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Effective Goal Setting

| January 3, 2011 | 11 Comments

Now that the New Year is officially underway, many people are starting 2011 with new goals and resolutions.  As I stated in my last column, I’m a true believer in the power of goal setting.  So, let’s set some goals, shall we?  But let’s make sure we do it the right way.

Yes, there is a wrong way to set goals, and not all goals are created equal.  As you set your aspirations for the year, remember that effective goals share the following characteristics.

Effective Goals:

  • Matter to you – This is your life.  Your goals need to be YOURS.  Not your parents’, friends’, your collaborators’, etc.  As you set a goal, ask yourself why it’s important to YOU.
  • Are Specific – The more specific you can be about your goals, the better chance you have at achieving it.  It’s very tough to hit the bullseye on a dartboard when wearing fogged up glasses.  Always err on the side of more specific than less with your goals.  (Ex. Aiming to sell 1,239 comics this year is a better goal than “at least 1000.”)  When your goals are too vague, determining appropriate action steps become difficult.  So paint a clear picture.
  • Are Measurable – The only way to know whether or not you’ve achieved your goal is if there is a way to measure it.  The most common goal or resolution this year (and every year) is to “lose weight.”  Guess what?  “Lose weight” is an awful goal.  It’s not specific, and it’s not measurable.  “Become a better artist” is another poorly constructed goal.  How are you going to measure that?
  • Have a Time Limit – The difference between goals and dreams is that goals have a time frame attached.  Setting a time frame will keep your goals realistic, and allow you to pace your action steps needed to achieve that goal on a calendar.
  • Are Put in Writing – There is a power to putting things in writing.  Getting goals out of your head and onto paper makes it more likely you’ll achieve them.  Publically stating your goals declares your intentions to the universe, and can help attract the support you need to make them a reality.  Posting your goals places where you will consistently review them helps you stay focused towards achieving them.

Practicing What I Preach…

So, what are my goals this year?  It’s important to set goals in all aspects of your life (career, financial, family, physical, spiritual, etc.)  But, since this is a comics column, I’ll share three comic related goals I have, which I will achieve by the end of 2011.  They are:

  • Write 220 pages of comic script.
  • Net $1,532 in profit from my comic business.
  • Triple my network of contacts in comics (creators, editors, publishers, columnists, readers.)

Each of the above goals is important to me.  I spent much of last year at the art table, finishing up my first graphic novel, OVER.  2011 will be a year where I focus back on improving my writing, collaborating with incredible artists, and increasing my total output.  It also needs to be a year where I show a profit for the work I’m putting in.  While my comics related income has grown steadily the past few years, so too have my expenses.  This year, I’ll finish in the black.  With each goal, I’ve tried to make sure that they are measurable and specific.  And by posting them here, well, they’re a matter of public record.  365 days from now, I’ll be back to face the music.

So what about you?  What are your personal, specific, and measurable goals for 2011?  If you’re willing to share them in the comments field below, I’d love to hear them.  If not though, I do hope you’ll put them in writing for yourself.

Setting an effective goal is only the first step to achieving it.  Creating an action plan that breaks that goal down into discrete, bite-sized, actionable chunks is the next crucial step.

Next Week:  Action Steps


Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, and educator residing in Newburyport, MA.  He is the writer and co-creator of EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and Tears of the Dragon, a swords and sorcery fantasy.  His past work includes OVER, a romantic comedy graphic novel, and Super Seed, the story of the world’s first super powered fertility clinic. His work has been published by DC and Arcana comics.

Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, a new website empowering creators to help each other make better comics.

Contact Tyler via email (, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or check him out on Facebook.

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Category: Comix Counsel

About the Author ()

Tyler James is a comics creator, game designer, educator, and publisher residing in Newburyport, MA. He is the writer and co-creator of THE RED TEN, a superhero murder mystery, EPIC, a superteen action comedy, and TEARS of the DRAGON, a swords and sorcery fantasy. Tyler is the publisher and co-creator of ComixTribe, which is both a new imprint of quality creator owned titles, and an online community where creators help creators make better comics. Follow him on Twitter @tylerjamescomics, or send him an email at

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  1. Action Steps | ComixTribe | February 21, 2011
  1. John Lees says:

    I already posted this reply in the previous Comix Counsel column, but I think it’s probably more relevant to this topic:

    In terms of my own past goals, I think I’m guilty of, with regards to comics, not setting specific goals in my mind, but instead only vague aspirations. And I think this is a major weakness of mine that I have to overcome: namely, the fear of setting a specific goal, in case I’m unable to accomplish it. And as like any creative field, rejection and setbacks are an inherent part of writing, so a fear of them can be paralysing and lead to you getting nothing done.

    So, as New Year’s Resolutions, I’m going to actually set a couple of specific goals for 2011:

    1. Become a comics writer.

    By this I mean, I want to be able to actually say that I’m a comics writer. Not that I’m “an aspiring comics writer”, or that “I’d like to write comics,” but actually start doing it. “The Standard” has been in development since 2009 – I want this to be the year that it is published, that it becomes available for people to buy. Fame and fortune is not the goal, though breaking even would be nice. No, my goal is simply to be able to say that I’ve at last worked my way through the complete process of creating a comic, right up to selling it, so I can stop “aspiring” and start “doing”.

    2. Do more to support fellow creators.

    I buy plenty of comics from the Grant Morrisons, Geoff Johns and Robert Kirkmans of the comic world, and will happily continue to do so. But this year I intend to do more to support creators who, like me, are trying to become established and raise their profile. I was pleased to hear of the success Mark Bertolini is enjoying with “Breakneck”, and hope to add to that success in my small way by buying each issue of the series. Jonathan Rector – the artist on “The Standard” – will soon be releasing an art book that I will be picking up. And I’ve heard nothing but good things about “Over”, so I intend to seek out the collected edition of that too. We are a community, and I think it’s good that we support each other and enjoy each other’s success rather than simply worrying about our own.

    3. WRITE MORE!

    This ties in a litte to my first point, but I often hear of other writers juggling multiple projects, blazing through entire scripts in the time it takes me to write a page, and being very productive and active in their chosen field. Meanwhile, it seems like it takes me an eternity to get anything written. Steven Forbes said in an earlier Bolts & Nuts column, “The more you don’t, the more you won’t.” I intend to take that to heart this year, and work on writing multiple scripts for various projects and – even if I don’t go forward in producing them all – it means I have a back catalogue of work at my disposal, and with every script I’m learning more about the craft of writing.

    Those are the resolutions that spring to mind right now. If I come up with any more I’ll write them. We’ll see how well I’ve kept to my vows come January 2012!

  2. Tyler James says:

    John, I’m gonna push you to go further with these goals. They’re great, let’s just make them more specific and more measurable.

    Become a comics writer. Hey, you’ve been writing comic scripts for some time now. Sounds like your real goal here is to COMPLETE, PRINT, and SELL “The Standard.” Great goal, you’ve been working at for a while now, and Steven tells me it’s a solid yarn. So let’s get specific. Set a target date for the book to be in your hands. And then let’s work backward to make that a reality. (Next week’s column.)

    Do More to Support Fellow Creators. Too vague and not measurable. Turn it into something tangible and specific. Ex.) “I’m going to support 1 worthy comic related kickstarter project a month.” Or “I’m going to add one mainstream title to my pull list each month and review it on my blog.”

    Write more! What’s more? Word count? Page count? Story count. Set a goal to hit. Be specific. Post a tally/scorecard near your computer.

    Again, just suggestions on how to increase the odds that you’ll achieve your goals this year. Looking forward to seeing you do so!

  3. John Lees says:

    You’re right, Tyler. In the context of what you said in today’s column, the goals are all too vague. So I’m going to start thinking in numbers and specifics, follow your suggestions, and refine my goals further.

  4. Ruiz Moreno says:

    As someone who’s really beginning his journey into comic writing, I set a specific goal of completing a minimum of six scripts this year. Kind of vague, I know. I’m really just in the process of starting out from scratch. I’ve read comics for near twenty nine years now and I used to be an illustrator but I believe I have it in me to tell fun stories. I’m really excited about this year and as far as relating to this site and goals, that’s the only one I have. 🙂

  5. Tyler James says:

    Six comic scripts sounds like a solid goal to me, Ruiz. Good luck!

  6. Emily Gillis says:

    All right, here are my goals for the year:

    1. Not miss a single update this year. That means one page a week, 52 comic pages this year. (Hopefully I’ll speed up enough through this to do 2 a week by next year!)

    2. Complete the chapter 1 rewrite of my comic by July, giving me plenty of time to get it printed for SPX in September.

    3. Kick serious butt on my collaboration project! In addition to working the whole script into something I can translate into a comic, I’d like to get 50 pages penciled and inked this year.

    4. Start making money off of my work. I know it’s vague, but I really have no idea as to what kinds of numbers I should anticipate, as this will be my first year even thinking about getting paid for personal projects! I’ll revise this goal once I do more research on it.

  7. Tyler James says:

    Sounds like a good list of goals, Emily.

    Yes, the dollars and cents thing is tricky. I had a very good 2010 from an income side, but also invested a ton of money into my biz to help make that happen. I’m going to talk about budgeting and cash flow in a few upcoming articles.

    Might be worth identifying what aspects of your work you want to turn a profit from. Example: I’m going to do X number of commissions at $X a piece, for a total of $XX dollars by June.

    Good luck!

  8. John Lees says:

    To follow up on my previous goals, trying to take Tyler’s advice to be more specific:

    1. You’re right, the best way to zone in on my vague “be a comic book writer” goal is to focus it in on “COMPLETE, PRINT and SELL The Standard”. I’ve been going with a hazy, “it would be nice to get the first issue available for sale around March or April or Mayish,” but maybe what I need to do is set a specific date now when I’d like the first issue to go on sale. Conditions permitting, I’ll set that date as 28th April 2011.

    2. This is a tricky one, as it’s simultaneously specific yet hard to quantify. By “support fellow comic creators”, I don’t mean in the sense of adding more mainstream books to my pull list. And I don’t even mean “support indy comic creators” in a general sense, in that I want to set an arbitrary goal of buying x number of indy comics this year then set about buying titles just because they’re indy. Rather, what I’m talking about is showing my appreciation to fellow creators that I’ve talked to, that I (as far as one can do so online) know and like. It’s easy to talk to an aspiring creator and wish them luck on their comic, then never actually read it. As a community, if we’re networking and trying to build up a group of contacts and peers, part of that should be sharing in each other’s success, and I’d ideally like to lead by example on that front. So I’ve bought a copy of “Over”, I’m going to be looking into picking up the first couple of issues of “Breakneck” by Mark Bertolini, I’ll be buying Steven’s “Bullet Time” once that becomes available – I actually went out of my way not to read it in webcomic format and spoil myself when I heard it was being published. So I don’t really know how to measure that, or even if I’ve explained myself clearly. Maybe write a shortlist of creators whose work I intend to follow and support?

    3. Now, for this one I was going to set myself the goal of writing 12 22-page comic scripts in 2011, one for each month. But I fear that could be a bit steep a challenge, and one that doesn’t allow for me to work on segments of longer projects or indeed trying shorter projects. As such, I’m going to set myself the (high for me) target of writing 200 pages overall of comic script this year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to meet that target, but it’s something to aim for.

  9. 1. Teach 50 people how to get work in comics.

    2. Teach 2 people how to make money making comics.

  10. Tyler James says:

    Came across this quote from Leo Tolstoy. Wanted to archive it here:

    “Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater.”

    Very relevant!

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