Setting Writing Goals
Most of us have at some point, seen something about setting writing goals. I know that over the course of my use of the internet in connection with writing, I’ve seen dozens of them at best; hundreds at most. Yet, even with how much posts on blogs and websites, with how many more you can find by searching Google, there are many different ideas about setting goals, and many of the articles written about goals don’t present clear reasons as to why, how, and how much of goal-making.
The Why: If you’re a writer, you have to write. Even when we don’t want to write, we have to, but often, it’s not when we don’t want to write when we have trouble, it’s when we want to write, but we can’t make time.
Or so we tell ourselves.
While sometimes we can’t find time to write, sometimes we can, and we simply don’t try hard enough. Yes, life is… Well, life, sometimes, and when life happens, it’s hard to write. Hard being the key word here; hard is not impossible. When we set goals for ourselves, we force ourselves to find the time to write regularly, an essential part of getting things done.
When we’re writing stories, particularly stories that are difficult to write, when we pause in our writing, we step out of the story-world. We’ll move farther away from our characters, losing touch with them as time passes. If we’re writing regularly, we spare ourselves the pain of trying to force ourselves back into the story when we start writing again each day.
When you sit down and start to write, distractions will start to fade away. If you’re making yourself write, you might hate the first five minutes of it, but you’re likely to enjoy being productive after that.
The How: ‘Tis simple, really. Decide on a number, amount of time spent, or event you want to reach in your novel. Whether it’s five hundred words a day, one hundred, or two thousand, it’s a goal. Whether you’re spending one hour, thirty minutes, ten minutes, or eight hours, it’s a goal. Whether you’re taking your character to the end of the prologue or to the climax, it’s a goal. They’re words, and words move your story along. Make it doable and start small, especially if you’re not used to writing every day or every week.
Make sure you stick to it. Find what makes you work hard, and apply it to your writing. For me, if I tell someone I will get it done, I usually will. Pride works as a pretty good motivator for me, though it’s chocolate for others.
Don’t panic over missed goals. Even if you don’t make your goal daily, don’t panic over it, and don’t exhaust yourself trying to catch up. As the song continually prods us, “Let it go” and make sure you do better next time. You’ve failed that day. Accept it, and move on.
Set aside a day to rest. In all the years I’ve undertaken major writing projects (NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 500 words a day), Sunday has been the day of rest. I think that it’s always good to have some period of time to take a break from your goals. Don’t write anything, don’t look at your novel. If you do get a brilliant idea, you may write it down, but other than that, try to avoid writing on the days you set aside. When you rest, you’ll be able to lose some of the exhaustion you’ve gathered, which will make your work in the future better.
The How Much: This changes drastically from person to person. How often you should set goals, how large your goals should be, how frequently you should reward yourself for reaching goals–that all changes depending on who you are. I have seen people say to set daily, weekly, or monthly goals, and they stress varying degrees of urgency on reaching your goal on time. I think the only solid, steady “rule” I’ve found is this: Your goals are meant to stretch you, but also be attainable.
Make your goals fit you. At the moment, my goals are to finish a short story I’m working on this week, write a snippet from a Prompt this month, and patiently wait until I’m allowed to start editing my novel. They’re not normal “write five hundred words a day” goals. They are the things I need to get done.
What are the things you need to get done?