There’s an email from Holly Lisle – something from her ‘Holly’s Tips’ newsletter, that’s been sitting in my Gmail inbox for just over a month, and bugging me the whole time. In it, Holly tells a story from her past as a newbie writer, and how she set an incredible goal for her writing output in a fit of super-motivation. That didn’t really work out so well for herself, she wasn’t producing her best work and wasn’t loving it, and on some advice from an agent she lowered her goals. The lesson learned, she tells me, is to set your goals to what you already know you can achieve and thus create ‘A History of Success.’
Now, I’ve learned many lessons about goal setting myself, and I can understand where Holly’s coming from. Setting truly Herculean targets for yourself and failing to come near then could crush anybody’s spirit, and for some people, setting achievable targets, and then, as she says, “writing extra for the sheer joy of doing it” might be the best way to self-motivate. If your motivation is completely proportional to the level of success you feel, then why not?
Myself, I’m not always like that. For one thing, I don’t always blow past my limits just because I feel the joy. Sometimes I might, and sometimes I might be lazy and say “Okay, I’m done for the month now.” More importantly, I don’t always feel discouraged because I’ve set a big goal and don’t quite reach it. It isn’t too hard to turn that around and say “So – I didn’t finish a Holly Lisle lesson in April, or clean as much of my apartment as I hoped. And I didn’t quite finish reading my fiction slushpile that I wanted to have done by now. But I got my summer workshop situation sorted out, I won Script Frenzy, and I rocked the A to Z challenge!”
That’s the beauty of the stretch goal. It gives me all the motivation of setting really high targets for myself, but I don’t have to get down on myself for not going all the way when time’s up, because I was stretching myself. Sometimes I’m stretchier than I thought, and sometimes I’m stiffer than I’d like to be. (Especially my knee – ouch. :( ) And I may not be creating a history of success the Holly Lisle way, but I’m looking forward to finding out what I’ll achieve in May!
How about you. Would you rather build up a history of success with goals you know that you can reach, or try a stretcher with me? I’d love to hear from you whichever answer you have. And a big shout out to Elizabeth Twist, whose post on ‘Permission to Fail’ and the Story-a-day-in-May challenge nudged me into finally writing this. Good luck, Elizabeth!