Let’s Talk Goals, Rejection, and Control.

IMG_20170505_210814_334I have become a person who plans for failure. I’m a pessimistic optimist–or is it an optimistic pessimist? Either way, I’m surprised when things go the way I want, because I try to keep my head down as I work.

If I told you what my ultimate goal is, you’d probably ask for updates over the next five years and I’d have to repeatedly say “ask me in 20.” So I’m not gonna share that one right now.

The key word is manageable. I set goals for 2018 that would stretch me, but not break me: write a crappy short story every month (easy), submit as many stories as I can (flexible), and edit draft 3 of my novel (hard).

We’re 5 months into 2018, and so far I have written four flash fiction manuscripts and five picture book manuscripts. Act I of my novel took forever to edit, but the in-depth character work is paying off.

I submitted a flash fiction piece in January and received an encouraging rejection. I edited it, submitted it again in February, and was recently accepted. I submitted another story to a competition and I’m waiting until July to hear back. In the middle of that I somehow signed with an agent–still a little in shock with that one.

Finally getting measurable progress is bewildering. After 18 years of being obsessed with books and stories and plot and voice, my work is getting traction. As I texted a friend this morning, “I made it to little league!”

In that mess of updates, note that my goal wasn’t to get published. That type of goal can easily break a person, because it’s asking for too much. I can’t control the editor’s response, but I can put out the best work that I can and, to be blunt, play the numbers. The more pieces finished and submitted, the more chances I have to be accepted.

What I find really interesting about the process of putting myself out there is how impersonal it can be–and I mean that in a good way. An editor’s job is to find the best and toss whatever is left. There’s a lot to learn in being tossed aside. And if readers don’t like my work, that’s fine. I can learn from their critique, even if it’s just “don’t trust this reader to care.” Time to move on.

My emotional stability can’t rest on readers’ responses, anyway. Just like I can’t make a goal out of publication, I can’t control whether readers like me. As a people pleaser, accepting that will be more difficult but more valuable in the long run. All I can control is how I sit at my computer, decide what I’d like to work toward, and write.

What types of goals do you set? How do you hope for success or prepare for rejection?