The Monthly Goalpost is a place for setting goals, thinking about time management and getting a pep talk when you need it.
By Dana Carey
The Monthly Goalpost for February 2013
Yes, there is a double meaning. Sub It Club is all about goals: setting them, reaching them and everything in between. Every month we will remind you to assess where you are with your goals and set new ones.
I’m a visual person and I find having the image of a goalpost in my mind’s eye helps me remember I have some aims. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the goings-on and let the days take us where they will until we don’t even remember what it was we set out to accomplish. The goalpost can be the holder of our objectives and keep us heading down the right side of the field. Go team!
Here are a few suggestions to help you set goals as you work toward publication.
- Write a hook for your story (click here and here for explanations of “the hook”).
- Write a catchy bio.
- Research the market: find books that compare to yours and look up the publisher. To see what else is out there, search at The Library of Congress—you can search by subject.
- Research agents or illustrator reps: see what and who they represent, read interviews they have given and figure out if they are a good fit for your work.
- Design a postcard to send to agents, art directors and editors so they can see your illustration style.
Set attainable goals. Writing a query letter, getting it critiqued, and revising it is a realistic goal. Sending out ten submissions to publishers may be feasible for others while sending out one might work better with your workload this month. Sub It Club wants you to make goals that suit you, not anyone else.
Make goals that you have control over. Sending a project to a publisher is something you have control over. Selling your work to a publisher is not. There are too many variables. So please, make your goals wisely and only send your best work out. You’ll get closer to your goalpost each month.
Sub It Club wants to know how you’re doing. But before you let us know, I want to give you a little earworm for the month of February and I want you to always, always “Sub It, Sub It Good!” Because another thing we’re all about here at the Sub It Club is subbing well—doing the revision and the research to make every submission count.
“Go forward! Move ahead!” Share your progress and your goals for February in the thread on our private facebook group page.
The Monthly Goalpost for March 2013
The moment of truth is here: it’s time to access how well we did with our goals for last month and set new ones. Not only evaluating what we did but also the goals themselves—were they SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) and how will they evolve into next month’s goals?
What were the good outcomes of setting goals? Focus. I was able to narrow my choices as to how to work throughout the month. I directed my efforts as often as I could, to goal-related activities. I felt good about my work time knowing it was helping me reach my goals even if the direct result of each session was not completion of a goal. Getting closer to the goalpost counts too!
Maintaining focus is key. All of my goals pertained to subbing although they didn’t involve actually licking a stamp, sealing an envelope and dropping it in a mailbox. They were tasks that made me focus and remain mindful of the days passing towards my February 28 deadline. Posting my six goals for February right over my computer helped me focus. These six goals were my ultimate goal broken down into daily, weekly and monthly tasks. It was easier to see the progress made towards the goal through these tasks.
Publication might be the ultimate goal, subbing, the penultimate goal but the steps leading towards it have to be completed first. Maintain focus by completing manageable tasks. Prioritize and don’t spread yourself too thin.
Goals generally represent the future. Focusing on tasks that lead to the goal and performing them on a regular basis keep you grounded in the present. Focus on the work, not on the outcome. Learn all you can about your craft, polish your work and submit it with the assurance that you’ve put all you can into this endeavor.
Before you run off towards your goalpost, take a look at this video brought to you by… FOCUS. If you have sensitive ears, turn down the sound. Hang in there until at least a minute fifteen seconds in.
Now, that takes focus!
Sub It club wants to know how you did in February and what you’ve got planned for March. Are you setting new goals? How will the progress you made in February help you in determining what your goals are in March? Are you closer to the goalpost? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing on the March Goalpost thread there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for April 2013 (featuring The March Dip)
The school year calendar of our student days can influence us. For me, September is a point of departure: the summer is over, school’s beginning and it’s time to get back to work. A few months later, winter holidays provide a break and the New Year hails in another fresh start. But then there’s March. That in-betweeny month that seems SO long after the brevity of February. It drags on with no end in sight. Summer vacation is months away. That New Year zest has worn off and you are left with the dreaded March Dip.
If your March was less than you’d hoped for, if winter is hanging around too long, if your subbing motivation has been subdued, I have good news. April is here! And we can use it to reassess goals and renew our motivation.
Here’s what Wikipedia has for motivation:
Motivation is a psychological feature that arouses an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviors. It can be considered a driving force; a psychological drive that compels or reinforces an action toward a desired goal.
“sustains certain goal directed behaviors…” Yes! We need to do that. This submission process needs lots of “SUSTAIN”!
And from Psychology Today:
Motivation is an inner drive to behave or act in a certain manner. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day.
OK! I get it. Lazing around the house all day won’t get those subs out. But sometimes it happens. If it happened to you in March, don’t be too hard on yourself. The March Dip is notorious for making people stay in their pajamas and stare into space.
If your sub numbers were down, if you didn’t meet all your goals this past month, I’m giving you a Get Out of Jail Free Card, or better yet a Spring Out of March Dip Card. April is here. Perseverance and renewal will team up. Your own personal spring will have sprung and your work and submission process will stay on track.
Renew your motivation by believing in yourself and your work. Think back to why you set off on this journey. Take out your work and reconnect with it. Subbing is first and foremost about the work you are subbing–not just the number of subs, replies and rejections.
Persevere. Sometimes you have to power through the rough spots by doing simple tasks that lead to the goal and keep you in contact with it. Staying on track can sometimes mean not going too far off track. Take into account the small things you do towards your goal to create a sense of accomplishment.
Recognize your emotional state in regards to the submission process. If you’re feeling down because you didn’t sub this month, figure out why, make a list of obstacles you encountered and a list a possible solutions to those obstacles.
Reassess your goals. Take out March’s to-do list and see what you’ve done, acknowledge it, reward yourself then make a new list for April. Don’t just put all the undone March items on your April list: reevaluate whether or not they were attainable then modify.
Sub It Club wants to know how you did in March and what you’ve got planned for April. Comment here or if you’re part of the private Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing on the April Goalpost thread there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for May 2013:
Brought to you by the letters O, P, Q, R, and S
As I write this, I’m looking up at my April Goals list and wondering how I can eke out a few more check marks before the clock strikes midnight. By evaluating where my time went and why I didn’t reach certain goals, I hope to improve next month’s results.
Here’s a glimpse of what I did: an illustration for a picture book I wrote; decided to do said illustration over even better; got frustrated then stuck; switched to dummy book revisions; researched targets for submissions; sent a story to a crit partner; researched some more; tweeted; more revision; Facebook; cleaned out my email inbox; laundry; searched online for the French word for bottle brush (goupillon)… You can see where this was going— straight to the P word.
Procrastination. It should have been obvious but it wasn’t. Stalled by the nagging unfinished drawing, I couldn’t fully engage with other work— thwarted by another P word.
Perfectionism. I was avoiding the illustration. Seeking perfection lead to procrastination and kept me from accomplishing goals. Realizing that this illustration was now an obstacle (caught off-guard by an O word!), I turned to yet another P word.
Partner. I sent the illustration to my crit partner and she helped me overcome the obstacle (the do-over was quashed to my relief!). I was making things much harder than necessary. Critique groups are great but in addition, a one-on-one crit session on a regular basis is very helpful.
Individual crit partners can provide:
- deeper feedback: objective criticism and suggestions to avoid getting sidetracked;
- pep talks: motivation can flag and there’s nothing wrong with getting a gentle shove from a trusted partner who understands your long-term goals as well as the work;
- deadlines: there is nothing better than accountability.
I only wish I reached out sooner. Next time…
With a little help now and then, use the O for overcome obstacles to get out of the P for procrastination towards the Q for query. Then right onto R for revise followed by S for submit. And if you go back to R (for rejection), your lovely crit partner will be there to help you change it back to revise… And you get to return the favor.
Watch out for O and P, then Q, R and S over and over. They will lead you to another S word: success!
If you take another 4 minutes to watch this fun video, we will agree that it is NOT procrastination but “filling the well.”
R is also for reassess. I’m looking forward to resetting my goals for May and by the time this posts, that list will be waiting for check marks. Did you procrastinate in April? Did you encounter any obstacles to your goals? How did you overcome them? What have you got planned for May? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing on the May Goalpost thread there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
A few months before Sub It Club came into existence, I had a chat with an old friend who has been in the publishing industry for years on both sides— as a marketing executive and as an agented, published author. I recounted my journey, its ups and downs, those moments of hope when an editor was interested and the letdown when said editor passed… the conferences, the contacts through kidlitsphere, the crit groups … And when I’d finished and it was her turn to speak, I braced myself. Her expression was not one of someone about to deliver a pep talk. It was more along the lines of “Well, you gave it your best shot but it’s a hard road… so much competition and shrinking budgets …” In those few seconds of pause I’d actually processed through the idea that she was right and I’d better cut my losses and redirect my efforts and told myself not to get upset. She said, “You aren’t going to like hearing this.” See! I told you! Then she said, “Keep going.” Oh! Not exactly a pep talk but in fact, better. Simple and to the point. And I remember those two words when I’m working and in moments of doubt.
Then came Sub It Club. I knew I needed to gear my activities towards the goal of submission and needed to make my work submission ready. I haven’t got it all figured out—still have ups and downs but my working hours are more targeted. Sub It Club gives me deadlines by encouraging me to set and evaluate goals each month. I have changed my outlook since becoming involved with Sub It Club: each day I must consciously move my work towards submission.
Towards the goalpost.
So yes, I’m keeping at it. And so are you.
The May list of goals has been torn off the wall. I’ll assess how I did in the last month and how I can move things forward in June. And while I’m at it, I’m going to take an honest look at 2013 so far. I’ll write a “done list” so I can see in black and white what I have done so I can see what’s possible for the rest of the year and how can I realistically achieve my goals.
And just in case you’d still like a pep talk, a few words of encouragement to help you get closer to the goalpost, here you go:
Write on indeed! (Draw on too!)
What have you got planned for June? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing on the June Goalpost thread there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for July 2013: Summer Fun
Summer (or any change in routine) poses a few problems when you’re trying to reach goals. It’s kind of like a diet—the fear is, if you stray a little from the regimen, your willpower will disappear and you’ll never get it back.
Summer doesn’t have to mean you won’t reach any goals. You just might need to adjust them to better fit the challenges summer might present. Also, it’s SUMMER! You need to have some summer fun!
Some of you will have children to keep busy and your writing or illustrating time will be compromised. Use this as an excuse to write or draw something else. To do things away from your computer. Jot down all those snippets of kid conversation. Brainstorm new story ideas at the park or poolside or on the beach. Sketch all those summertime things: flowers, kids, animals, your Great-Aunt Hilda: beaches and family barbecues can be a goldmine.
Others might be taking a well-deserved vacation. Fill the well while away. Concentrate on what’s around you—not what you aren’t writing or drawing or subbing. Take in everything and journal before you go to sleep.
Plan ahead for when you do have desktop time and target those things you can only do on a computer. Send out a query. Submit something. Type up some notes you jotted down at the beach. But use this time wisely. A few well-targeted submissions might be better than hours on the internet ‘researching’ every possible agent or editor.
Make a summertime list of goals and be realistic. You may find that some of the restrictions that a seasonal change imposes will inform your ‘normal’ routine by introducing a better way to get things done. A new rhythm can stoke your creativity. Or while lolling about, you have that breakthrough your story needed.
Whatever the reasons, summer doesn’t have to mean no time to work toward your goals. Make summer work for you!
What have you got planned for July? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing on the July Goalpost thread there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for August 2013: Something for Nothing
On our submission journey we may be so focused on the outcomes and the tasks that get results, we forget the bigger picture: we are creative people. Caught up in reaching goals each month, it’s easy to forget to keep your creativity alive and well.
This month I’m going to set some creativity goals alongside submission goals. Care to join me?
You may use your writing skills to revise a text or your illustration know-how to create a dummy book but what about creating something from nothing or, better yet, something for nothing? Do something you aren’t particularly good at doing—switch paths— if only for a few hours.
Creativity goals are for fun, for filling the well* and for a little serendipity.
Make a mess. Do a bit of collage: tear out images from magazines and catalogues that catch your eye for whatever reason: you love the color; that dude is hot; that dress is so-not-me but so beautiful, you’d love to live in this landscape… anything! The least artistically inclined among us can pick out images and use scissors and glue. Rip, cut and paste up a new way of looking at things.
Go to a museum or exhibition. Take a tiny sketchbook and fill it with quick sketches of everything: art work, museum workers, and other visitors. Or write quick profiles of the people you see. Eavesdrop. Write a short scenario based on people depicted in the art work. Or if you choose a museum of natural history, write snippets of stories based on dinosaur bones or stuffed buffaloes.
Whatever you do, make it a goal— a priority this month. You may discover something new or something old that was left behind in the push to be published. You may have a much needed breakthrough on a work-in-progress. Or maybe you’ll just enjoy an afternoon soaking up all the delights life has to offer while you make your creativity a priority.
Something for nothing might be just what you need to return to your work with an added vigor. Then get back to your monthly goals: writing, revising, sketching, drawing, mailing out queries, refining thumbnails…
Push your work forward in some way this month but don’t forget to nurture the artist in you! What do you do to keep the creative wheels turning? What’s your favorite way to fill the well? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
*Julia Cameron discusses “filling the well” in her book The Artist’s Way and on her website.
The Monthly Goalpost for September 2013: Back-to-school
This time of the year means different things to all of us: a mix of good and bad emotions, nostalgia and melancholy, comfort and angst. Whatever your take on the post-summer situation, you can use this period to start or restart your creative and submission goals. Sub It Club is here to help you focus on your goals or establish new ones.
First day introductions.
Time to take a look in the mirror and introduce yourself to the writer, illustrator, poet, creative being you are.
Come prepared with all your shiny new school supplies.
Get yourself a new pad, set of markers or update your computer programs. Post-it notes are fun and come in handy too.
What did you do during the summer vacation?
This is where you evaluate what you’ve done. Everything counts: sketching, first drafts, notes scribbled on the backs of travel brochures, filling the well. Then go back further and be specific: evaluate your goals and see exactly how much closer you are at achieving them (perfecting your work, submitting it, following up on submissions…).
Check out your schedule.
What do you want to accomplish in the next months? Write it down. Create a routine geared to reaching your goals (and all the rest you have to do in the course of a day). Take out your schedule then when you hear the bell ring, run to your next class—no lingering in the halls or hiding in your locker. This is about showing up and sticking to a schedule to reach your goals.
Hone what works for you in your environment. Set up a space and respect it. Fence off a tiny corner of the dining room if you have to but keep it as yours and don’t let anyone invade. Inform family and friends that your creative time isn’t optional. They’ll need to hold questions, requests, social needs until you exit your specially marked off classroom time and space.
Take out your books, please.
Read in your genre. Or read in a new genre. Dust off your favorite craft books or shop around for a new one. This is where you dive in and remind yourself of things you’ve forgotten or find out new things: inspiration awaits!
Sign up for extracurricular activities.
Conferences and workshops (online or in person), online challenges, a night class at a local college… lots of opportunities exist to learn more about your craft and strengthen what you already know while meeting people who are working towards goals like your own. Join or start a critique group. Use the Sub It Club boards. And fill the well. All work and no play might not be as productive as you think towards reaching your goals.
Most importantly, no matter where you are on your journey, keep going. In this short TED talk, Angela Lee Duckworth discusses her ideas about grit and success. Merriam Webster defines grit as: firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. When you’re subbing, it sure comes in handy so pack some grit in with the rest of your school supplies and have a great year.
What have you got planned for September? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for October 2013: Science + Wisdom (yup, that’s right)
Think about your long-term goal and decide what one thing you can do this month to make that happen. This requires that you cut through what may have become a nebulous ball of fuzzy goal somewhere out on the horizon and whip it into shape. Your goal may have gotten wrapped in layers of sub-goals which may have been transformed into many items on a TO DO LIST. The TO DO LIST is a daunting scrap of paper that multiplies into daunting scrapS of paperS that are then transformed into bookmarks, coasters for coffee cups and wads of paper crammed under table legs to make your workspace stop wobbling. This is all very scientific so please try to keep up.
Once you’ve decontaminated your home of all those LISTS, you can get back to what you wanted to do in the first place: zero in on your GOAL, the ONE GOAL. So, lists eliminated, fuzzy-ball-of-goal whipped into shape, you’ve got the GOAL in your sights. Now think of one thing you can do each day to get closer to attaining that GOAL. One thing that will bring you towards THE ONE THING you are working for. And do it. It can be the same thing every day or a different task each day. Just be sure to do at least one thing a day that works towards THE ONE THING.
Now, this really does work like a scientific formula BUT there is one snag. When you relocate your GOAL, you may need to adjust it (it did fuzz out on you after all). You may be a tiny bit afraid of it (why else would you have let it get lost under piles of lists?). But that’s okay. It’s your goal. You’ll reacquaint yourself, modifying it to reflect all your experiences since last you met and it won’t seem scary at all. How did you let that happen? You will laugh!
Let’s turn to the wise ones for a little inspiration and encouragement.
He who would arrive at the appointed end must follow a single road and not wander through many ways. – Seneca
Do one thing every day that scares you. – Eleanor Roosevelt
If you have an hour, will you not improve that hour, instead of idling it away? – Lord Chesterfield
(Easier said than done. Lord Chesterfield didn’t have the internet.)
Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind. – Seneca
(Seneca again? Well, at least he makes a point and sticks to it.)
(Yogi keeps it simple.)
If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else. – Yogi Berra
The more you say, the less people remember. – François Fénelon
(OKAY! I get it. I’m done.)
Well, almost done. Listen to this man: 3 minutes for the 8 Secrets of Success.
Loved that, right?
What have you got planned for October? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
I’ve been looking around the internet at time management information. I don’t recommend this as there’s a ton out there so researching how to manage your time turns into yet another time suck.
I’m intrigued by all the advice about staying seated and performing one task: BIC (Butt In Chair) or kitchen-timer based methods, like the Pomodoro Technique. If I’m really honest, I’m interested in some of these timer techniques because I like the idea of searching for the coolest kitchen timer for the least amount of money. You know, some great shape that will inspire me to sit down and focus on something for 25 minutes instead of putting it off for some mythical moment in the future when I’ll “have more time”.
And while I know this about myself, I’m pretty sure I’m still going to go ahead and spend time getting a fun, focus-inspiring kitchen timer. A friend suggested using an app or my laptop instead. This is a good, easy alternative but eliminates the hunt. Also, when I sit down and focus, I like being disconnected from the internet. The more I turn off, the more I do, in general.
I do believe in the idea of challenging myself to 25 or for that matter, 5 minutes of action on any given task I need to do. It’s a game I play, and I know that chances are, if I get 5 minutes into something, I’ll keep at it. Getting started is often the hardest part. I’m not interested in charting my progress or really mastering a time management technique (all I need is ONE MORE THING TO DO, right?) or being strict about the time limits I set. All I want to do is achieve my goals. And that demands focused attention to one task at a time. TIME. Whether it’s 5 minutes, 25 minutes or half a day, I must take it and use it in a targeted attempt to move forward towards my goals.
So, I’m going to get that timer and use time, all of it, big chunks, little ones too, to get closer to that goalpost. What do you do to manage your time so you have focused moments to advance towards your goal? Any favorite games you play to trick yourself into doing more than you thought you could do?
What goals do you hope to reach in November? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request. Check out the Goalpost Post archive in the tab above.
The Monthly Goalpost for December 2013:
The Short Deadline or “Don’t Give Up on December”
December already? That’s what everyone is saying. They say it every year. I do too.
A lot of us are finishing up writing and illustration challenges that kept us busy and inspired in November. And exhausted! December, the end of the year, is always busy with lots of planning and preparing. Kids will be on school vacation. There are holiday parties to attend, gifts to purchase, geese to cook. Many of us are in the throes of a holiday or looking forward to one, including New Year’s.
You know—it’s that time when we assess our accomplishments and either sit back staring contently into a roaring fire, sipping champagne (or something) or sit back thinking that we need to extent those 2013 goals into 2014. Looking ahead. But I say, STOP (cue record player needle scratching on vinyl).
Instead of writing off December as a month where it’s hard to get to get anything done because you have so much to do, how about setting some short deadlines?
I tend to work well under pressure (don’t ask me when I wrote this blog post that I had a month to write) and even thrive with short deadlines. Since this is a game to fool ourselves into doing more than we thought we could do, please keep it reasonable. Give yourself a short deadline like:
“I have to send out 2 queries before the end of the year.”
“That outline for my great PB/MG/YA novel idea must be written by December 31st.”
“I have to finish the thumbnail drawings for my picture book story before 2014.”
“I must design and order my self-promotional postcards before the year’s end.”
It’s easy to write this month off. There are plenty of excuses (I know, I’ve used them all!) but resist temptation: write this month ON—write your outline, do your revisions, draw, sketch, refine, submit…
Do it before the clock strikes midnight on
December 31st then celebrate away!
What have you got planned for December? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request. And have a great month!
The Monthly Goalpost for January 2014: Take aim
A New Year is here, Sub It Clubbers!
Some feel the need to evaluate, sum up, and project into the future. Others don’t want to think too much and prefer to take things as they come. I do a little of both and finish with a mishmash of varied results.
This year my strategy is to have one goal and stay centered on that one goal. Nothing else counts. Other things have to get done but I’m not going to let the TO DO list fool me into thinking I’m getting closer to the goalpost.
The TO DO list can trick you into doing a lot of things around the goal without doing the exact thing needed to reach the goal. (That’s right, singular.)
So as you ring in the New Year, take a minute to zero in on the one thing you want to accomplish the most— the one thing you need to accomplish— and fix your vision on that. Take aim and do not stray.
I want to thank everyone for their support and encouragement through Sub It Club. I wish you all the best in 2014. Here’s to all of us achieving that goal!
What have you got planned for January? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request. And have a great month!
The Monthly Goalpost for February 2014
Phew! I just finished updating the Monthly Goalpost archives. Sub It Club is celebrating its one-year anniversary so I felt the need to spruce. It gave me a chance to look over the last year. We’ve discussed SMART goals, focus, motivation, procrastination, time … goals, goals, goals. There are as many ways to achieve them as there are to set them. Sometimes when we’re working towards the goalpost, it moves.
Which brings me to flexibility. When submitting your work to others, you may need to be flexible. Much that happens after you hit “send” depends on things you cannot control. If publication is your goal, things may take longer than you’re counting on. The publishing industry works at its own pace. Agents and editors receive many submissions so they work on a different time frame from yours. Set a goal about sending your subs out but don’t make subsequent action dependent on a response. Keep going. Write something else. Update your portfolio. Send out a self-promotion postcard mailer. And keep subbing.
And you know what they say about the best laid plans. Sure, map out your goals for the year but be prepared to carry a compass at all times just in case you find yourself on unmarked roads. Maybe a job opportunity comes along that will cut into your writing time. The babysitter quits and you have no more “free time” to work on your illustration portfolio. Whatever may come up, accept the change and re-route your journey – you may discover a better path towards your goal.
What have you got planned for February? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request. And have a great month!
The Monthly Goalpost for March: Thick-skinned or resilient?
In my travels on the internet and in the real world (yes, that happens too!), I’ve often come across people declaring that they do/don’t have a thick skin or that they need to develop a thick skin. I used that expression too, especially when I first arrived in New York looking for work as a graphic designer and then working in some pretty fast-paced art departments. Over the years, my thinking on the good old thick skin has shifted. I mean, look at the definition:
thick-skinned (thĭk′skĭnd′) adj.
1. Having a thick skin or rind.
2. Not easily offended.
3. Largely unaffected by the needs and feelings of other people; insensitive.*
Not exactly how I like to think of myself. And anyway, I never really “developed” one. A wise woman told me this: you don’t need to develop a thick skin but you do need to strengthen your inner core. I thought about it a lot and realized how smart that idea is. While the thick-skin is tough talk, core strength is a calm and enduring way to think. Being thick-skinned reminds me of what I used to say when I was a kid, “I’m rubber, you’re glue…” I’ll let you fill in the rest— I can’t be the only one who said that.
When we’re striving for things, pushing ourselves in new directions, we get a lot of criticism. We’re probably asking for most of it and it usually helps. The need to don the thick skin usually comes when we get criticism we aren’t expecting. Or flat-out rejection. Ouch. It can sting so we tell ourselves it wouldn’t matter if we weren’t so thin-skinned. But I’m not so sure about that.
If we’re thick-skinned and don’t let the criticism in, we’ll never improve. Or it will take much longer. That “ouch” means the crit touched us and it’s up to us to figure out why. Once we’ve thought it over, we’re allowed to agree or disagree (at least in part) but we’ve got to think first—put it away and read it later—so that we aren’t simply reacting to the hurt.
Google “core strength.” Tons of links pop up—most concerning abs. And there are tons of tips on developing a thicker skin. Tips like: “Don’t take things personally.” Well, most of us do. Not all the time but sometimes.
But what can we do to build inner core strength? I wish I had one answer. I think it’s a lot like those abs exercises…
We keep at it. Build up resilience. I like “resilient” better than “thick-skinned.”
re·sil·ient (r-zlynt) adj.
1. Marked by the ability to recover readily, as from misfortune.
2. Capable of returning to an original shape or position, as after having been compressed.
See Synonyms : flexible.*
We vary our exercises. If we’re only working those abs, we lose balance. Work on another project. Sometimes one project informs another and helps us work muscles we never knew we had.
We rest. Give our muscles a day off then hit them again another day. Fill the well or catch up on paperwork—it’s all good and it takes us away long enough to gain perspective.
We take a class. Working out alone all the time means we don’t test or reinforce our skills. We hone our craft in classes and crit groups.
All in all, we need to let the criticism in, sift through it, then take action. Blocking perceived injuries with a thick skin doesn’t allow us to grow. Working on strengthening the core and all the skills, including emotional skills, to move forward does allow us to grow.
Thick skin or resilience? What do you do to strengthen your inner core in order to keep pursuing your goals? What have you got planned for March? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request. And have a great month!
*The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
The Monthly Goalpost for April
Cake! No, it isn’t our anniversary again. I was thinking about goals and how while we may have a primary goal it ends up generating lots of secondary goals and even tertiary goals. It can be overwhelming at times and it’s hard to know where to start. These sub-goals can seem like obstacles when in fact, they are all a part of the process.
This could be the cake you get when you reach your goal. It’s going to taste SWEET.
This cake is the sum of all your work. Lots of those secondary and tertiary obstacles goals.
Reaching your goal… a piece of cake, right? Hmmm. Maybe we should break it down.
That one slice is layered and perhaps your goal is too. Layer by layer, work through this portion. Keep in mind that each layer is important and a necessary part of the process. Sometimes I start with the hardest part to get it over with. Other times, I do what I find easier just to get me going and work my way up to the tough stuff.
One layer at a time!
Or you could plan long-term: divide that cake into portions and map out a strategy over many days, weeks, months. The tasks you need to do to reach your goal are now divided up and then within each part, you can prioritize the layers. Bite by bite,
layer by layer you work through
each piece of the whole goal.
Now you celebrate! Bake a cake! Have a party! Enjoy!
Then start planning your next big success.
What’s your recipe for reaching that goalpost?
What have you got planned for April?
Comment here or if you’re part of the private
Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group,
send a request. And have a great month!
The Monthly Goalpost for May
I needed to sew a button. It required thread and a needle and those things could be found in boxes in the space between the foot of the bed and the wall. It’s a tight squeeze but space is at a premium around here. I thought about how when I dig out the boxes, I’ll come nose to nose with many a dust bunny. Better vacuum out that space and, heck, take everything out from under the bed and thoroughly vacuum there too. Might as well rearrange that whole configuration; it just isn’t efficient. Might need to buy something at IKEA to organize all that stuff and create a nice little sewing corner.
Then I thought I don’t feel like sewing on that button; it’s way too much work. The dust alone was exhausting to think about, taking out the vacuum, never mind the need to clean and organize. And forget about driving all the way to IKEA; I was tired just thinking about being trapped in that spiral of perfect solutions to my organizational problems.
So I still haven’t sewn that button. No button. Can’t wear the shirt. All because I got overly ambitious and made it a much bigger task than it had to be.
Was it ambition or was I creating obstacles? When you’re in the moment, it’s hard to see it. But I just need to sew on that one button. I can choose to look at those dust bunnies and live with them and not let them stop me from moving forward. I can take care of them another day or I can just make friends with the dust bunnies. They can keep me company. They can be my muses.
When we write or create art, it’s easy to create obstacles without realizing it. In order to sketch, I need to go out somewhere, I should make a date with a friend to sketch together; a new pad would be better, and watercolors would be great… Instead of just picking up the nearest pen or pencil and sketching WHATEVER is before me.
This happens in many aspects of life. Take subbing. The goal to send out one story gets buried beneath a check list. It’s important to be prepared but sometimes we create obstacles. We are paralyzed by fear, perfectionism, doubt… But whatever is in the way of your goals, examine it: get to know your dust bunnies. Live with them but don’t let them hold you back.
The Monthly Goalpost for June: The Don’t List
Goals! Goals! Goals! Having goals is a good thing. They help you pursue your passions and keep you focused. Sometimes our goals generate TO DO lists. Sometimes these lists get out of hand, generating sub-lists that never seem to get done. One list I’ve never written is a DON’T list but now I think it may be just as important to note what I shouldn’t do as much as what I need to do.
Here’s an example:
– turn on your computer first thing in the morning;
– turn on your internet connection until you’ve spent time writing and drawing;
– check email, facebook, twitter every time you get to a hard part in a project;
– do every little task on the TO DO list before getting to the big, important, goal-advancing item;
– think you can’t take a walk or go to the gym until you’ve accomplished everything on your TO DO list;
– worry about perfection as much as doing.
How’s that for a start?
Go online later in the day. Put off checking email until later in the day and see that nothing bad happens— no urgent message that needed immediate attention went unread. “No-internet” days can be beneficial: take time away without losing contact with the world. Everything will still be there later!
It’s easy to be fooled that checking off items on the to-do list means the day’s been productive. It’s better to do one item that’s truly important rather than avoiding it by taking care of low-priority tasks.
Being determined to get something (anything!) done, can lead to spending too much time trying. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities like health, mental and physical well-being that comes from exercise and getting out of the workspace. It actually helps to set aside chunks of time for “other” things that aren’t goal related. Less work time means higher productivity while working— if a good balance is maintained. Good balance doesn’t mean watching I LOVE LUCY reruns for several hours then devoting one hour to goal-oriented work— get up and out!
Perfectionism can lead to stagnation. Work needs to be top-notch but knowing when it’s time to let go is important. Send your work out into the world: critique groups and critique partners will help you get it ready. Then move on.
What would you put on the “Don’t list”? Comment below. What have you got planned for June?
Comment here or if you’re part of the private
Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for July: World Cup Fever
It’s World Cup time and all you soccer/football fans probably have the fever. I don’t pay much attention to the pitch and its goings-on any other time than once every four years but I’m intrigued by this giant-sized competition. One thing that I think about when watching these elite athletes is the amount of practice and focus they have dedicated to the game. Being goal oriented, in both senses of the word, has led to success. The most talented ball handler (or is it ball footler?) would not make it to the top of the game without a concentrated effort to be the best.
What does World Cup soccer have to do with subbing? This tournament is all about goals and making it to the next round which is very similar to the submission experience.
They train. Weight lifting, running, sprinting and lots of practice drills. We do too. All those how-to books, classes and practicing our craft.
They have a strategy and tactics. Defense, combinations and offense. Yup! We have that too. Defense: honing craft; combinations: crit exchanges; and offense: sending out queries or postcard promos and submitting polished work. We plan and prepare and put it out there.
They aim for that space between the goal posts. They miss more goals than they make but they keep trying. Sound familiar? Sometimes they are so close, it is heartbreaking to see the ball bounce off a post or veer ever so slightly outside the net. That happens to writers and illustrators too—so close but in the end, it’s a pass.
They celebrate when that ball finally flies into that net. The crowd cheers. And you will too with each success. Cartwheels and fist pumps. Your crit group sends accolades. Corks popping. Everyone has their particular way to savor that moment.
I’ll leave you with one last thought: “…well-organized and well-prepared teams are often seen beating teams with supposedly more skillful players, even over time.” from Wikipedia
What have you got planned for July? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for August: Press On
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on‘ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
Not bad for someone called Silent Cal. There’s so much in this quote for us to hang on to while we strive to reach our goals— especially “press on.” Yes, Cal! Press on indeed!
When I read this, I thought Huh. Don’t hear much about Calvin Coolidge… guess he didn’t do much. And I had to laugh at that because, um, he became, among other things, President of the United States. This made me realize how easy it is to underestimate things we do, successes (big or small), and steps towards our goals.
Writing off accomplishments, forgetting all that we do to reach our goals is a bad habit. I berate myself that I’m not doing enough. It’s only when I stop and take inventory that I realize what I’ve accomplished in the last days or weeks. This bad habit needed to be replaced with a better habit where I didn’t measure progress daily. In the last two months, I set one concrete, realistic goal. I knew that that one goal would generate many tasks; things that had to be in place to move forward. Every day I worked toward that one goal by doing minor tasks. I’d worry I wasn’t moving fast enough but FINALLY all the little things were done. I pressed on and the moment came when all the loose ends were tied up.
A friend reminded me to stop and feel good about what I’d done. That’s part of correcting the behaviors that undermine accomplishment. How can we feel positive about our work if we don’t take time to acknowledge what we’ve done? Sure, there’s always more to do but when you reach a goal, step back and take it in. It will reinforce all the positive steps you took to get there instead of the negative feelings about not getting where you want to be.
And then, press on!
What have you got planned for August? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Goalpost for September: Ask yourself a few questions
It’s Labor Day in the U.S. so we should take it easy today (wherever you are, go ahead and take it easy!). But it’s also September which for those of us in the northern hemisphere, means the end of summer and the beginning of another school year. It’s a hectic time and one filled with all kinds of emotions. Some of us are experiencing the empty nest for the first time (yup, that’s me) while others are happily sending the kiddies off to school for the day knowing they have some serious time to commit to goals. Others are feeling the tug of back-to-school even though they aren’t attending— it’s a conditioned response ingrained in us after all those years of new classrooms and shiny new school supplies. Whatever your situation may be this September, take a moment to reflect, look into the future you want, set some long-term goals and break them down into realistic tasks.
To that end, I’m providing a little questionnaire to get you thinking.
How can I break it down into realistic short-term goals? Can I create a step-by-step plan?
Should I schedule my time for creating? Can I stick to the schedule?
What are obstacles to my goal? Are they external or internal? How can I eliminate obstacles or at least work around them?
How can I create accountability for tasks and goals?
How can I gauge my progress towards my goals?
Should I set a timeline for re-evaluating my goals?
How will I know I’ve achieved my goals?
How will I reward myself for achieving goals?
That’s a lot of questions but worth taking a few minutes to ponder. Write your answers down and refer to them from time to time. If you need clarification on some of these questions, check out past Goalposts on Sub It Club in the archive (menu bar above) or just click on “goals” in the sidebar “categories”. Last September’s Goalpost has some ideas to get you started (click here).
Good luck! What have you got planned for September? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for October: Enjoy the ride
The Monthly Goalpost is all about setting goals and pursuing them. But sometimes we need to take a step back instead of looking for the next step forward. So instead of setting new goals this month, how about stopping and enjoying the process of our art? Why not make this month’s goal to focus on process? Take time to live in the moment and to own it.
Looking forward too much makes Jane an anxious girl. Outcome-focused goals force us to look at the future— the unknown. We don’t have control of the future but we can possess the present and by doing so, get the full benefit of it. We can control process and what we choose to do today. The benefit is heightened satisfaction because instead of judging what we’ve done based upon future achievements, we’ve enjoyed the work.
Here are some suggestions to help stay present in our process and work.
- Develop a daily routine—it’s part of the process. Using our skills will boost our skills making us more confident.
- Think a little more instead of pushing to produce. Meditating and mulling may give birth to some new ideas or solutions to nagging problems.
- Encourage experimentation. Be open. Serendipity is in the present not somewhere off in the future.
- Stop and take in what has been done. Admire and acknowledge achievement.
Satisfaction derived from effort and practice will help us to enjoy the process and strengthen our skills at the same time. All of this will bolster our confidence because we’ll know we’re on the right path. If we judge our path by outcomes, results or the approval of others, our confidence will be shaky.
What are your process-focused goals for this month? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for November: Resets and Objectives
Setting a goal gives you focus. It’s the first step towards defining the action necessary to achieve it. Sometimes you try to achieve your goal but you don’t reach it. This is where resetting your goals comes in handy.
Sometimes the only way to evaluate a goal is to try it. For example, your goal was:
“Be published in one year’s time.”
The year is up and you aren’t published.
Do you give up the goal? No! You reset the goal.
Yes, try again. But before you do, be sure your goal is realistic. Maybe setting a timeframe on an endeavor like publishing is not realistic since you don’t have any control over the publishing part. That is in the hands of many professionals but not necessarily, you.
Once you’ve reset a more realistic goal with perhaps a more flexible timeline, set objectives.
Objectives are great because they can be multiple and achievable in a short period of time while your goal may not be. And you have control over them. Short-term objectives completed constantly and with care can get you closer to the goal.
Objectives are specific.
Write a first draft.
Sketch an image for a promotional postcard mailer.
Objectives are concrete.
Revise that first draft.
Revise that image for a promotional postcard mailer.
Objectives are measurable.
I revised my manuscript it’s ready for my crit group.
I revised my postcard design and shared it with my crit group.
Objectives are actionable.
I’ve polished my manuscript with revisions from my crit group and it’s ready to submit.
I’ve created finished art with feedback from my crit group. I’ve sent the postcard design to the printer and it’s ready to send to art directors and editors.
Now you’re ready to try again. And while you may not yet succeed in achieving the goal, you will have accomplished many things that will allow you to “fail better.”
What have you got planned for November? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.
The Monthly Goalpost for December: Recycling is good for you!
Does the first of December send a chill down your spine? And not because of dipping temperatures? Does the end of the year send you into a hurry-up- finish-up-why-did-I-take-all-this-on frenzy? Everyone has lots to do, holidays to celebrate, school vacations, end-of-year work duties…
Let’s decide to enjoy this month and all it has to offer without too much frenzitude. Let’s do that by finding ways to make everything easier like… recycling. Use last year’s decorations, wrapping paper, holiday menu, school break program and maybe even a few gifts (Aunt Bertha’s hand-knitted shawl?). And as an example I’m going to recycle a few past Monthly Goalposts that may fit in your own particular frame of mind right now. So if you’re new to Sub It Club or have missed a Goalpost here and there, get ready to click some oldies but goodies.
This was the first! For Sub It Club’s newer members, this might be a nice place to start thinking about your goals for the coming year.
Yes! I know—it’s December but this Goalpost is all about flagging motivation and renewing it. It’s not just for March anymore!
There’s nothing about Sesame Street here—but there is a discussion of procrastination, overcoming obstacles and crit partners. Might be just what December needs!
Who can resist kitchen timers that make you sit down and do your work?
Nurturing the artist in you might be the perfect thing to do during this crazy end-of-the-year period.
This was the month I revealed that I have a problem with dust bunnies. Confession is good for the soul. And we see how easy it is to create obstacles.
This is about cake. Well, sort of. Read about overwhelming goals broken down into manageable bites.
This is an old favorite of mine. Some strategies for building inner core strength and resilience.
The Don’t List asks you to focus on a few things other than your TO DO list.
Now is a perfect time to evaluate your goals and set new ones.
Ah! Finally! December. It’s still a crazy busy month. If you’d like to make the most of things, read about settings short deadlines.
Now you have a nice overview of Goalposts to help you this December and into the New Year. I hope you have a happy, balanced, productive December.
What have you got planned for December? Comment here or if you’re part of the private Sub It Club Facebook group, tells us how you’re doing over there. If you’d like to join our Facebook group, send a request.