Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bits O'Wisdom: Goals vs Expectations

Everyone has expectations and writers are not excluded from this. we ever have our expectations! We throw them out there on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. The problem is that some of us can create a lot of expectations, but we never bother building goals for us to meet them.
So what's the difference between the two?
Great question!

Things that you can control = Goals
Things anyone else can control = Expectations

Saying you're going to write a novel---This is a goal because nobody else has the power to do this for you. Sure they can wheedle, push, and demand but in the end, it's you and ONLY you who can pick up the pen and write.

Saying you're going to sell a book---This is an expectations because you can't control the market or even a publishers mind. Doesn't matter how much you wish it so.

It's important that we don't get the two confused because doing so can rob us of the joy we could have from achieving success in things we can control. Take this for example: You tell yourself that one day you will make the New York Time's bestsellers list. This is not a goal, it's an expectation (that control thing, remember?) and one that could lead to some misery if mistaken for a goal. What happens if you sell thousands and thousands of books but NEVER make the NYT bestsellers list? Does that mean you failed?

Heck no!

But in your mind, it may seem that way. Because you mistook an expectation for a goal.

Take some time to really think about this...sift through all those goals you have and strip away anything--ANYTHING--that you can't achieve on your own. It's great to have some expectations. Great to dream about the fan mail, the publishers clamoring for your novel, the word 'brilliant' after the title of your book in its first review. But it's more important to have goals that will help us get there.

So what are your goals? What are your expectations? Have you been able to tell the difference between the two?

Happy Writing!


  1. I think I got one of mine confused. Selling my first novel within ten querys. Not a goal I guess since I can't control agents/publishers. But I got the rest of them right :) Like finishing my novel's first draft within a year. Still working toward that one.

  2. To be honest, I never even considered there was a difference. I just lumped them all together as goals in my head, which is probably part of the reason I rarely meet the actual goals I set. I was - and still am - so focused on what I thought was the goal of getting published, it held me back from reaching the goal of finishing my novel. But getting published is not something I can totally control. I can only take the steps towards that which I can control, finishing the book, making it the best it can be, sending it out, querying. I will be looking at the process much differently now. Thank you for setting things straight. I needed this.

  3. @Cherri
    No, selling within ten queries is not a goal because you can't control it. Wouldn't it be nice though? :) Keep writing! You will achieve that goal of yours and finish that first draft as long as you keep at it.

    I'm so glad it helped! I made the same mistake too. You're right...only thing you can do is take steps towards it. :)

  4. Ah very true. Thanks for pointing out the differences. It's easy to get these two mixed up.
    ~Alice W.

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