On Dreams and Goals

I have a friend who decided that she wasn’t happy with her life.  She has a MFA in Art, has been at her job for 9 years, has pets and friends and family where she is.  But she wanted a change.  Her dream, ever since becoming a huge fan of the TV show “Deadliest Catch”, is to work on fishing/crabbing boats.  That is her big dream, and I know plenty of people were skeptical that she could achieve it.  She has no experience with fishing or boats, she’s strong, but really short and hasn’t ever done truly heavy labor.

Did she care that many of the people around her thought it was a crazy dream? No.  She started reading about it, checking job sites, absorbing anything she could about how to get started.

Last weekend I drove her out to an interview with a crab boat captain.   Before she’d even flown back home, she had the job.  In a month or so, she’ll be on a boat, living her dream.

What does this have to do with writing? Plenty.  Dreams are important.  I know I tend to bog myself down in the nitty-gritty of the actual process.  But it isn’t just for the process that I’m writing.  I have a dream, too.  (That phrase is like “who you gonna call”, tainted by fame forever, hehe).  I don’t really talk about my bigger goals very specifically because frankly, I get a lot of criticism for them, both from fellow writers and from my friends and family.  The last time a friend asked what I hoped to do with my writing and I told answered, that friend then scoffed and said something like “yeah, I’d like to win the lottery too.”  That sort of talk is discouraging.  But I try not to let it get to me.  As I said, dreams are important because they provide something to work toward.

What’s my big dream? To consistently make 6 figures a year writing fiction.  I’d love to have a career that is a blend of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and JA Konrath.  (If you don’t know who JA Konrath is, go here and read his blog.  If you don’t know who the other two are, get out from under that rock already!)

How am I going to go about reaching that dream?  That is where goals come in.   My friend couldn’t just decide to go work on a fishing boat and then bam! it happened.  She had smaller goals that got her there (ie post on job boards, network with people, read up on the industry etc…).  My goals are all things I can control.

So here is my game plan.  By Jan 2011 I will have 6 novels and 80 short stories out on submission.  (I’m at 1 novel and 24 short stories thus far).  That is just to get my butt in gear and because I’m practicing writing a bunch of different stuff.  Starting next year I intend to write four novels and at least 30 short stories a year which is about 550,000 words.  Half a million words seems like a lot.  Ok, maybe it is a lot.  But I broke that down into even smaller goals.  (I did this before in December, but I’ve revised what I’m doing, so now I get to toss different numbers out).

To get to 550,000 words in a year, I intend to spend at least 30 weeks a year writing 5 days a week (or really, knowing me, the equivalent time to that, probably spread out a little differently).    That’s roughly 18,300 words per week, which for a five day work week means 3,660 words a day.  Three to four hours of writing a day.  Not that scary when it is broken down like that, and it means I have time to take care of all the other stuff that crops up (like mailing stories back out: the more I have out, the more rejections that come back.  Who knew?!).

I write because it is what I do.  Getting paid for what I would do anyway? Awesome.  And that is why I have a dream, a dream that is possible, a dream that will allow me to keep doing what I do already.  And every time someone shakes their head at my dream, I’m going to remember my friend and think about her on the boat pulling crab pots.  And then I’ll smile.

4 Responses to “On Dreams and Goals”

  1. Alex J. Kane

    Very inspiring, heartfelt words. I, too, share the dream of one day existing alongside the Gods of the literary world such as King and Bradbury (throw in Dick and Asimov, and you’ve got yourself a literary Olympus! haha).

    Your level of output astonishes me. How do you manage that? I’m still a full-time college student (3 yrs down, 2 to go…damn it!) and I work part-time, about 22 hours/week. Any advice in that regard?

    • izanobu

      Hey Alex. I would advise that you time yourself to see how long it takes you to compose 250 words. Then do the math for how much you get done in an hour. Then figure out how many hours you need to write each day and week to get to whatever your goal is. That’s how I got to my numbers. A page a day will get you a novel in a year, four pages (about an hour of writing for me) will get you 4 novels in a year, or three novels and 20 or so short stories.

      I’d recommend reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog for a nice dose of mindblowing. These posts here: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?m=200912 are really good and break down goals and the math.
      Absorb those and then read these: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?page_id=860

      Hope that helps! It really doesn’t take as much time as you think to get up to doing a decent amount of writing. And of course, you gotta mail what you write! 🙂

  2. osomuerte

    Did you just compare “I have a dream” to “who ya gonna call?” Wow.

    That is an awesome real life dream-to-reality scenario. I will steal it for use with my students.

    I am proud of you for your output and resolve. I measure my goals a little differently — right now I want to earn enough writing to only work part time as a teacher. I also hope for enough output to qualify as a guest at conventions. Very modest stuff. Of course before those my goal was to win WotF (check!) and get into Clarion…well, one out of two ain’t bad.

    • izanobu

      Ha, I wondered if anyone would pick up on that *grin*. Cultural fame-wise, yeah, I’d compare the two. Millions and millions of Americans have heard that speech, but I’d wager even more are at least as familiar with Ghostbusters.

      My friend’s story is a cool one. Totally steal it if you need for your students. I think it is good to be reminded that people can still get what they want in life if they are willing to put in the effort and never ever give up.

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