The new year is coming up quickly and that has everyone thinking about their writing goals: Did I accomplish what I set out to do this year? What do I want to accomplish in the coming year? Looking back at my 2010 goals, I realize I’ve accomplished nothing I set out to do yet I feel like I’ve had one of my most productive years ever. So far, I’ve logged 152,000 words in my word count spreadsheet, which is hardly something to scoff at! Do you feel like you’ve had a successful year, however you define success?
Setting Goals You Can Reach
Whether or not you feel like you reached your goals in 2010, it’s never too late to start fresh with the new year. It’s time to wrap up those old goals, push aside the ones that no longer apply, move outstanding ones to next year and create some new goals for the future. In order to make 2011 a year of goals met, I’d like to share with you a technique for breaking down your goals into clear and attainable chunks so that no matter how this last year has gone (and I’m right there with you when you cringe at that statement), at this time next year, you can look back with pride at your accomplishments.
Set Yearly Writing Goals. These are the big ones. This is where you’ll find words like “novel” and “publish”. These are the ones that work toward who you want to be as a writer and how you’d like to see your writing progress as a whole. Don’t be afraid to dream big–you have an entire year to achieve them. I hope you’ll always appreciate the excitement of a challenge and push yourself a little further out of your comfort zone each year. But don’t forget to be realistic–you only have a year to achieve them. If you set goals that are too far out of your reach, you’ll get discouraged before you even start.
Set Monthly Writing Goals. Once you have overall goals set, it’s important to break them down into manageable portions. “Novel” sounds great when you pencil it in next to that big box you’ll check when you’ve finished it but once January 1st comes around, “novel” is going to look pretty scary. Decide how you can break it up into pieces that fit your lifestyle. One act per quarter? A certain amount of words/pages/time each month? Know how much you can feasibly accomplish in thirty or thirty-one days. As much as we’d all like to write 50,000 words every month…
Set Weekly Writing Goals. Break it down even further. Take your monthly goals and divide them by four. Look at your schedule and commitments and understand which days of the week are better than others. If you can’t write on Fridays, don’t write on Fridays. Cross them out entirely. Again, it’s about being realistic. Being hard on yourself because you didn’t write on Friday is only going to upset you and hinder your writing on Saturday, putting you even further from your goal. You can absolutely accomplish anything you set your mind to as long as you accept your restrictions and maximize your opportunities.
Set Daily Writing Goals. And now we’re down to the nitty-gritty, probably the hardest part about being a writer–actually sitting down each day and picking away at your goals with one of those teeny tiny axes. But these goals are the most important. Without them, you wouldn’t reach any of your other goals. Some people write better at certain times of day while for others, it varies. Some people have to split up their writing throughout the day. Whatever works for you, strive for that. The most important thing is that you keep it up. It’s amazing what one of those little axes can do over time.
Be prepared to change your goals at any time
In a craft that is so creative and ever-changing, your goals should be too. You could have every good intention of completing one project at the beginning of the year and by the middle of the year, realize that project just isn’t working or isn’t what you thought it would be. And that’s okay. Unless you’re contracted with a publisher, you have the freedom to change your mind or set aside a project for another time. Writing is a season-of-life occupation so just because a certain project has stopped speaking to you right now, doesn’t mean you won’t find inspiration or the knowledge that comes with life experience at a later time. Never close those imagination files in your mind but accept that sometimes you’ll have to say, this just isn’t the day or week or month or year for this story. And when you do, come back here to refresh your yearly, monthly, weekly and daily writing goals and know that with your pen and paper or laptop, you have everything you need to succeed.