Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking Ahead: Goals Vs. Wishes

Quite some time ago, in the late 1970s I think, I stopped making New Year's resolutions (which always seemed to me to be engraved invitations to guilt) and started making goals. One year, 5 year, 10 year, and lifetime goals. They'd be something like:

1 year -- write 3 short stories
5 years -- sell a story
10 years -- sell a novel
Lifetime -- win a major award

As years rolled by, I wrote those stories, I sold one and then another, and the goals shifted. Sometimes they got more specific, like "1 year -- finish X project" and sometimes more vague, "Write a work of enduring literary quality." Items came and went, like getting an advance of Y thousand dollars or getting published in hard cover or getting reviewed in Z publication. I found that the more I achieved, the less satisfied I was with how I was progressing with my goals.

Why? I was working well, selling regularly (short stories, novels). I loved my work. But I was confusing goals with wishes. A goal is something I can achieve by my own effort. My goal is to finish Chapter 27; my goal is to hike 5 miles; my goal is to play the Brahms Waltz in A Flat. A wish can seem like a goal -- it's something I want and have to work for. But its achievement relies on some aspect that is beyond my control. I can want to win a Pulitzer Prize, I can work my brains out to that end, but I can't control the factors that lead to such recognition. As I gained more professional experience, I became more realistic in what I could and couldn't control. One novel sale does not guarantee the next. I have absolutely no way of making a movie studio take enough interest in my book to option its film rights. I can't force my publisher not to lay off my editor if that's what they must do (this has actually never happened to me, but it has to my friends).

So some things become wishes. I wish that my book be selected by the Science Fiction Book Club. I wish that it sell overseas. I wish I get invited to be Guest of Honor at my favorite convention.

With time comes wisdom. Wishes get smaller and bigger at the same time.
I wish that my words bring hope and comfort to those in hard times.
I wish that my stories help to further understanding and acceptance of all peoples.
I wish that my heart may speak through my work in a way that brings light and joy.

I wish that I may be an instrument of peace.

No comments:

Post a Comment