What does it signify if you fail to reach your goal?

For some inexplicable reason, I love writing and would like to get published someday. I don’t know where the compulsion came from but at this stage I just run with it, even though I have to admit that it often seems more like a hard slog than a pleasurable pastime.

I embarked upon my quest for publication in April 2013. I began to build my online platform and submitted my work to a variety of publishers and agents. While I received small scraps of positive feedback, my manuscripts were nonetheless consigned to the rejection pile. I knew I was only getting started and kept plugging away, with the vague idea that I still had plenty of time. At some point along the way, I established a goal for myself: aim for success before I turned thirty.

30th birthday cardsAnd then I turned thirty two weeks ago. Uh-oh.

My books haven’t yet been accepted for publication. Believe me, you would know about it if they had.

So I can’t deny it – I failed to reach my goal. I’m disappointed but I’m not as devastated as I expected to be. You see, I understand now that the goal I set for myself wasn’t realistic. I was so GREEN in 2013, I didn’t have a notion what was involved in the publication process. And it involves a lot more than what I was ready for at the time.

One prominent piece of advice given to budding writers by those in the industry is make sure your work is the very best it can be before submitting it. And that’s what I believed I was doing…until each time I became acquainted with an aspect of writing or the submission system which I had not previously known and realised there was room for improvement. These aspects could be anything, from a revelation about suitable word count (turns out 180,000 words is not what a publisher wants to see – take 100,000 off that and you’re closer to the mark), to discovering that an overuse of adverbs is considered to be weak writing. I learned something new, made a fresh draft and submitted it. Then I learned more things. And made more drafts. And submitted again once I was sure this was the best version. My books generated more interest but still no joy.

Fast forward to January 2016 which was when I started to hear the clock ticking. The months were trickling away to that pesky milestone birthday – mere weeks left to achieve my goal. So I began submitting to all and sundry in the hopes of an eleventh-hour success story, right?

Nope.

I wanted to, I did. But this time I knew my work wasn’t ready.  In the past year, I have devoured countless blogs and articles about writing and publishing and I have also received some valuable feedback from professionals who have read my manuscripts. These all gave me a further education in the level of detail that is required in editing and I was motivated to push myself harder at that than I ever have before. On top of that, I’ve been reading some brilliant fiction that has sparked new ideas for my own series – not direct content obviously (that would be plagiarism, Your Honour), but a comprehension of the potential for the breadth of what I was writing. My mind overflowed with extra scenes, unexpected twists, better character arcs, even an additional volume in the series. It was very exciting, especially for someone who knows all too well what writer’s block can feel like. But with this inspiration came the knowledge that there was SO MUCH MORE WORK to do. The books needed a lot of attention to address all of the editing issues. So how could I submit them anywhere, knowing that they weren’t the best that I believed them to be?

That’s why I let the last days of my twenties slip away without any further submissions (except for one novel competition where they were only looking for the first 5,000 words, so I concentrated my efforts on that much of it and sent it off). It meant knowing already with five months to go that I wasn’t going to achieve my goal of writing success by age thirty and in the end I was okay with that. I don’t believe it makes me a failure, particularly when the goal wasn’t all that attainable in the time-frame, given the lower standard of my writing when I started out. If success happens, it will happen in its own good time, and I don’t need to put a deadline on it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one out there whose aspirations haven’t quite come to fruition and I welcome all opinions on the topic. What is your own approach to making goals? Do you try to stick to fixed targets or allow some flexibility on them? Do you berate yourself in the event that you don’t achieve your aim or tell yourself that tomorrow’s another day? I’d like to know what you think!

In my own case anyway, I believe that age is just a number. Or more accurately – as it was pointed out to me on my birthday – a word. And I like words. So I’ll keep writing ’em.

With that in mind, have a read of the title of this post again. ‘Signify’ has multiple definitions, including:

  • What does it mean?
  • What does it matter?

I prefer the latter interpretation.

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2 thoughts on “What does it signify if you fail to reach your goal?

  1. Mam says:

    The goal will be reached, Sus, when all the words have reached the page and are telling the best story you can tell. I’d say just leave ‘age’ to one side! The slog will be worth it – chin up!!

    Like

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