When 2018 kicked off, I set an insane amount of ambitious goals for myself—most insane and ambitious of all being to receive 300 pitch rejections over the course of the year.
What possessed me to choose a number that high after failing to receive 20 pitch rejections in the last quarter of 2017, I have no idea. But I set the goal and I figured, hey, even if I get halfway there that’s good.
Well, it’s the third of August, we’re more than halfway through 2018, and I am nowhere near halfway to 300 pitch rejections. In fact, I haven’t even broken double digits. This hasn’t been for a complete lack of trying—I’ve submitted more pitches than I’ve received rejections for (meaning silence, not acceptance, is a typical response)—but recently, I haven’t even bothered to submit pitches because I know I’m not going to reach 300 in 2018. I probably won’t reach 100.
I’ve been talking to a lot of people about goals lately. In recent interviews with different CrossFit athletes—BackCountry CrossFit’s team that is currently competing at the CrossFit Games and Zack Ruhl, an adaptive athlete and physical trainer based in Texas—a consistent theme has been the importance of setting small, attainable goals. Ruhl told me, when he’s working with wheelchair athletes, he only lets them set small goals.
Small goals enable you to celebrate victories along the road toward the ultimate goal, so even if you don’t achieve the big goal, you can look back and appreciate how far you’ve come.
My huge goals have been paralyzing me lately—particularly the goals related to freelance writing, the very thing I want to be my long-term profession. The unreachable goals have aided my procrastination. I’ve hardly moved at all because “there’s no way I’m going to reach that,” and I now find myself in only a slightly better position freelance-wise than I was eight months ago.
“Lower the unit of what you need to accomplish so much that it’s hard to believe you’d feel much resistance to writing,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, in this piece from The Atlantic.
(Feel free to change “writing” to whatever it is you need to get done.)
Realizing my own problem with procrastination and the discouraging height of my goals, I decided this morning to reassess all 15 goals I set at the beginning of this year. I made some adjustments, scrapped some goals completely, and this is what I ended up with:
Eight new and improved goals for the rest of 2018
- Spend 45 minutes each day working on my book (fiction).
- Submit a minimum of one researched pitch each week (nonfiction).
- Be diligent about following up on pitches.
- Pitch may be chosen from a batch of ideas I’ve been researching.
- Resubmitted pitches do not count—but be sure to re-pitch rejected ideas.
- Go to literary/journalism events, connect with people, and stay connected. Invite potential freelancer/writer friends to lunch or coffee.
- Return to 100% physically (long story, but yes, I hurt myself).
- Get a physical and go to the dentist (same as original goal 8).
- Stay faithful with Scripture reading all year long (same as original 9).
- Memorize five new verses (essentially the same as original 10).
- Read one biography (done), more narrative nonfiction, and at least five good novels (done), for a total of at least 20 books (same as original 14; I currently have six more books to read in order to reach the goal, which I plan to overshoot).
Original goals that I scrapped entirely:
Goal 12: Write three one-act plays. (One can only handle so many writing goals.)
Goal 13: Read plays. (I may end up reading plays as part of my regular reading, but I decided plays aren’t a high priority.)
Goal 15: If financially feasible, go to the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. (This conference already happened and was not financially feasible. Maybe next year.)