34 Ways to Tell If Your Writing Goals for 2013 Have a Chance in Hell

by Diane Holmes, (a) Chief Alchemist of Pitch University, (b) lover of learning, and (c) writer of fiction, non-fiction, and the occasional manifesto

Are Your Goals Doomed to Fail?

As you know, I’m a fan of Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

But big hairy goals don’t mean much without thousands of small wins.

Bob Sutton, Work Matters

Yes, thousands of small wins. And that’s why most New Year’s goals are doomed to fail.  It takes a lot to pull them off.

How many goals (another word for projects) fail? A whopping 78% according to Ian Sample, science correspondent at The Guardian.

But you’re going to succeed, right?

Take the Failure Quiz

Do you answer YES to any of these?  If so, your goal may not have a chance in hell.

#1 Your goal is fuzzy-general and way too rah-rah.

(Unbridled optimism is the language of a thousand small failures.)

#2 This is a goal or project you don’t really want.

(You think you have a good reason for making this your goal. You don’t.  It’s like you brainwashed yourself to not notice this.

Perhaps it’s someone else’s goal or maybe just a would-be-nice goal.  Or you got caught up in the goal-setting moment, but the moment is pretty much over.)

#3 Your goal hinges on something or someone you have no control over.

(Get published by a New York publisher, anyone?  Unless you buy the company, you can’t actually control these folks.  You can control writing a fabulous book, however.)

#4 You’re not using any of your best, most unique skills, attributes, or gifts in this goal.

(There’s no chance for you to bring your A game or outshine your competition, because they are using their uniqueness every day. )

#5 Strategy and logistics are missing.

(What you have is a dream not a goal.  Dreams magically happen in a bubble over your head.  Goals require that stuff called doing, insight, management, and accountability.)

#6 You haven’t gathered all the needed tools (tangible, like a computer, and intangible, like time and focus).

(Again with the magic.)

#7 You haven’t given up an equal amount of “activities” to allow room for this project.

(So, your life is completely maxed out, and your solution is to add more?  Great plan, that.  Good luck.)

#8 The excitement is in finishing the goal and not doing the goal.

(Remember the thousand small wins?  You’ll hate them all.  What are the chances hate will improve your odds of success?)

#9 You don’t currently have the skill set.

(So you’ve never written anything but you want to write a bestseller?  And secretly you don’t even believe there *is* a special skill set?  On behalf of all writers, thanks for undervaluing our expertise.)

#10 You’ve never done this before.

(You have skills, but this goal is totally new territory, like, say, screenplays.  It’s really two goals, isn’t it?  Learn the art of screenplays is your first goal.  So this goal will be delayed on a goal you don’t even recognize.)

#11 You don’t have a plan that covers what exactly to do today.

(Your year will occur in a series of days.  If your goal doesn’t also occur in a series of days, you have a problem.)

#12 You have no way of tracking progress or knowing if you’re “behind” on your project.

(Metrics, anyone?  Or, as we’ve been calling them, a scoreboard of your thousand small wins?  Without a true sense of where you are in your project, you’ll have a good time fooling yourself.  Trust me.  We all fool ourselves. You’ll be no exception.)

#13 You’ve assigned a date.

(Oh, everyone says set measurable, time-targeted goals, but they are totally wrong when it comes to most goals.

Slapping a made-up date on the goal that sounds good, without looking to see if it’s achievable AND has a high-likelihood of success based on every criteria in this post, is why most projects blow their due dates.  And what do we call missed deadlines?  Epic fail.  The 78%.)

#14 Your goal requires you to kick ass.

(Kicking ass is good for the short-term.  Why not.  It’s energizing.  But for the long-term? Long hours, heroic effort, and a grueling pace lead to a thousand small burnouts, followed by one massive flameout.  We’ll miss you….)

#15 You don’t have a mentor or project champion.

(It amazes me how many desperate business owners never think to learn from other business owners who know more than they do.  Same for goals and projects.  Do you really want to make the same mistakes that the “78% failure” folks made?  I thought not.)

#16 You don’t have a quality control implemented soon enough (or at all).

(Oh, quality, I forgot about that.  Critique groups, classes, paid creative coaches?  Unless your goal is one that specifically ignores quality like NaNo…. Only then do you get a pass on this.)

#17 You don’t have success criteria for each step, as well as the project-as-a-whole.

(Just like quality, unless your goal is a lot of words, and any words will do… you should think about what you will call success.  How will you know when each step is done?)

#18 You don’t have criteria for when to re-plan.

(Why?  Because your goal will unfold perfectly.  Right.)


clip_image001[4]Diane writes two columns for Freelance-Zone: (1) Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and (2) Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Writing.

6 thoughts on “34 Ways to Tell If Your Writing Goals for 2013 Have a Chance in Hell”

  1. 2012 was the first year I took the time to sit down every few months and create real, tangible goals that I could measure, enjoyed working towards and had more fund completing than looking back on. It was a good year as a result.

    So, while I’m mildly afraid I overstepped my 2013 goals a little, I am confident I can complete them, know I’ll have fun doing it and have a stronger business and more clients to help me reach them. Great advice here – stuff I wish I’d read up on five years ago.

  2. Thanks, Anthony!

    I wish I’d read this 5 years ago, too. 😉 I’m constantly tripped up by what I used to think was fun but hasn’t been in a long time, or the way I achieved my goals once or twice, but failed a lot more than that.

    Anyway, second week of 2013, and I’m already into re-planning!

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