We’re approaching that time of year again, when it’s common to look back over what we’ve achieved and think about the future.
But when it comes to thinking about that future, it’s easy to come up with a list of writing-related goals … but are they the right goals? Here’s an excerpt from my Business of Writing feature in the latest issue of Writing Magazine (out now!).
Goals are a complete waste of time, if you don’t have a vision. As my line manager at the local authority where I used to work over twenty years ago always enjoyed saying, ‘Any road will do, if you don’t know where you’re going.’ (That’s a misquote from Alice in Wonderland, in case you were wondering.)
What we need first is a vision.
A vision is nothing more complicated than an aspiration, so a vision statement is a dream or aspiration summarised in a simple sentence.
Most businesses have a vision statement. Google’s vision is to:
‘Organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’
So what is your dream? What sort of writer do you aspire to be? Where would you like to see yourself as a writer in five, ten, or twenty year’s time? How would you encapsulate this writing dream in one sentence?
Remember, this is all about your aspirations as a writer. Your writing business is exactly that: your writing business. Nobody else’s. There is no competition to have a better vision than anyone else. Depending upon your dreams, your vision statement might read something like one of the following:
– to earn a living as a full-time writer, entertaining readers through a series of crime novels, published by one of the big, traditional publishers.
– to supplement my existing income through the regular sale of my short stories to magazines, anthologies and competitions.
– to write and self-publish practical, accessible, informative books on the subject of the UK canal system, becoming recognised as an authoritative expert on the subject matter.
– to write, self-publish and publicise a series of thriller novels in the style of Lee Child, with an iconic central character readers love, selling millions of copies worldwide.
– to write humorous poetry for local events and festivals, that encourage more people to engage with poetry, and to become known as the Pam Ayres of Preston (or wherever you happen to live).
Once you have your vision, then you can create some goals and targets, because now you know where you’re heading. With a destination identified it’s possible to determine which roads you need to take to help you get there. While a vision is the dream, the goals are the actions needed to attain that dream.
Think about the following Japanese proverb:
‘Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.’
It’s an apt proverb for writers. Having a dream, or a vision statement, for our writing business isn’t enough. We have to act. This is where our goals come in. Our vision won’t happen, if we continue sitting there, gazing wistfully into the distance. We need some short-term targets to aim for, because these give us a way of measuring our success along that journey towards our dream writing life.
So don’t think about your goals for 2020 until you’ve identified your writing business vision statement. It will help you see way into the future. It will help you become the writer you’ve always dreamed of becoming. And it will make it easier for you to plot how to get there.
Having 2020 vision is not just about the next twelve months. It’s about your whole writing life ahead of you.