In a recent blog post, Patrick Ross mentioned his enthusiasm for setting goals rather than making New Years Resolutions, which none of us seem to keep. He started with a vision statement – what he enjoys doing and where he’d like to be in five years, which Ross soon realized would take ten.

Note: Ross referred to the success of the Soviet Union’s Five Year Plans, an unfortunate model because they all failed miserably. Goals were not met, and many people suffered and died. Governments, or should I say politicians, Five-Year Plans can be like weight-loss scammers: they peddle success stories, take your money, disappear when it’s accountability time, and start all over again. (See this article in the January/December issue of Atlantic Monthly.)

Back to vision statement and goals, in July 2010, I knew I liked to learn and teach, so I set the following goals for my sabbatical:

1. Build a mountain house for eventual relocation
2. Write a book
3. Find a new position

messy_deskBy the end of June 2011, we received our certificate of occupancy – relocation would happen in late 2012. No new position yet, but I had a first draft of a book – or so I thought. I took marketing classes during the summer of 2011 and discovered I didn’t know what my book was about – not uncommon for writers, but disconcerting to me. So I took writing classes thereafter and discovered I had much to learn about creative nonfiction – my messy desk yet attests.

There’s a story that Bill Roorbach tells in his essay On Apprenticeship. One evening at a cocktail party, he met a surgeon who, upon discovering Roorbach’s profession, said she would like to take six months off and write a book. Roorbach replied that he’d like to take six months off and become a surgeon.

“You can’t become a doctor in six months time,” she said. Or a writer in a year or maybe even five years, I discovered.

So 3½ years later, here are my revised goals:

1. Continue the relocation process: physical, intellectual, spiritual, social
2. Publish an essay and find a book publisher – essay and book in third draft mailed to my editor this week
3. Discover God’s Vision for me at this time in my life – 

And the last goal shall come first.

What are your goals for 2014?


  1. fit2sail

    I am not a “resolution” fan either – goal setting feels more direct to me. I wrote a blog post about resolutions (seems like something to do in the first part of the year, I suppose.) Let’s see – my goals. Launch Tasty Thursday with Nica on earless (but I know that’s happening, so it doesn’t really count.) One week at a time, get breakfast in my kids before they go to school. Help 250 people with health and fitness this year. Finally send the Marge piece off to be considered somewhere. Reconnect/connect in person with one friend a week.

    Happy 2014!

  2. Patrick Ross

    Hi Carole,

    I’m glad my recent post inspired this one! And yes, what I came up with is a vision statement, even if I didn’t use that terminology; thank you for that contribution.

    I like your approach to your goal-setting, and your adjustments. And I wish you luck with them!

    I’m sorry that my sarcasm fell flat with you when referencing the Soviet Union. I wrote: “Anyone can do five-year plans; the Soviets did them all the time, and look how well that worked out for them.” The country hasn’t existed for 21 years, so I was indicating they didn’t work out so well. And I’m aware of the horrors they caused; I graduated with a BA in International Relations in 1989 focused on becoming a Cold Warrior, only to see the Berlin Wall fall that summer. I needed a new 10-year plan in 1989, let me tell you! 🙂


    • Carole Duff

      Hi Patrick –

      Ah, my literalism missed your humor – thanks for the correction. I look forward to reading your posts every time they pop into my email. The Artist’s Road provides guidance and witness to the journey. I can’t wait to read your book.

      I, too, took classes from your friend Sara Mansfield Taber at The Writer’s Center. Sara was my first writing teacher (The Writer’s Toolbox in 2011) and is the patient, kind, supportive editor who will receive my third draft and essay this week.

      Thanks for taking time to read my blog and comment. And good luck with your agent search.


  3. Carole Duff

    Love your posts and goals, Nica – and Tasty Thursday. Things are really taking off for you! Yeah!!

  4. Keith Kenny

    Your reference to the Five Year Plan reminded me that there are always ways to hedge on goals and meet them. The Soviet shoe factory that was told to produce 10 million pairs of shoes was not given the leather, nails, manpower, etc., but still met their quota … 10 million size one baby shoes … the Commissar received a hero medal.
    I will write and submit for publication 12 short stories this year … TBD if any are actually publication worthy.

    • Carole Duff

      Thanks for your comment, the data and your goals – love them! -C.D.



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