Happy New Year! Get Ready For Your Best Writing Year Yet! – Part 1 25

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” 
 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist


WHAT DO YOU DREAM OF being or achieving in your writing life? As the calendar flips to a new year, are you looking forward to new opportunities to bring those dreams to life?

Movies and fairytales aside, we know that dreams aren’t fulfilled by wishing upon them. If you want to achieve your dreams, you must do more than dream. You must set the full focus of your will — your intention — on what you want, and then you must act. Put another way, you can only arrive at your desired destination if you pack your bags and get on the road.

Today, I’d like to invite you to think about where you want to go and how you will get there. No matter the level or extent of your writing desire — from wanting to establish a journaling or creative writing practice to finishing that memoir or novel you’ve been working on — it’s all doable. And I can show you how.

To that end, over the next few posts I’m going to share with you what I do each year to set and accomplish my goals — and why my process works. I use these steps to set goals for all areas of my life, including writing/publishing, spiritual, relationship, emotional, physical/health, and financial. And I achieved 95% of my personal and professional goals this last year.

For this series, I’m going to focus on only one area: writing/publishing. You may choose to separate writing and publishing into two separate goal areas. For me, these tend to blend together, so I think of them as one.

You’ll need to arrange a quiet place and time to work through the following exercises. The time needed will vary, but I would give myself at least an hour to start. And you don’t need to do this all at once — you can take several sessions.

Ready? Let’s get started . . .


Set your overarching intention (focus) for the year.

Our goals do not live in a bubble of their own, outside the totality of our lives. If we want to grow in any area of our lives, we need to understand what we want most and who we want to Be in the world. So before forming goals for any area of your life, get out your journal and freewrite your answers to the following questions:

  • What quality to I want to infuse into my life and into all my decisions this year?
  • What quality do I need most in my life at this time?

Once you have written about what you want in your life, choose the quality that resonates most for you and distill that quality into one word.

This word will be your guiding principle, your focus of intention for the year.

Last year, my guiding principle was “balance.” I wanted (and needed) more balance between the personal and professional areas in my life. Keeping my focus on balance all year helped me make important decisions along the way, including what to keep and what to let go of doing. It gave me permission to take better care of myself and my relationships.

This year, my overarching focus is “perspective,” which is about seeing the bigger picture and seeing things from different angles, as if from an eagle’s point of view.


Write down your “big rock” goal.

You’ve probably heard of the “big rocks” concept, made famous by Stephen R. Cover, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The idea is that your life is like a glass jar that you fill up with all of your daily tasks, both important and routine. The important tasks are your “big rocks” and the routine, less important tasks are like pebbles. If you fill your jar with pebbles, you won’t have any room for your big rocks. But if you place your big rocks in the jar first, then you’ll be able to fill in the spaces with the pebbles.

At the top of a new journal page, write your answer to the following question:

If I could achieve just ONE thing in my writing life this year, what would it be?

What would be the one thing you would feel happy achieving as a writer, even if you accomplished nothing else?

Be specific. “Writing more” is not a goal — it’s a wish. In order for a goal to have power, it must be SMART, which is an acronym for the following characteristics: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Rewarding, and Time-dependent (or Trackable).

Goals can include either accomplishing something or establishing desired habits. I will give examples of both types of goals as I explain each aspect of a SMART goal.

In order to be SMART, your goal must answer the following questions:

  • What, specifically do I want to accomplish? OR What habit do I want to establish?

    Achievement goal: Last year, the What of my “big rock” goal was to “complete my second memoir, Accidental Jesus Freak,” which I’d already been working on for a year and a half. Your goal might be to “write three personal essays” or “publish two short stories,” or “write 30,000 words.” Do you see how specific your goal needs to be?

    Habit goal: But what if you don’t have an achievement type of goal like those I’ve just described? What if you really just want to write more often? This type of goal — establishing a habit — is just as valid as an achievement goal. And it also needs to be stated in a very specific way. In this case, the What is, simply, “to write.”
  • When do I want to accomplish it by? OR How often do I want to do this habit?

    Achievement goal: The When for my memoir was “by December 31st.” Yours could be “by June 30th” or any other date you choose.

    Habit goal: Using the example above, I might want to write “a minimum of 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week,” or “5 minutes per day, 7 days per week.” Again, do you see how adding this level of specificity helps to define exactly what you will do? 
  • How will I know when my goal is complete?

    Achievement goal: You need to define what constitutes “done.” I defined completion of my memoir as when it had been edited, proofread, and was ready for print and ebook formatting.

    Habit goal: In the case of a habit goal, define when you will consider the habit as integrated into your life. So, for my writing habit, I might define it as: When I have consistently written 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week, for six months, I will consider that I have established this habit.”

“The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.”   Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich 

  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?

Your Why, your motivation for wanting to accomplish this goal is SUPER important. Without strong motivation, you will not achieve your goal.

My Why for writing Accidental Jesus Freak included the following:

– I want to feel proud of myself for having completed this second book.

– I want to reveal the deeper, inner truth of my journey, discover its universality and what it has to teach me and others

– I want to have it ready for launch in March of 2018

What are your Whys? Write them down below your What, When, and How statements.

  • How will my focus of intention help me to achieve my goal?

    This question might be a little harder to answer, as our goals don’t always have an easy correlation to our broader focus of intention. In my case, focusing on balance helped me stay the course on my one big writing goal for the year. I had other goals, but focusing on balance helped me to adjust my activities throughout the year and still accomplish what needed to be done.

    If you’re having difficult answering this question, set a timer for 10 minutes and freewrite, starting with the following fill-in-the-blanks prompt: “My focus of intention on __________ will help me accomplish my goal of ___________ by ____________.


This is the first of a 12-part series on writing goals and productivity. In Part 2 of Get Ready for Your Best Writing Year! We will cover how to establish your goal’s action plan as well as how to keep your goal visible and in front of you on a regular basis.

In the comments below, share your one-word Focus for this year. And, if you’d like, you can also share your one “big-rock” writing goal. 


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25 thoughts on “Happy New Year! Get Ready For Your Best Writing Year Yet! – Part 1

  • Sara Etgen-Baker

    My one-word focus is mindfulness. My big-rock writing goal is to complete the rough first draft of my novel; without interfering with that goal, I’d like to continue writing memoir vignettes as they “come to me”

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Sara, thank you for sharing your focus word and your goal. I’m assuming your novel draft due date is 12/31/18? In my next post, we’ll discuss how to ensure that you meet your goal and get a few of your sub-goals done as well!

  • Tori

    Thank you for breaking this process down into parts, and small steps within each. Being a visionary type, I quickly become overwhelmed when it comes to goal-setting and need help moving from thought to action. My immediate response was “I have no idea what my focus should be this year!” There are so many noble, wonderful things I want to focus on! LOL! But then I glanced over at my writing desk, saw the three quotes I have taped to the wall, all about conquering fear and anxiety, and it became clear. Courage. Courage is the quality I need most in my life right now.

  • Linda Sievers

    Thank you Amber, for a clear and succinct method of prioritizing writing goals. My goal for 2018 is to complete a solid rough draft of a book and to continue to write in my journal for personal exploration. My words are joy and strong will. Though things can come up to thwart either or both of these words, I am resolved to remain joyful throughout my writing process so that I can work diligently while at the same time remain open to the unexpected that can inform my work. Looking forward to your guidance and the year ahead.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Linda, great job narrowing down your goals. Just so you realize you have 2 goals there, AND 2 words. I encourage you to choose which of those goals is truly your Big Rock writing goal for the year, because it’s important to know which one will take priority when push comes to shove (and it will). And I also encourage you to have just a one-word focus. Certainly, you want both qualities in your life — let me ask you this: will focusing on strong will bring you joy? Or will focusing on joy bring you strong will? The answer to that question may help guide you to your true focus of intention for the year. Warmly…

  • Rita D Koch

    Thank you, Amber, for your very helpful podcasts and articles.
    My focus is ORDER, with the BIG goal of completing a Christmas gift book for family, as a preview or promise of more to come.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Rita, thank you for sharing your focus and your goal. I LOVE the goal of a Christmas book for your family. Will it have a central topic? Or will it be a collection of memories of your life together? (Just curious)

  • Caren D.

    My one world focus for the year is HONESTY. Honesty in my actions and in my writing.
    My “big rock,” writing goal is to write specific family stories and a rough draft of my family memoir to help retire the family karma for my children and grandchildren.

  • Sofia Irons

    I love your articles. Would love to see an easy “print” option on each page. I enjoy having paper copies of my favorite, most insightful articles.

  • Stacy E. Holden

    I am revisiting this post today, nearly five months into 2018. It is a great piece, Amber. “Clarity” and “Consistency” are the two words that I have written on the sheet of paper in front of me. As the semester draws to a close, it feels appropriate to consider priorities and vision.