WE’RE ALREADY more than halfway through the second week of January, so you may be wondering why I am writing about goals. After the hundreds of articles about New Year’s resolutions and goals all over the Internet, aren’t we over this thing already? Isn’t it time to move on?
If you’re the type of person who loves to make lists and set goals each year, you may have already completed yours. Even so, read on, because you may find some tips here to make your goals more achievable. Or if you’re the type of person who hates goals because they seem like cages that constrain your sense of spontaneity or creativity, please read on. You may find some tips here to make goals more encouraging and flexible.
I say, let’s slow down and approach this coming year and what we want to achieve in our writing lives with full intent and thoughtfulness. Let’s not add to our general stress level by trying to do too much, yet let’s accomplish more than we thought possible!
Last week, I wrote about how to create your intention(s) for the year. Your intentions are the principles that guide your every decision going forward so, for me, that is the first step to setting achievable goals. If you have not done that yet, read the article and take time to set your intentions before writing your goals.
Before I get into the “how to” of goal setting, I want to define what I mean by goals. A goal is something you want to accomplish, explained in specific terms, a destination of sorts. It is measurable, has a due date, and usually involves a series of steps or tasks.
At the beginning of each year, I set two to three goals, maximum, for each area of my life, such as relationships, creativity (writing, music, art, etc.), professional (work), health, spiritual, home, and finances. I encourage you to do the same. And the methods I’m about to describe work for all areas of your life. However, today, I’m addressing only the creative — specifically, writing — goals.
Achievable goals answer the following:
Start by asking yourself, “What is the one thing I want to have accomplished by the end of the year, the one, big thing that would make me feel happy and satisfied with my writing this year?” This is the What. Write down your answer,
- I want to complete the first draft of my memoir.
Your goal might be completely different: to complete three essays, submit pieces to 5 magazines, or finish one chapter of a novel. The point is to be specific and give your goal a way to be measured. “I want to write more this year,” is too vague and is not measurable. How do you know when you have achieved “more”?
Next, give your goal a due date, the When:
- I will complete the first draft of my memoir by 06/30/2017.
Once you have written down your goal and due date, specify how you will accomplish that goal. Being very clear on the methods you will use to achieve your goal will also help you determine whether or not your goal is doable and whether you need to chunk it down into smaller, sub-goals.
- I will complete the first draft of my memoir by 06/30/2017 by writing 250 words per day. I will schedule a minimum of 30 minutes on my calendar each day and commit to keeping that writing time as sacrosanct.
This How works for me, because to complete the first draft of my memoir by June 30, I will need to add another 25-35 thousand words to the existing manuscript, and I will need to make sure it is structured the way I want it. Because I have a very full schedule and a day job, I get up extra early each morning to allow 30-45 minutes to work on the memoir. I know from experience that I can write an average of 250 words during that period, which will allow me to write 25 thousand words by June 1st. This gives me the month of June (a little wiggle room) should I decide I need to write more than that or to spend time reworking the memoir’s basic structure.
It’s important for your How and When to work together realistically. If I set myself a due date of March 31st to complete the task, I would only set myself up for failure. On the other hand, if I had a schedule that allowed me to write three or four hours a day, I could move the due date up and complete the book much sooner. The “how” of a goal is the map you use to get to your destination.
Understanding your motivations and keeping them in front of you will help you accomplish your goals.
After you have written down your goal, answering the What, When, and How questions, write the Why. Why is this goal important to you? What motivates you? How will you feel when you have achieved it? Don’t skip this step, because understanding your motivations and keeping them in front of you will help you to accomplish your goals.
Finally, every day, read your goal and your Why statement and take at least one action that will lead you to your destination. Your first task might be to list all the steps needed to reach your goal. A second task might be to schedule time on your calendar to devote to writing or to research. A third task might be to research where you could submit your work. Or maybe it’s just to sit down and write that short story you’ve been wanting to write.
Reviewing your goals on a daily basis, along with your motivations for accomplishing them will keep you on track. You will most likely need to make adjustments and reset priorities along the way, but you will always know where you are going, why you are going, and how to know when you’ve arrived.
What is your top writing goal this year?