Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.
A year ago, I dared to hope.
I wrote in early January, “The thing I dare to hope for is to publish a book, or at least accepted by a publisher, not just any book but the book I have been living through and working on through our “hard year.” I share it now because I am daring to hope, and when I dare to hope with witnesses, it gives me strength.”
One year later, I find myself with a signed contract, in hand, for a devotional to support women who have received a prenatal diagnosis.
We could chalk it up to a dream made real, a wish granted, but even when it is something you have dreamed about since you were a child, I think we shortchange the process by simplifying it so.
Let us see how this measures up with the advice I gave in the past to make your goals SMART.
Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific: book proposal accepted. I wrote, “not just any book.” I prematurely limited my options. If I were rigid here, the year would end in disappointment. That would be a mistake. Listening to other authors, many will say, you need to write the first book, the one that gets rejected, in order to write the book to be published.
Measurable: one book, that was all I asked. I did not say “write more” or “write a good book” or “talk to a publisher.” It was the acceptance.
Relevant: The goal should be part of the big picture plan, not a distraction. Interestingly enough, had I embarked on this journey in the fall, it would have seemed a distraction from the business at hand, raising and homeschooling four littles. In the spring, it was “income contribution” and quite relevant. Circumstances change. Even now, I sometimes ask, is this a distraction? Yet the joy I have in the task tells me it is not only a matter of craft but self-care. Some self-care requires sacrifices in other departments and support from those who inhabit our daily spaces.
Time-bound: set for the year. Since the acceptance was outside my control, I did not plan on berating myself it did not happen. What happens if you do not meet your goals because of outside circumstances?
Like the relevancy question, our goals must be flexible and ready to adapt.
Make long-term goals attainable by turning them into a series of short-term goals.
Ask an author, “how did you get a book published?” She answers, “well, my former classmate introduced me to her editor and bam!”
So simple? That sort of talk makes a goal seem unattainable for the 12-year-old who dreams the same dream the writer dreamt decades ago.
Set the goal.
Start the education. Our culture has tended towards limited the idea of education to the classroom, formalized program, and certificate of completion. With the internet, library system, and Link+, there are few limits to what we can get out hands on for education. Writers associations, Tuesday Teachings, Facebook groups, and books, stacks of books on writing, publishing, and good habits, plus studying one admired author in-depth.
Do the craft. Don’t practice, just do. Do it seriously. Do it professionally. For the writer, it means leave the journal prompts behind. I completed the memoir by rapid, obsessive work. This turned out to be an unforeseen necessity as our schedules filled up in the fall.
Leave the romance behind. The honeymoon period ends. It gets hard. You have to decide if the craft is worth slogging through. Every good piece of writing has hours of editing following after it, loving it to death. If you can stand the thing you wrote after all the editing, it is worth the pursuit of publishing.
That is it for me. For you, will you dare to dream, to hope, and then do? I hope you will. I hope you will take a moment to entertain the dream from when you were a kid, a teenager, an aspiring college student, and go for it, in the way that works for you, for your life, right now.