Want to make your writing dreams a reality? It’s definitely possible, but it’s unlikely to happen without goals in place. To be more specific, without attainable goals, your dreams will remain precisely that, dreams.
Goal setting is the process of getting from a dream/desire to the finished product/reality. Having attainable goals is key to making that process successful.
Goals will show you the way—just be sure to make them attainable.
Here are my five top tips for creating writing goals that are attainable.
1. Define your writing goal.
Poorly defined goals can lead to procrastination and a lack of investment in the outcome.
The more specific the goal, the better. You’ll likely hit the target if you know what you’re aiming for. If your writing goals are too general, “I want to write a novel,” it’s easy to get overwhelmed and put off getting started. If you get a bit more specific, “I want to have the first draft of my novel done in a year,” it gives you something specific to work with. Of course, it needs to be broken down into smaller goals that will lead to the larger goal, and we’ll talk about that soon.
Motivation is key to achieving goals, so you must ensure your goals are important to you. If you aren’t wholly invested in achieving your goal, the odds are you won’t put the work into making it happen.
Make sure your goal is achievable. For example, the goal of writing a novel might be premature if you’ve never spent any time writing. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream of writing a book but wait to set that goal until you are in a position to achieve it. If you have no hope of achieving a goal, it will be demoralizing and undermine your confidence.
At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to fill the pages with your words, and you must be 100% committed and, therefore, motivated to make that happen.
Get specific about your goal and why it’s important to you. Then, write it down, refine it, and put it somewhere you can see it daily.
Now, let’s work on making that goal attainable.
2. Break your writing goal into bite-sized pieces.
It is easier to postpone a vague, open-ended, or too-large goal than a small or short-term goal. This means breaking your big goal into smaller goals.
Your goal might be as small as editing the final draft of a short essay or as big as writing the first draft of a novel or memoir. By small, I mean a goal with a shorter timeline. For example, for that short essay, you might give yourself anywhere from a week to a month, depending on how much time you can devote to it. For the full-length manuscript, let’s say you give yourself a year.
You can then break the timeframe down by months/weeks/days. The important thing is to be specific and realistic. How much time do you really have to devote to this project? A couple of hours every day, one day a week, a few hours every weekend?
Be realistic. It’s always better to start with a smaller goal and build on it rather than not meeting the goal you set and getting discouraged. Of course, it’s terrific if you can write every day, and it’s certainly something to aim for, but if that’s unrealistic, start with a smaller goal and achieve that one first.
You want your goals to be measurable.
Once you know how much time you have to devote to your project, you need to determine what you can realistically accomplish in a set amount of time. Of course, some writers are faster than others, so you have to customize your goal to your pace, not what you see someone else doing or think you should be doing.
It may take a little time to figure out your pace, but it’s worthwhile in the long run. So you want to assign yourself goals that you can accomplish in the allotted time, whether word, page, or chapter counts.
For example, let’s say you could produce 1,000 words a day (about 4 double-spaced pages) and work 3 days a week; you’d have an 80,000-word manuscript in 26 weeks. If 1,000 words are too much for you, you could write fewer words per day and extend the time to reach your end goal or write more days per week. You get the idea. The important thing is to have a realistic plan you can stick to.
You want to be able to measure your success in terms of work produced (words, pages, chapters), and it’s easier to monitor your progress with smaller specific tasks. It’s also key to staying motivated – seeing your success makes you hungry for more and propels you forward. You are going to love seeing those pages mount up.
3. Make your writing goal a part of your life.
Part of what makes your writing goal attainable is your commitment, and part of that commitment is making your goal a part of your daily/weekly life.
Once you’ve worked out a writing schedule and mapped out your weekly goals, apply this to a month. Commit your plan to your calendar and honor it, just as you would any important appointment.
Set your goals for a month and see how it goes, then adjust and set goals for three months at a time. We’ll talk about revisiting the goals below.
Part of owning your commitment is sharing your goals with the people you live with. Let them know your schedule and ask that they respect your writing time without interruptions. It’s okay to ask for support; it will go a long way to helping you meet your goals.
If your writing is to be a part of your life, you need to create a space that honors your intention. This blog is filled with tips on creating an inspiring writing space.
4. Create accountability for your writing goals.
Inspiration and love for your project can carry you far, but eventually, distractions will creep in, and motivation can flag. This is when accountability comes into play.
Accountability is about being answerable to someone, either yourself or someone else, someone who knows what you are trying to achieve. Some people have the ability to hold themselves accountable, but many of us do not.
Writing can be lonely, and it may be hard to keep going if you are the only one invested in your success. To ensure you don’t become discouraged or get swallowed up by self-doubt, find some external accountability to help keep you focused and motivated. Being answerable to someone else adds a bit of healthy pressure and can provide support, feedback, and advice. Having external accountability is time-tested for success and is used by many writers.
Be honest with yourself. If you know you’re going to need assistance sticking to your goal, then make sure to set up some outside support ahead of time. For example, you might find a writing buddy, join a writing group, or hire a writing coach; all good places to find and enlist accountability.
5. Revisit and refine your writing goals often.
Sometimes, your best intentions are not enough, and your goals can get derailed—setbacks happen, wrong directions are followed, and too-large bites are taken.
Know that it’s okay to change the plan. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t compare.
It’s essential to take some time to analyze why your plan to meet a specific goal isn’t working. If you don’t know why it’s not working, it’s going to be hard to devise a plan that will work. For example, is your writing schedule not working, have you set your production goals too high, or both? There’s no shame in adjusting your goals as long as you maintain enough pressure to keep you going without stressing.
You may have met your goals easily and can up the ante. The number of words/pages you can produce in a writing session may be just right, and you can increase the length of your session or add more writing days to your schedule to increase your weekly output. It will feel great to make this revision, just don’t overdo it.
In the beginning, you should revisit your goals weekly and revise them accordingly. Then, once things are going smoothly, you can revisit them monthly. Finally, regardless of your success, continue reviewing your progress monthly until your project is complete.
I hope you found this helpful. Let me know in the comments box below.