I love unfocused effort, particularly when I’m writing a book or designing a game. There’s nothing quite as liberating as sitting down to write a story with nothing more than a few ideas.
At some point, though, I need a goal. There’s a moment in every project where it changes from “look at this cool thing” to “I’m making this specific cool thing.”
If that moment never happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, the project gets shelved. I might come back to it from time to time, but, generally speaking, the odds of it going anywhere are small.
Over time, the projects that don’t get shelved end up having a series of goals which are typically variations of
- Finish it
- Test it
- Fix it
- Publish it.
I know, I know. For someone who thinks of himself as being creative, those aren’t very imaginative goals. What can I say? At heart, I’m a simple guy.
Also, I have found that I have to be careful with the goals that I set.
Non-specific goals are fine. I can handle those. For example, if I set a goal of “losing weight,” I usually lose at least some weight, and I don’t stress too much about it. On the other hand, if I set myself a goal to lose an exact number of pounds, I can’t get it out of my head. Everything I eat is considered against the target. Every time I relax with a book, a voice in the back of my head tells me to get my lazy self up and exercise.
Yep, I know. It’s not healthy. It’s just me.
Fortunately, my particular psychosis matches well with the “finish it, test it, fix it, publish it” goals. There’s nothing wrong with obsessing over finishing a project.
What doesn’t make sense is obsessing over goals I can’t control. I’m never going to have a goal of “be a New York Times bestseller” because, as an indie author, I have no idea how to accomplish that. All I can do is focus on writing the best books that I can.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have loftier goals. I do. I just keep them in the “dream” category.
I’d love to see New Zealand, for example, or take a motorcycle trip across the country. Those are both what I call “dream goals”. I’m not doing anything specific to them. I’m just hoping they happen. They lurk in the back of my head like optimistic little imps waiting for a chance to pounce. For example, the current round-trip airfare from Orlando to New Zealand is about $2,000. And yes, I know that because I just Googled it. I probably Google it about once a month.
What are my other dream goals? Probably the same as yours. Here’s a random list of five that leap to mind:
- Receive a Kirkus Starred Review
- Win a Spiel Des Jahre
- Have humming birds nest in the butterfly garden
- Learn enough about photography to justify purchasing a “real” camera
- See New Zealand – hey, once it’s in your head, it’s hard to get it out.
If you’re a writer, you probably nodded appreciatively at #1. If you’re a game designer, you snorted and muttered “yeah, right” at #2. If you’re a gardener or bird watcher, #3 may have resonated at a surprisingly deep level.
Well… #1 just happened for me. Abigail’s Dragons received a Kirkus Starred Review.
Un-freaking-believable. I couldn’t be more excited.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go check the prices on flights to New Zealand.
Who knows? They may have changed. That’s the magic of dream goals. Sometimes, you reach them.
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