In my last Reboot post I mentioned how I’d had no plan and no goals for my writing career other than to be a New York Times Bestseller. Well, this year I’m changing that. I read somewhere— in some self-help book or another— that people who write down their goals are much more likely to achieve them than people who don’t.

I know it sounds like a lot of self-help mumbo jumbo, but visualizing your goals is actually an important first step to achieving them. If you don’t know what you want, how can you get it? Jim Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million dollars for “acting services rendered” and dated it ten years in the future. Then, just before the check’s date, he found out he was going to make $10 million for Dumb and Dumber. In self-help circles, this is called the Law of Attraction.

So this week I spent some time thinking about what I really want out of this career, then sat down and made a list of SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound. I then broke my goals into 4 lists: This Year, Next Two Years, Next Five Years, and Dream Big. I didn’t hold back on Dream Big. Maybe those goals are not attainable or realistic, but I’m writing them down anyway.

This Year:

  • Release 3- 4 books. I originally wanted to release 4, one for each quarter of the year, but I’m already behind that. I’m not going to have a release in the first quarter, so I adjusted this goal to 3 or 4. Make it attainable, right?
  • Write 4 -5 books. I actually wanted to write 6 books, but I just got edits back on a book I turned in last year and it’s a complete rewrite. Does a rewrite count toward this goal? I decided no and adjusted this goal accordingly. Write 4 to 5 NEW books.
  • Write 2 proposals for my agent. I’m still stinging from the loss of my last contract. Even though my agent assures me it happens all the time, I can’t seem to stop beating myself up over it. I’m ashamed and angry that I let it happen. I’m afraid to try again. So this particular goal is my most daunting.
  • Make 10K more than last year.
  • Write 1 passion project. (Something with dogs. Or natural disasters. Or both. Oh! *scribbles idea*) I love the series I write now. I love the characters. I enjoy the plots. But, lately, I’ve burnt out on them. For just one book, I’d really like to write something completely different.

Next Two Years:

  • By January 2021, I want to work full time as an author again. Honestly, finding a full time job outside the house after 6 years of self employment is not appealing at all. Unfortunately, it has to be done, but I’m not going to stop fighting for my writing career.
  • Make enough extra income to pay off the advance I received for the contract I lost. Also pay for the orthodontic/ dental work I need.
  • Speak on 2 panels and/or give 2 presentations. I’m not a public speaker. I am your classic introvert, #writercat included. I did a reading once (in front of friends from my old writer’s group) and thought I was going to pass out. This needs to change and the only way to get better is by practicing.
  • Attempt self-publishing again (with a publishing and marketing plan this time!) and release 2 books.

Next Five Years:

  • Consistently release 4-5 books per year. I know if I can do this, I’ll never see a 2/3rds decrease in my income again. One book per quarter is the ideal.
  • Beat my best year of income ($68K in 2014) by at least $10K for three years in a row.
  • Finally win a RITA. (Third time’s the charm, right?)

Dream Big:

These are the goals I repeat to myself every night before bed. These are my post-dated $10 million check.

  • Yearly high six figure income. $800,000 sounds like a good number. With that, I could accomplish goals 3 and 4 on this list. Maybe I need to write myself a check for $800,000?
  • Hit the 1 million books sold mark. Right now, after 6 years, I’m around 190,000 books sold. At the rate I’m going, I might hit this goal by the time I’m 65.
  • Pay off all debt. (I’m looking at you student loans!)
  • Buy or build our dream house. Our current house is falling apart around us and we just don’t have the money to fix it. Buying or building the perfect-for-us house (with the perfect-for-me office) is probably my most wanted Dream Big goal.

Notice I left New York Times Bestseller off the list? Not going to lie, I wanted to add it, but that list is completely out of my control. At least with these other goals—even the ones on the Dream Big list—I can take steps toward making them happen.

Some initial steps I’m taking toward achieving my goals for this year:

  • Read 1 craft book per month. I stopped doing this for a long time, but I need to start again. You can never learn too much and it’s good to occasionally refresh what I already know.*
  • Read 1 marketing book per month. Marketing has been my nemesis from day one. I hated it. It intimidated me. I didn’t do it. It’s way past time for me to slay this particular personal demon.*
  • Don’t slack on marketing. Newsletters! Website! Blog! Reader group interaction! Post, post, post! But at the same time…
  • Spend less time on social media. It’s such a black hole, and yet I find myself on Facebook and Twitter all. day. long. I don’t even really like them. Most of the time, they make me unhappy. There are only so many hours in a day. Why am I wasting any there? I need to learn how to make the time I’m spending there work for me, hence reading every marketing book I can get my hands on.
  • Be consistent. I originally had this as “write every day” because that’s what all the writing books say you should do, right? But I know at the moment, juggling multiple part-time jobs like I am and sometimes working 12 hour shifts, it’s just not likely I’ll write everyday. If I set my goal as “write every day,” I’ll get discouraged the first time I miss a day or two. That’s a hole I don’t want to revisit. Instead, I want to consistently write a set number of new words each week. Ideally 10K, but I’m aware it will need to fluctuate week to week. I’ll have to set my word count limit depending on my work schedule outside the house and what I have on my writing to-do list.
  • Set realistic deadlines and meet them. This is a biggie. I’ve struggled with deadlines over the last few years. Every one missed made me feel worse about myself as a person and an author. It fed into my “I’m a failure” mindset.
  • Be flexible—but not too flexible. This is a fine line to walk. On the one hand, when things change, my goals need to change to match my current circumstances. (Like changing my books per year goal from 6 to 4 to 5 due to a massive rewrite.) On the other, if I keep changing my goals, what am I aiming for?
  • Track how I spend my time each day. I still haven’t figured out how exactly to do this in my planner. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

*I’ll review some of the books I read this year. If you’re interested, you’ll find them on my blog under the tag Author Life Reboot: Book Reviews

If you’re struggling like me, what are some of your short-term and long-term career goals? What steps are you taking to achieve them?

Thank you to everyone who reached out after my last post! It’s nice to know I have a cheering section. And to the other authors who reached out, I’m sorry you’re struggling too. I’ll be your cheering section. We got this. We can do this.