Setting Writing Goals

There is no quick-fix way to become a writer, despite what many 'buy-my-book-and-you'll-become-a-world-famous-author' people may tell you. The truth is, in order to become a writer, you need to spend time writing. It seems like such a no-brainer to me, but it's actually something I often have difficulty doing. I will sometimes go for weeks on end without putting pen to paper. At other times, I can scarcely concentrate on anything else because I am writing, thinking and dreaming stories 24/7.

Back in the days when I was a teacher, I used to instruct my students to set S.M.A.R.T. learning goals. I told them to do this because the big bosses upstairs told me to tell them to do this. I never really thought about why S.M.A.R.T. goals are, well, smart. Your goals need to be:

Specific - If you set your goal in vague terms you will find it difficult to meet. So, rather than saying, "I will write more," you should say, "I will write 100 words a day". It may seem like it's just a matter of semantics, but you will find that it will make all the difference.

Measurable - an airy-fairy goal is so hard to measure. How do you know you have completed it? To say 'I will write more often,' is kinda silly, really. How often is more often? How do you know when you can tick that box to say that you have done it. My students used to be guilty of this all the time. They would set goals like, "I will try harder," or "I will be better". But how, at the end of the month, will they know that they have done this? You should rather set goals that you can quantify. For example, "I will write 100 words a day". At the end of the day, you can see that you have indeed written 100 words.

Achievable - You need to believe you can achieve the goal. Don't set yourself the goal of writing a chapter a day if you don't believe you would be able to do it. If you don't think you can do something, you will most often find that you can't do it.

Realistic - Don't aim to write 2000 words a day if the idea of it terrifies you. By the same token, don't take someone elses' goals as your own. What is realistic for them may prove impossible for you, and your schedule may not allow it.

Timed - your goal needs a beginning and an end. For example, 'I will finish this story by the end of 2012', or 'I will write a chapter a month'. One thing I learned with my students is, if you don't give them a finishing time, the will never finish. The same goes with writers.

Many of my 'goals' do not actually fit into any of these categories. It's time I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, pulled my socks up, and practise what I preach.

For example, I tried to set myself a goal recently of writing every night before I go to sleep. I bought a brand new, crispy clean notebook, placed it beside my bed, and applauded myself for my great idea. The problem is, the moments before I go to sleep are often the only precious minutes of a day that I get to talk with my boyfriend without any other distractions. Setting myself a goal to write in this time is probably one of the stupidest ideas I have ever come up with! I managed to write in my notebook two times. Silly, silly me.


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