Monday, October 19, 2015

Rethinking goals

By: Karen Albright Lin

We often think big-picture when we talk about goals: balancing time between writing and changing diapers, drinking tea instead of vodka, keeping that pesky desk clean, saving writing receipts for tax purposes and more. But evaluating our day-to-day priorities is just as important. 

I’ve always kept detailed calendars and to-do lists. I’m good at getting things crossed off, yet I have a limited ability to set low priority items aside, meaning out of my head. It’s not that I have a problem determining which projects are important and time sensitive. But I’m a natural multi-tasker. Calling back the doctor’s office, emailing my agent, going to the grocery store, cooking for sick friends, writing the chapter that is calling me, thank you notes, the blog and the workshop proposals… essentially everything, regardless of importance, hovers over me all the time and with equal weight.  One of my yearly goals is to be more realistic when I evaluate urgency, avoid overwhelming myself by tackling one thing at a time, ignoring the other items—especially those that can wait.

My number two goal is the see the world and people with fresh eyes. It’s natural (even a survival of the fitness strategy) to judge those around us and our surroundings based on past experience and what we’ve heard in the news and from our families. But being rigid in my biases hindered growth and stymied exploration. The need to try another way was highlighted for me in January when the world taught me, once again, that characters aren’t simple beings.   

As I walked back to my car in a dark Las Vegas garage, raucous and threatening bluster came from young men dressed in stereotypical gang banger garb. I rushed toward the car listening.  It turned out they were standing near a trash can debating recycling. I needed to adjust my assumptions, helping me create unexpected, more complicated characters. 

Goal three is about the business of writing. I’m going to obsess less about publishing and focus more on my passion for putting words on the page. For as long as I can remember, my number one goal (my entire bucket list) has been to traditionally publish book length work. Over the years I’ve moved a long way toward meeting that goal, have even had several top agents representing my work. In October, 2014, I signed contract for my literary cookbook. It was a project I’d tackled, on and off, since 1992. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time for confetti and balloons; hours after signing, my photographer backed out and my editor didn’t have the power to pay for a more expensive one. More crushing:  I signed to ghostwrite a big celebrity memoir—a life changing contract, a great deal, allowing me to dream my husband could retire.  I flew in to do the interviews, wrote a winning proposal, started the book. Cool, right?  I brought in a top agent who, it turns out from the beginning, conspired to use another of her ghostwriter clients to do the book. Litigation can be more frustrating than editing a first draft, but I digress. 

I learned an important lesson from those two contract SNAFUs. As I got wrapped up in the glamour of having signed book contracts, I forgot that the love of writing should be front and center. That passion cannot be taken away from me by anybody else.  They are big, attitude changing goals. I may struggle hard to meet them. Many things are hard for writers, yet we persevere.

About the Writer: Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at

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