Posts tagged: fear

Apr 24 2012

Hot Topics: Fear, ambition, and achieving your goals

We all have goals. It can be difficult to set goals and work to achieve them, because sometimes it’s really hard to know for sure what we want. But if we can choose some goals and put in the effort to reach them, the rewards are many. It is so satisfying to look at a finished project and know that you put in long hours of work and ended up with something that is just that good.

Sometimes we put in the work and the end result isn’t what we’d hoped it would be. You wrote a book or a short story, you edited it, you got comments and critiques from the people in your writing group and you edited it again, you hired a professional editor to make sure it was all good, but you can’t find a publisher willing to take a chance. And that is depressing (ask me how I know), but it is important to look at the so-called failures as positive experiences.

You wrote a story. There are characters in that story you grew with, laughed with, and cried with. You love them, even the nasty antagonist.

Not only did you write a story, you edited it until it was perfect. That, my friend, is no small feat. And it is why you believe in this story, and why you care so much about it and the characters who live within its pages.

I think it is important to examine our motivations behind the goals we set and to seriously look at what the goals should be, in order to allow us to be truly satisfied with them. Do you have a goal, or do you have an ambition? I distinguish between the two by considering goals to have more concrete results than ambitions.

Are you writing because you love to write? Are you writing because you read constantly and have stories and characters in your head that keep wanting to be written? Are you writing because you enjoy the act of creating and then molding your work into what you know it can – and should – be?

Or are you writing because you want to be published or to be famous? Because let me tell you, if you just want to see your byline on something, you can start a blog or self-publish your story, and if you want to be famous there are a lot easier ways to accomplish that one.

I admit that the idea of being published and/or being famous is appealing, but I started writing stories long before that occurred to me. I tell stories because they need telling, because the words are inside me pushing to get out, because there are characters in my head telling me all about themselves. I write because I see a need for the stories that only I can tell. Others may tell similar stories (there are, after all, a finite number of basic plot lines) but they will not tell those stories the way I would tell them. They will not use the words the way I would use them.

My goal is to finish every story I start to write, not just to a first draft but to a final draft. My ambition is to someday see my novels published, but that is very much secondary to coaxing those stories to final draft.

There is fear in there, of course. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of excellence, fear of mediocrity. What if I am picked up by a major publishing house and people expect me to write a book every year or two? What if I never finish any of these writing projects, ever? What if my work wins some awards because it’s so good and I have to pretend I’m glamorous for some kind of awards ceremony? What if my writing is forgettable, the characters stiff, and the plots tired?

I can’t let fear hold me back. The future is always an unknown. That’s a rough thing for me, since I’m a bit of a control freak (perfectionists often are). But since I really can’t control the future, I have to forget about it – at least, when it comes to my writing – and focus on today. It’s more important to focus on the projects I have in the works than it is to worry about what will happen after they’re finished. Sure, it’s fun to dream, and I will never stop that, but worrying? Not worth the stress.

So set goals, and have ambition. But don’t let fear hold you back or influence the choices you make about your goals. Once it’s done, it’s done. Once you hit “Send” on that query, it’s sent. Once it’s published, it’s out there. You can’t take it back, and you shouldn’t want to. Not if it’s the right goal for you. Not if it’s what you truly want.

Always do your best to achieve your goals, even if you never achieve your ambitions.

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