Everyone needs a mission. Whether it’s torturing heretics or saving kittens from croctopus rex, the mission is what matters. What are you trying to do, and how are you going to get there?
In case you don’t have eight minutes handy to watch the Monty Python boys at work, here’s the exchange I’ve always liked the most:
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency. Our three weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Our four…no. Amongst our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…are such elements as fear, surprise…. I’ll come in again.
[The Inquisition exits]
Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.
[The cardinals burst in]
Ximinez:Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!
Sometimes I feel like that. Not like torturing heretics or busting out an iron maiden any time soon, but that sometimes my plans get a bit lost in the execution. (No pun intended.)
There’s got to be a mission and a plan.
It’s for that reason that I’m starting a shiny new schedule. For the next month, I will be posting Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I may occasionally throw in a Monday or Wednesday if I’m feeling saucy.
All missions start with a goal or objective. Mine is to get published. That objective becomes the target of your mission, but the mission is so much more than where you want to be when you get there. The mission is more than the end game — the mission is how you will get from beginning to end.
Say you want to buy a house. That’s your goal, your target. Unfortunately for most of us, you can’t just waltz into a home with a For Sale sign in the yard and buy it right there. There are any number of other things that have to happen first.
I like to work backward when I’m planning. Sometimes if you start at what you think is the logical first step, like getting a real estate agent, you realize that you don’t have a down payment or that your credit isn’t good enough to secure an interest rate below 30%.
If you’re going to buy a house, the step backward from getting those keys is closing with the bank. What do you have to do to close with the bank? Well, you need to be financially solvent. It’s not the 90s anymore — you should have a down payment and purchase within your means. (I know. Foreign concept.)
That might mean you don’t get the five bedroom, four bath home with a bonus room and a pool just out of the gate. That means you might have to go for the two bedroom two bath with the squeaky stairs and a fireplace that you can’t even use.
Whatever is within your means, you have to get your down payment. Which means you have to save up. That can take years.
When you work backwards to plan out your mission, you find things that you might not have counted on. If you want to be published like I do, perhaps the first part isn’t running up to New York publishing houses and asking them to buy the book you just thought up. There are a myriad of steps to go through before you can get to the end game, and if you don’t figure out the mission and the plan before you start, you might end up bursting through the door rattling off nonsense about your lovely red robes.
Much like the house metaphor, finding your way to published-dom is a process that requires a lot of writing, a lot of waiting, a lot of editing, a lot of tooth-gnashing and days when you want to set your manuscript aflame — but it is still an attainable goal if you work toward having a great down payment (manuscript), solvent credit (a platform), and an excellent agent (…agent). Each step takes time, and I think in the end, buying a house is easier. Too bad that’s not my mission.
And frankly, no one cares.
The flip side of this is that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Even the best laid plans can crumble into floundering, but if the mission means that much to you, it’s worth the effort.
What’s your mission? How do you plan to get there? Ever feel like bursting through doors and speaking in silly accents?
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