Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
Nearly 10 years ago now, I made the leap from being a full-time employee in someone else’s office to being my own boss. When I was in the midst of making that transition, I read as many self-help, entrepreneurship, and creative kickstarter books as I could, mainly because I was looking for real-life examples of people who had taken risks and ended up just fine.
In almost all of these books, the authors insisted on the importance of writing down goals. Not just having them in your head, but writing them down and putting them in a visible place. The reasons? Writing them down made them real, articulated desires. Plus, they made you more accountable. These authors also insisted that it was important to be specific with the goals, not vague.
For years, I blew off this advice, even once I was well–and successfully–into my writing career. To be honest, writing down my goals scared me because so much about writing success seems out of the writer’s control. My reasoning went like this: If I wrote down my goals and then, at the end of the year realized I hadn’t “achieved” them, I’d feel deflated and defeated. Better if I just kept my list of dream publications and assignments in my head. I suspect that sounds familiar to many of you because you’ve done (or still do) the same.
For some reason, I broke this pattern at the beginning of 2012. Maybe it was because I felt I’d built up a substantial, respectable body of work, so I felt a bit stronger about facing the possibility of unmet goals (read: a pile of rejections). Maybe, also, it was because I felt I had nothing to lose by writing down my goals– why not just try and see what happened?
So I did.
In the front of my 2012 agenda, I made a list: “Where I Want to Be Published in 2012.”
Since 2012 is winding down and I’m starting to think about my 2013 goals, I flipped to the front of my agenda to see how I’d done. The answer: Not so well. Of the places where I wanted to see my work published in 2012, it looks like I’ve only got one I might be able to cross off the list (a long-form interview pending publication at Outside’s online division).
Of course, I would have loved to have crossed off every magazine on this list–or even just a few of them. But I’m not as disappointed as you might expect. Writing this list at the beginning of 2012 was still an important exercise in many ways, and I’ll be doing it again in 2013.
First, writing down the publications helped me concretize my topical interests. I knew I was interested in food, technology, art/culture, social justice and politics, business/small enterprise/entrepreneurship, and literary nonfiction, but it wasn’t until I wrote down my publication goals that I was able to visualize how those interests might be developed as well as I’ve developed my interests and bylines in the area of travel.
Second, once I wrote down the publications, I knew I had to take some steps to move toward those goals. Even if no one else saw the written list, and even if I didn’t write about it here, something about writing the publications on paper made me feel that I had to take action.
Third, having written down the publications and referring to the list regularly, I went about listening and experiencing the world in a more conscious way. I wasn’t just looking for travel stories anymore; my net was cast much more widely.
This weekend, I’ll be sitting down to write my 2013 publication goals. Most of the 2012 items will be on the 2013 list, and a few publications will make their appearance on my list for the first time. Do you set publication goals for yourself each year? If so, what form do they take (written?) and how do you track them? Is the experience of setting goals a positive one for you? Share your experiences in the comments.