Defining Goal Themes vs Goals

written by David Steffen

This post is in part based on ideas picked from the brain of my good friend Rachael K. Jones–credit where credit’s due!

I’ve talked in previous posts about the difference between goals and milestones. But on the subject of goals, I thought it’s worth breaking that down further into what I’m going to call goal themes vs goals.


Goal Themes

By goal themes I generally mean things which describe ideals you want to support in the whole of your long-term career in writing. Rachael’s list of goal themes are something like this, and I think most of these can apply to most people with maybe some alterations:

1. Improve my craft

2. Try things outside my comfort zone

3. Move toward positive change

4. Honor the people who’ve helped me

5. Look for chances to pay it forward

Note again that these are all related to goals, not milestones, because they are things within your control. You can do all of these things without it depending on the actions of other people. There’s a focus on improving craft, but not on sales or writing income, because those latter things require an editor to actually choose to buy your story. But the idea is that by improving your craft you’ll be setting yourself up to make more sales, and so on.

And the paying it forward and making positive change are great because they don’t just focus on personal success but in applying yourself to make the world a better place in some way (which you might be able to be more effective at if you have more personal success, mind you).

Your list of goal themes is something I’d expect not to change too much from year to year, because these are large scale pursuits that aim at general ideals.



Goals are specific aims that you are working on right now, and are best if they relate to one of your goal themes (because that’s how you pursue those ideals). Note that although some of the goals here are from Rachael, I also added in some others as examples of how you might pursue the goal theme.

1. Improve my craft
–exchanging story critiques
–workshops with your favorite authors
–writing more words

2. Try things outside my comfort zone
–public speaking
–guest hosting of podcasts

3. Agitate for positive change within my profession
–working with Women Destroy SF
–Supporting diversity with donations to diversity-supporting publications, volunteering

4. Honor the people who’ve helped me
–writing stories in honor people
–jam or other personal goods for your friends

5. Look for chances to pay it forward
–sharing info with new writers
–introducing people
–read, share, and celebrate stories you think are awesome by friends and new writers