How Setting Goals Can Lead to Success
If you’re hoping to have a writing career or become a better writer, you should learn to set writing goals and stick to them. The practice of writing can be overwhelming, and it takes a lot of discipline and dedication to stick with it. It can become all too easy to give up when you find yourself stuck in a complicated plot hole or another such issue.
When you write, you come across many different issues, and having a process that you put into practice can make the difference between getting your writing done and having an unfinished project. Writing goals can also help you to prioritize your work.
The truth is that the writing process looks different for every single person. What matters most, though, is that you develop daily writing habits and stick to those habits. That way, you’ll see success as a writer.
This article discusses goal setting, what a writing goal can look like, how writing goals can help you become a better writer, and how to treat writing like a full-time job to reach your goals.
The Struggles of Writers
Each writing project comes with struggles. There will be moments when you want to quit, when you have a case of writer’s block, when you don’t know how to continue with your book, or when you start to lose interest in your story. Having writing goals can help to keep you moving towards getting your writing project completed.
Remember, though, that anyone can suggest things to you, but you have to create goals yourself when it comes to writing goals. Everyone’s process involves their own goals that work uniquely for them.
Motivation is Key
Goals are important to create motivation to write. Even those of us who have a deep passion for writing run into issues and lose motivation sometimes. We can set long-term goals, such as “Finish the project,” but we need smaller goals to push us and keep us motivated to work through whatever writing struggle may arise and get the writing accomplished.
There is a lot involved in writing a book. Stories don’t just happen to end up on store shelves because someone thought something up, and the work did itself. If that were the case, we’d all be bestselling authors. Some of us even struggle to finish the first draft. To complete a book takes a lot of motivation and a belief in yourself that you can reach your goals.
Every book is written one word, one sentence at a time, one page at a time, one chapter at a time. To create anything takes ideas, bravery, and focus. When you start to lose motivation, reconsider the goals you’ve set, adjust them as needed, and keep up the hard work. Stay motivated because you can achieve your goal if you dedicate your focus to them.
Setting writing goals is one of the most challenging parts of the book writing process. You have to set smart goals if you want to become a better writer. You can’t be too relaxed about it, but you also can’t set your goals so high that they are impossible to reach. Doing that will only set you up for failure.
The following are different kinds of goals that you can set for yourself and advice given by other writers that you may have heard of.
When setting your writing goals, it is important to make them actionable. To do so, you have to use a set of specific verbs to indicate what you are hoping to achieve. For example, instead of saying: “Prepare before writing,” you may write, “Research about gothic literature before writing.” The latter statement is actionable as it provides the precise action you should take to make yourself ready.
Before starting your writing, you also need to describe what success looks like to you. In doing so, your goals also become actionable. For example, success means that your writing has conveyed the information to a broader audience using the simplest yet effective choice of words. In that case, your actionable goal may be: “Increase the readability of each paragraph I construct.”
Furthermore, it is always beneficial to draw out the relevance and significance of your goals in your life. Through this, you would come up with practical plans. For example, “Showcase my talent in writing,” shifting into an actionable goal like this: Polish my work so that the reader sees the importance of the issue I am tackling.”
Foremost, always remember that your writing journey solely depends on you. To transform your actionable goals into realized goals, you must acknowledge that finishing your writing is your responsibility and commitment to yourself and your target readers.
Time-Bound Writing Goals
Many writers have to set writing goals that are based upon a timed schedule. Not everyone can just write whenever they want to, or all of the time. If you are a writer who has less time throughout the week to write than some because you have to work outside of writing, setting goals and having strategies based upon time can be incredibly helpful.
You may not be able to make more time to write, but you can certainly make the time you have matter because you’ve set goals.
For example, based on your availability, you can create goals that focus on a length of time when you say that you want to write ten hours a week or whatever number of hours you decide on. You can set aside two hours each day that is dedicated to getting as much written in that time frame as possible.
Put all of your efforts into your current writing project during that time that you have set aside for yourself, and don’t stop this project strategy until the project is complete.
You have to make your time matter if you want to be a serious writer. You have to create a space for yourself to complete your goals, and if that means setting aside specific chunks of time or certain set hours so that a project gets finished, then set that goal and practice it faithfully. Don’t allow yourself to slack. Make it happen.
You can also devote certain hours of the day to writing. Note the following example.
Janis is working on her first novel. She is a stay-at-home mom and finds that to get any of her work done on her book; she has to put in hard work every day to achieve any progress in her writing. So each morning, she gets her kids on the bus to school and then writes for two hours until her toddler wakes up.
She chooses this block of time because the house is quiet, she can focus, and she can write undisturbed. She keeps the television off, sits in the same place every day, doesn’t pay attention to her phone or social media, and concentrates on being a writer. When the two hours are up, she goes back to her other duties. But for those two hours every day, she is a writer, and she has made this two hours of writing time each day one of her long-term goals.
Beware the Slippery Slope
Setting writing goals based upon time can help you stay on track and finish your book, article, memoir, etc. However, how you set the goal can have a negative impact if you’re too broad about it.
Many writers have fallen into the trap set by themselves of writing goals that are too vague, allow for too much free time, or simply don’t have enough accountability attached to them.
“I want to have my book finished by the end of the year” may seem like a wonderful goal to have. Writing to complete your book by the end of the year can be a great idea, but it is very easy to sabotage yourself when your goal is this loose.
For example, you may run into a problem with character development. Maybe your characters aren’t interacting with each other the way you want them to, and you realize that you need to change a few things about your characters to make them more compatible with each other.
This may mean going back and redoing some things, rewriting some things, scrapping some things altogether, or sometimes even (in extreme cases) starting over with the story.
This can be a very big and daunting undertaking, and it’s easy to tell yourself that you have until the end of the year, so you’ll quit on it for now, and you’ll do it later. “I have plenty of time,” you may tell yourself.
It’s a slippery slope because the end of the year may seem pretty far off. Before you know it, you end up with only half of your book finished and three weeks left until the end of the year. Having goals that aren’t specific and too elastic can be a detriment to you. Beware the slippery slope.
Many writers find that what works best for them is to set a writing goal that can be measured. Something progress-based that you can see and isn’t specifically based on writing time set aside each day.
Henry Miller, a famous author, known for his controversial books that were at one time banned in America, had a goal that seemed simple, but it was still a writing goal. “Work on one thing at a time until finished.”
That may just seem like common sense, but it’s harder than what you may think, and if you’re a writer, there is a chance that you understand what Miller was saying as something that isn’t so simple all of the time.
It is very easy to get distracted when you’re writing by other things that need to take place in order to get the story “just so.” You may need to look some things up. You may need to interview experts for part of your project. You may need to develop characters or research your setting, or work on your plot or format.
When you look at this undertaking as a whole, it can seem bigger than you, intimidating, and confusing. Where should you start? Having goals that can be measured is a great way to set writing goals that will positively impact your productivity.
The following are some examples of effective writing goals you can set for yourself to achieve success in your writing and are measurable.
Word Count Goal
For Ernest Hemingway, his word count goal it was 500. For Anne Rice, 3000. Mark Twain set his bar at 1400. Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks share a goal of 2000. For Neil Gaiman, it was 1500.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a short story or an epic that will span thousands of pages. Writing a set number of words each day and holding yourself to that goal is an effective way to make progress.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Project Specific
For example, you can tell yourself that you will write 2000 words a day no matter what. This is a goal based on words, so what if you hit a wall, so to speak? What if that horrible nemesis of writers everywhere, writer’s block, attacks your productivity, but you’ve only written half of the words you set out to write as your set daily goal?
An advantage of this goal, which is based on word count and not specific to one project, is that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself and also create new things.
For example, if you write short stories, and you have told yourself that you’ll write 2000 words a day, but you just can’t figure out how you’re going to end the story you’re working on, that’s okay.
If you have the next story in your mind, start writing that one when you hit a wall with the first one. You’re working towards writing 2000 words, but it doesn’t really matter what story they go with.
One Thing at a Time
Writing is a step-by-step process, but it doesn’t mean you have to do those steps in any specific order. Writers do things out of order all of the time.
If we can motivate ourselves to keep going and to complete a set word count each day, then we can still use our skills even when we have writer’s block or have trouble with an element of the story.
As long as we take things on one at a time, we can motivate ourselves to keep going, no matter how stuck we may feel. Writing is just like walking in principle.
You can’t get from one place to another by thinking about it, or by imagining that you’ve done it, or even by taking one huge step. You have to take it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, with forwarding motion and a goal and destination in mind.
When you get where you want to go, you can look back and see how far you’ve come and be proud of the distance you covered because you put work into it. If you never take that first step, or if you begin your walk and stop halfway through because you encounter an issue like an untied shoelace or a leg cramp, you’ll never get where you’re going.
You’ll never experience the feeling of pride and victory associated with making it where you were headed. Writing is the same way. Having writing goals can get you where you want to go.