will be the February meeting topic of Writers and Scribblers.
But back to the topic of productivity, and setting goals, and finding success. At the January meeting, I was asked, “Well, what are your goals then? What does success as a writer look like to you?”
I made the mistake of answering the first question (“Well, what are your goals then?”) — using two sentences — which became confusing, because I think the person asking the question really only wanted an answer to the second question, “What does success as a writer look like to you?” and assumed my second sentence was meant to answer that question.
So that was a bit of a fail.
Because these really are two completely different questions. The word “success” describes two things — the day-to-day accomplishment of being a writer (which you can experience every day), as well as the overall whole, the big picture of what a writer is striving for (the “big dream” you achieve once you’ve “made it”).
For me, the overall whole — or big dream — I’m striving for is to be able to support myself and my husband with my writing, and a lot of other writers have the same dream: to be able to take care of themselves while pursuing their passion.
The question, “What are your goals?” would then focus on the current stepping-stone targets the writer is aiming for to one day “hit the big dream.” (In this case, achieve financial independence with written material.)
“Goals” (in my humble opinion) are very different from “success.” A goal can’t be reached every day, but success can. Not success in the “I’ve made it” sense, but success in the day-to-day accomplishment sense.
So when I began to answer both questions by first focusing on a few of my current stepping-stone targets — that was very, very different than giving a big-picture answer of success.
Being neck-deep in beta-reader edits for Mark of the Pterren right now, I thought taking some time to reflect on my big picture and stepping-stone goals might be a productive activity, because it actually takes a bit longer to think about and describe than a one- or two-sentence answer can do any justice.
Though I should also point out the goals that lead to success are always a moving target. Because as soon as anyone reaches a goal, they automatically set another to strive for. It’s just how this game works.
To begin discussing my personal definition of success, I should say that I always keep my life purpose in mind, a statement I created with the help of watching a Tony Robbins video two years ago. The video was called “Living Your Purpose and Winning at the Game of Life” and I bookmarked the link two years ago, but the video has moved. This happens a lot with that video, so if you google the topic, you can probably find it. The video was more than an hour long, and I needed a pen and paper, and the time to pause the video several times to write out my answers, in order to come up with a personal Mission Statement.
The thing about a personal Mission Statement is that it needs to be something you can achieve every day. It’s not a goal statement. A life purpose is knowing where my deepest values are, the essence of what I am most passionate about, so that I can feel successful in life each and every day I’m alive. By living my life with a Mission Statement in mind, I know that if I die today, I die as a success. I don’t have to worry I failed.
Because believing we are failures is one of the most damaging limiting beliefs anyone can ever have. If you want to crush your desire to live, and all chance of happiness, tell yourself you’re a failure, and mission accomplished.
So here is my personal Mission Statement, which allows me to feel like a success every day (no matter what my bank account statement says or what kind of “revenue stream” I am generating) — because there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t live with this purpose in mind:
My purpose in life is to be kind, loving, and compassionate, and to serve God, myself, and others by telling stories that move people, that educate, entertain, and inspire, and to help other people be storytellers in any way that I can.
I should note that the word “God” in that sentence does not refer to an outward deity — when I say God, I mean “the energy that forms all” or “the energy that creates matter and void” or “reality” or “the whole of all.” God for me is not being used in a religious sense, and I don’t even know if “energy” or “the whole of all” qualifies as a spiritual term. I just know I try to work hard in my mind to let go of absolute concepts and embrace dualism and blended understandings in all forms — and I know that I believe in the things I perceive, but I also think my perceptions are highly untrustworthy at times, and definitely limited.
Suffice it to say that “God” can mean whatever someone wants it to mean. It’s a loaded word, but a great word, one of my favorite words, and that’s why I use it. The universe is full of all kinds of mystical and wonderful things, astonishing and amazing things, and for me, the word “God” accounts for magical awe much better than a scientific word like “energy” does.
Am I getting woo-woo enough yet?
Maybe I should go on about some more woo-wooey stuff for a while…
Or how about I just share some actual goals now. Because while it’s nice to know that I live life every day being kind and working on my writing and helping other writers, that doesn’t pay the bills, does it — I actually have to generate an income for that, and that means I have goals I strive for as an authorpreneur.
So here are some of my current goals:
1. I would like my two published books to each have 200 Amazon reviews.
2. I would like to have 5,000 people subscribe to my blog.
3. I would like to publish a literary fiction novel one day. (Meaning: a novel that is written for the sake of the prose, rather than constructed for a commercial audience. I already have the plot of this novel, and the characters, outlined. I just can’t write it yet because I have to focus on commercial fiction right now.)
4. I would like to pay off the mortgage on my mother’s house ($81,000.00) with money I make from my writing. (Instead, I’ll be getting a job soon and giving up my full time writing work in order to pay this mortgage bill every month. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I won’t dwell on this.)
5. I would like to make $2,000.00 a month from my writing. (I make $1.82 per ebook, so that means selling roughly 1,000 books per month. On the one hand, that goal is insane. On the other, it is totally reasonable. Many authors sell 12,000 books per year or more. I would like to be one of them. I currently sell between zero and two books per month. Now you totally know how much money I’ve made for the past two years. Reality can be harsh.)
6. Once I’m making $2,000.00 a month from my writing, I would like to travel to Greece, France, Fiji, Guatemala, Kiev, Prague, Israel, Turkey — I have so many places I’d like to do research in, for future books, and simply to experience these amazing places in the world.
7. I would like to never worry about ever having to work a job I don’t want to, because I can always support myself as an author.
8. I would like to self-publish Mark of the Pterren by May of this year.
9. I would like to self-publish a (much shorter) YA fantasy novel by this December. (Ha! I make myself laugh sometimes. SO much. But still. I’m going to strive to achieve this.)
That’s it! That’s my list of goals for success right now as an authorpreneur! I don’t doubt I’ll get there one day. How long it will take — well, I have no idea — but achieving those goals seems well within my means, as long as I don’t wuss out and give up. (Though working full time to pay my mom’s mortgage might be seen as wussing out — I just remind myself that I worked full time as a teacher for six years while writing the first 9 drafts of The Etiquette of Wolves. I can work full time and still be a writer, I’ve just slashed my level of productivity — so it’s not technically wussing out, it’s just slowing myself down a whole lot.)
What about you, dearest Thought Candy reader? Do you have a Mission Statement? Or a definition of success? Or a list of current goals you are working on? Do share.