Every writer has a goal, whether it’s yearly, monthly, or “someday.” Goals are used as motivation to get stuff done. Resolutions are made, typically with broad intent.
A goal might be to get on the best seller list.
It might be smaller, like come up with x number of viable book ideas (challenges like Storystorm encourage picture book writers to come up with a 30 new ideas in 30 days).
Or get an agent, find a critique group, nab a pitch party.
Or, finish that darn book (NaNoWriMo is famous for encouraging writers to complete a novel in 30 days).
The problem with those kinds of goals, is that the skills needed to accomplish them are glossed over. Nowhere in the goal setting does it account for HOW it will get done.
Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the skills you need to accomplish your goals, instead of the goals themselves?
As performance coach Derek Schenck puts it, “The Good focus on a goal; the Great focus on a skill.”
Maybe, instead of having a goal to finish your book, you can focus on the skill of, say, self discipline. The skill you choose to focus on for the year or month could be limiting social media to x numbers of hours a day/week, or once in the morning after you’ve checked email, and once in the afternoon after lunch. Maybe the skill to focus on is saying no to interruptions, and reminding yourself you are worth alone time. Those skills free up time for you to write…which will help you finish your book.
Maybe, instead of the goal of finding a critique group, your focused skill could be on better communication and social interactions with fellow writers. You could focus on being the best type crit partner one could have–like having tact, kindness, offering direction/suggestions without rewriting, and knowing when to shush. Practice your people skills (introverts prefer online groups for this very reason–avoiding in person convos. But it needs to happen, and practice makes perfect–or at least better). Find ways to interact with people without expecting a return or gain. The better you get, the more you’ll view yourself as a valuable crit partner, and the more confident you’ll be in seeking others out. Get real good and a critique group might even come find you!
Instead of a goal of finding an agent, how about you (re)focus on your writing skills, getting them so fine and tight and absolutely irresistible that no agent could possibly say no? Same goes for getting a best seller. Sure, some of that might be luck and marketing–but it’s nothing without beautiful writing. Quality writing is something you can control. Fame is not.
Wanna nab a pitch party? Focus on research — what EXACTLY is being asked, how can I meet that, who are past winners, how did they format their pitch, who can I bounce revisions off of until I’m ready?
To paraphrase the hilarious Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, to master the skills needed to reach your goals, the question isn’t so much “Who do you want to be?” so much as it’s “What are you doing to make it happen?”
His blunt questions are: What are you improving at? What are you learning and gaining? Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve…ask yourself, “What do I want to be good at that I’m not?” Then he challenges you to get working on it.
Goals are easy to formulate. But when you achieve them, you need new goals. When you don’t achieve them, you feel disappointed if not disillusioned. Repeat ad nauseum. You’re never done; you never close the loop.
Skills? They are harder, for sure.
But they last a lifetime.
2 thoughts on “Writing Goals vs Writing Skills”
So lovely to see your name pop up in my inbox…and equally fun to see your gorgeous girl looking all grown up!
PS Focusing on the right thing is excellent advice…if only I could find it! 😉
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! My focused skill is interacting with people (I’m out of practice with quarantine), so you’ve given me the perfect opportunity, xxoo