Everybody needs a hero…
In the early days of learning your creative craft, in whatever form it may take, it is good to look upwards to those who have gone before you for the purposes of learning from the example of a role model.
- What were their roots, where did they come from and what started their fire inside which enabled them to overcome the obstacles that they faced?
- Which decisions did they make that benefited them, either directly or indirectly?
- Did they make any horrendous mistakes that you could avoid?
- How long did it take them to get started, and then progress to the point that they are at now?
All these questions and considerations should educate and inspire you as a creative. It is very helpful to see somebody else in your field succeed, and it should provide fuel for your own fire.
But you need to travel your own path
Great care needs to be taken when comparing yourself, as a beginner, to somebody who has already proven themselves successful in their field, though. While it is fine to admire a hero and what they have achieved, you need to reach a balance that is healthy and doesn’t become something that brings you down. And what I mean by this is that you shouldn’t put yourself down with unfair comparisons. This will only lead to jealousy or self-doubt.
Your hero has travelled further in their journey than you have, so comparing yourself to them too closely is both illogical as well as unhealthy for your self-esteem. So don’t do it! They have put in more miles, had a different starting point to you, have overcome different challenges to the ones you haven’t even faced yet and are at a different point in their creative journey to where you are.
The first thing you need is a vision of where you want to be in five years time. Then, based on this, set out your goals for the next twelve months or so. I add in all the months that take me to the next New Year, then add a full year onto that. Set your own SMART goals for the year, then break them down into achievable and manageable objectives. Mark your cut-off dates on a wall calendar – then get to work!
S – Specific: Work out and write down a handful of finalised, tangible goals for the year that will contribute to your overall vision that you are working towards. Five goals is a sensible number to work with.
M – Measurable: Make sure that each of your goals have definite pass or fail criteria with which you can determine your success (or lack thereof). You either sold 1,000 books or more, or you didn’t. You had your artwork displayed in a gallery, or you didn’t. You bought your own domain name, or you didn’t. Do not leave any room for a middle ground.
A – Achievable: Your goals must not be so far-fetched that you stand no chance of achieving them! Don’t be a coward and set easy goals that are no challenge for you, but don’t set yourself up for failure either.
R – Relevant: The goal or objective needs to be directly relevant to advancing towards your vision. Pick goals that show achievement through hard work, not bragging rights that show how good you think you are!
T – Timed: When you time-stamp your goals you add a sense of urgency to the work you need to do in order to complete them. It also helps you to see where you need to be in 6 months or a few weeks time.
So where do I begin?
Where are you at this point in time? What is an achievable position to be in within a year? Now work backwards and decide exactly how you will reach essential markers needed for your progress.
My markers for 2017, for example, are as follows:
- ‘Novelise’ my novella up to a full-length novel and revise price and sales channel
- Add some more material to my smoking guide and revise price and sales channel
- Write and publish the sequel to The Right Side of Time
- Write and publish my other novel – no spoilers allowed!
- Write and publish my collection of short stories for next Christmas
I write this as a newbie writer right at the beginning of his journey. I am neither rich nor famous, but I am seeing progress and I am moving forwards. I can’t compare myself to Hugh Howie, but I can compare myself to me. Or rather, old me. You see, if I look at ‘good ole Hugh,’ I find inspiration from what he has achieved. I am then able to deliver myself a swift kick up the bum when I get the blues. But what I find more inspiring is that in only one year I have hit many milestones that simply couldn’t have been achieved without a lot of hard work and a good dose of bravery. And this would not have happened without setting myself a few SMART goals to achieve.
I’d love to know what your own goals are in the comments section!