The Journey to Publication

Check the Sign-posts: How Far Have You Come? 10 Tips for Progress Measurement

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved checking the road signs telling you how far you are from wherever you’re going. Especially when it was a really long drive (here in Canada, most places are a “really long drive” … or maybe those are just my vacations), it’s a half-sign of success when the place you’re headed even shows up on the sign: it means a) you’re on the right road, and b) you can now steadily track sign-to-sign as you continue to get closer.

I think in the rest of our lives – especially as we move towards personal goals – we can do the same thing: check the sign-posts. The problem is that you have to create the signs before you can read them. So, here are my 10 Tips for Progress Measurement – customizable (hopefully) for whatever your goals are.

1. Start at the top. We may all “follow our own paths,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t peek at what someone else has done before us. Find someone(s) who have achieved the goals you want, and via either biographies or simple interviews, discover what steps they took, how they achieved these goals. Your journey may turn our differently, if may be harder or easier than theirs, but they will likely be able to offer tips and steps so you can start to make your “map” to success.

2. Do your homework. Next, start to find more generalized “steps” to what you want to achieve. Do you want to get your book published? What are the steps you need to take to accomplish that? Are their supplemental or added steps you may want to take (like workshops, better honing your craft, conferences, contests, etc)? The library, the internet, other people aiming for the same goal are good resources.

3. Take time for honest self-assessment. Most long-term goals aren’t going to happen overnight (hence the “long” part). Are you really in it until the end? How badly do you want it? This may be the time to craft reasons to yourself why you’re undertaking this goal and why you must succeed that you can reflect on throughout the journey. (See my post on doing just that at: Remembering Why We Persevere: What are your reasons?

4. Write down your goal. This makes it easier to go back to. Articulate precisely and carefully what you want, how you want it, perhaps even a brief statement of how you intend to achieve this. Perhaps your overall goal (like getting published) is actually made up of smaller goals (write book, query agents, sign with an agent, query publishers, etc). The more you break it down, the easier it will be to assess how far you’ve come, and where you need to go.

5. Create your first draft “map” or business plan. You don’t need to have quite all the information yet and this “map” needs to be updated and change as the situation, nuances of your goal and knowledge change, and you learn more from others. Use the steps you’ve gleaned from steps 1 to 3 to create this first draft. Just write it all down – making it pretty and editing comes later.

6. Set a timeline. While it may be impossible to know just how long the journey will be, there are some things you can control. For example, how long are you going to give yourself? Be honest: are you willing to continue with this goal for potentially years into the future? That may be how long it will take. Or, is there a cut-off point? What “points” on your map can be given a timeline? For example, if you’re going to query agents, how many? Over what period? How many manuscripts will you create per year? That sort of thing. The more you ground your plan in actual time, the more it becomes ground into actuality.

7.  Refine your plan. Go back to your plan again, and look at the particular points; are any one of the goals on its own too large to simply accomplish? What steps will you need to accomplish each point? Make yourself as clear a map as: “turn right, turn left, straight ahead 3km, then right again, you’ve arrived.” Insert your timelines into these steps. Your “map” should be getting more refined. But remember, while it’s draft 1 or draft 50, it can remain flexible and you can update and change when you need to – just so long as it keeps guiding you in the direction you want to go.

8. Start on the path up the mountainside, towards your goal. Have you packed everything you need? Is your map clear and precise enough to keep you heading straight to the top? If not, go back to the previous steps again; there’s no shame in checking the map or deciding which points are important to watch out for. In fact, checking the map will keep you from getting lost. If you’re all ready, off you go! (See last week’s post on Mountain Climbing in a Fog for what I’m talking about with this mountain-business.)

9. Assess progress and the path ahead. Remember to look back and ahead at the sign-posts. It’s almost as easy to miss our progress as it is to under or overestimate what lays ahead. So, keep your “map” close, referring to it, checking off and celebrating what you’ve achieved while moving on to new points, all towards your overall goal. Watch out for and maintain your deadlines: you’re getting there, step by step. (For more on this, check out: Persevering and Goal Setting, Pts 1 and 2.)

10. Don’t give up. If you never give up, eventually you will succeed. This is something I firmly believe (and have to) and which can help your persevere. If you give up, you can NEVER succeed. If things seem unattainable, perhaps you need to reassess your plan again, and check back on the reasons you set out on this goal in the first place. Have the reasons changed? Has the end-goal changed? Have outside conditions changed? Alter and refine your plan to reflect any of these changes, and get back on that path: you’ll make it, and you’re so much closer to the top that you know!

So, that’s it: how to create your signposts. Does it work for you? Have I missed any steps?

Thank you, as always, for reading. Have a great week, and all the success in your mountain-climbing: I’ll see you at the top! 😉

The Journey to Publication

Mountain Climbing in a Fog: How Do We Measure Progress?

We all have end goals, some small, some, well,  mountainous. Some goals – and their attainment – is easy to measure and see. Others less so, especially if success is something measured in our heads. That makes some of these goals like mountain-climbing in the fog: we have no way of knowing where we are on our journey, if we’re at the foot of the mountain or inches from the top. But we just have to have faith and keep climbing anyway.

Mountain from BC holiday, Aug 2010
Mountain from BC holiday, Aug 2010; photo taken by me.

Sounds “easy,” huh? 😉

My husband has a new position in the company he works for which is relatively new, and which some days, he feels wholly unequal to. He knows where he wants to go, what he wants to achieve, and while I’m certain he has made progress towards those goals, he isn’t so sure. For him, I’ve found that sometimes he questions his own abilities and qualifications, often under-estimating them. And really, I think this is something a lot of us do, no matter what field we work in. When something really matters, we want to put our very best into it – whether that’s our writing, our office jobs, our relationships, whatever. Sometimes it feels we’re not equal to the task – especially when you hit tough terrain on that mountain. All we can continue to do is value and yet continue to improve our skills, abilities, and selves – perhaps sometimes just our confidence – to make ourselves capable and earn success.

The thing with amorphous goals is that it’s very difficult to see the signposts on the journey upwards. At least, not on the way up. Maybe we’ve drawn a map, and we know we’re fulfilling each point – like publishing, with querying, agents, more manuscripts complete, etc.  Equally frustrating is the old adage that no one’s journey is the same: a maddening adage because it’s so true. We have to set our sights on a mountaintop we more imagine than see; perhaps we don’t even know how tall the mountain – or how long the journey – will be. It’s probably better we don’t. Then we pack up everything we’ll need to get there: every skill and wit we possess; faith that the goal is attainable; friends and loved ones to help us on the way; education material to keep improving the materials we’re working with; and a touch of sheer orneriness to keep us going even when many others would have given up.

Then onward we head, up our mountain, towards our goals, towards our dreams and the promises we make to ourselves.

Sometimes the journey will be shorter than we expected; maybe we picked a short mountain, or maybe we started half-way up. Other times, things will get hard; the top wouldn’t be so special if they weren’t. But we’ll promise ourselves to keep on climbing, keep on reaching, no matter what. And hopefully, when we reach the top, the fog will clear if only for an instant so we can look back at the path we’ve come from and at the vista of our success … or maybe we’ll realize we’ve only reached a partial summit of a bigger mountain, a bigger journey, that we’ve only just begun.

Cheers to all the “mountain climbers” out there – may you keep on climbing, and may you enjoy the view when you get to the top.

Next week, I’ll look at how we can establish particular “markers” to measure (or guess) how far we’ve come.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.