5 Steps to Set Writing Goals You’ll Actually Achieve
“It’s that time of year again. The holiday parties are done, visiting family has gone home, and normal life has resumed. Coming back makes us question, ‘Is this really what I want my life to look like?’
So we set New Year’s resolutions. We tell ourselves, ‘This year, it’s going to be different! This year I’m going to write more, finish that book, put out a short story a week, finally edit that manuscript, etc. . . .’
Unfortunately, most restarts fail. I always eat too much over the holidays and by the New Year my pants no longer fit, so I join a gym. While joining the gym makes me feel better about myself, it doesn’t actually help me lose weight.
Building a routine time in my schedule to exercise would help me lose weight, but that is hard. Joining a gym is easier and it makes me feel better and only results in me buying new pants in March.
It’s not enough just to say that things are going to be different. If we want to see real change in our lives, we need to be disciplined and strategic about the changes we make.
Newton’s First Law of Motion and Writing
If you are like me, your writing life is something you wish you could change. I never feel like I’m spending enough time writing or hitting the word counts that I want. I have a pile of unfinished projects and a journal full of unwritten ideas.
Newton’s First Law of Motion applies here: ‘An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. An object in motion continues in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.’ Our writing life will stay exactly how it is until we are inspired by our encounter with some exterior force.
Good news! The New Year is an exterior force you can use to get you moving. It’s a time we’ve adopted as a culture that we’ve agreed on marks the start of new things. We can use this moment to get us moving.
The question then is, how do we keep the pressure on so that we will stay in motion and not be slowed down by the weight of all our other responsibilities? How do we make the push of that initial unbalanced force last?
5 Steps to Set Achievable Writing Goals
We need to remove all the friction that will slow our movement. We need to clear the road for our new writing goal so it can glide easily to success. I’ve found the following five steps have helped me build goals that last. These steps are designed to limit things that will keep you from accomplishing your goals.
Step 1: Take Inventory of Your Current Writing Life
What is your current writing life like? When do you write? How much do you write? Is it consistent or inconsistent? Before we can start talking about what you want it to be, we need an authentic assessment of what it is.
As silly as it sounds, it’s tempting to lie when we do this step. Exaggerating what we actually accomplish makes us feel better. It eases the pain of reality.
Unfortunately, this is not the time to make yourself feel better. Be honest.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
- If you are a numbers person, estimate the time you spend writing each day, week, or month. Then estimate the number of words you average on a good day.
- If you are more of a concept person, write down ten adjectives that currently describe your writing process.
- If you are a ‘Lists are Stupid’ person, write one paragraph that describes your current writing life.