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Be bold, set a goal

Fortune befriends the bold. – Emily Dickinson you have long-term goals for your writing?

I’m listening to a recording of the Bob Mayer workshop I missed while I was in California a couple weeks ago. A lot of his advice is centered around facing your fears and moving outside your comfort zone, something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

But what really struck a chord with me is his suggestion that we should all create a plan for what we want to accomplish, with clear, measurable goals. Not just measurable, but visible, just like the goals we create for our characters.

Whoa, talk about getting uncomfortable.

Sure, I have goals. I have goals for things I have direct control over. Like how many words I write per day, how many query letters I send, or when I want to have a manuscript finished.

But he thinks we should go beyond that and think sales and money. Money, people!

I have no control over money. How can I possibly know what I’ll make in one, two, or five years? How can anyone plan for such a thing?

But if I don’t set a goal, how will I know what I’m shooting for? How will I know if an opportunity that comes along supports my vision of success or hinders it? How will I know if I'm a success or just spinning my wheels?

This is where the fear sets in. I feel silly picking a number, but it’s really fear talking.

What if I say I want to be making $50K/year on my writing and teaching activities by the end of 2015 and I fail? My number might be too unrealistic, just wishful thinking. But now that I’ve asked myself the question, what seems silly is worrying about not reaching my number. If I don't, so what?

Will I likely be better off than I am today? Will I have made decisions that move me toward what I want instead of away from it?


And if I end up making $70K, then I’ll really know it’s time to party.

So, great, you’re convinced. Me too. I’m setting a goal. Several of them.

The next step is to share it with those who have a stake in it—family members who have to put up with you closeting yourself away to write and spending money on conferences, books, and workshops—so they’ll understand why you’re working so hard. They’ll see that you’ve thought about it and you’re serious. Hopefully, they’ll support you. (Just tell your spouse you want to make enough so he/she can retire. Might help.)

But spreading the word is scary, because now you’re committed. Tell your mother you plan to be a New York Times #1 bestselling author and she’ll ask you how that’s going. Every. Time. She. Calls. See if that doesn’t spur you on.

Finally, a goal doesn’t really have meaning if you don’t have a reason behind it (and this helps you sell it to your stakeholders too). Like Bob points out, just as our characters have a motivation for everything they do, so must you. It’s great that you want to make $30K on your self-pubbed books next year. But why $30K? Why next year?

Wouldn’t you be more likely to stick to your plan for achieving your goal—another topic for another day—if you kept in mind that the money means your graduating senior can go to college? Or you can take the trip to Australia and New Zealand you’ve always dreamed of. Or you can quit your day job to write full time?

Now there's something to keep you motivated.

I challenge you write down your goals and the motivations behind them today. Even better, since the goals should be something visible/tangible, see if you can find a picture to represent each one and put them somewhere you’ll see them every day.

Take control of your fear, figure out what you really want and why, and get to work on making it happen.

Be bold, and may fortune be your friend.

Photo credit: J147 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Be the master of your fears

Never let your fear decide your fate.

~ From “Kill Your Heroes” by AWOLNation

Scared_Child_at_NighttimeIt's okay to be afraid. It's natural. But fear also holds us back at times when a bold move would serve us better. I love the above line from the AWOLNation song because it's a good reminder not to let our fears get in the way of what's important.

I’ve been trying to live by that philosophy for years, and while I do pretty well, I still have to fight the angst that often accompanies a new opportunity. In fact, I’ve decided that whenever I feel the fear, it’s a sign that I should probably do whatever it is that has me running the other way.

Okay, this doesn’t apply to things like surfing in a tsunami, diving off a bridge, or anything that usually starts with, “Hey, ya’ll, watch this.”

I’m talking about personal and professional risks where the reward is great but the fear is strong. Things that force me to stretch outside my comfort zone.

When Wiley offered me the opportunity to work on Scrivener For Dummies, I was scared witless. Could I really deliver a 400-page book in three months? S-T-R-E-T-C-H.

Turns out, yes. And, man, is that a boost to the self-esteem.

Korea-Busan-Cliff-Bunji.jump-01Suddenly your confidence soars. The next opportunity comes along and the fear stirs, but you give it the ol’ side kick to the knees and grab the chance with both hands.

You know how easy it is to spiral downward. We turn down chances we really want because we’re afraid we’re not good enough, and then we hate ourselves for being cowards.

Well, you can spiral upward too. But it requires a risk.

Start small.

My first one was Toastmasters. All through college, I didn’t give speeches or presentations in class, I merely survived them. Often with no memory of the event. After three years of Toastmasters and many years of teaching, I looked forward to speaking opportunities. Each one was another chance to prove to myself that I had mastered that fear.

Was I still nervous? Hell, yes. Still am.

But there’s nothing quite like the feeling of standing in front of the crowd, being fully in the moment, aware of where you are in your speech, aware of the individual faces and expressions of those before you, and knowing exactly what’s going on. You can liven things up, change the mood on a dime, speed up, slow down.

You are in control, not the fear.

It’s incredible.

After Toastmasters—and listening to lots of Tony Robbins, Brian Tracy, and Franklin Covey—I made a habit of going after what I wanted. Maybe not as quickly as I’d like, but I did it.

Grad school. New career. Quitting my job to stay home. Becoming a writer. Blogging. Teaching classes. Saying yes to the book.

Next it’s delivering in-person workshops for writing groups (starting this weekend in San Jose, CA!), speaking at a regional conference, and my first national conference workshop appearance (RWA in Atlanta).

Who knows what’s after that?

Self-publishing? Rock climbing? Purple hair? (Okay, probably not purple hair.)

Whatever it is though, I’ll decide, not the fear.

What’s the one thing you’re afraid of that could change your life for the better if you did it? What’s holding you back?

Photo credits:
By D Sharon Pruitt (CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
By bzo ( CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons