Productive people have the core habit of setting goals and going out to achieve those goals. Productive writers have a core habit of setting writing goals and getting on with writing.
Goals, Targets, Plans and Milestones
‘The first step in goal setting for writers is to identify and focus on those things you can control: your daily schedule, your writing habits, your writing quality, and your submission or production process.’ Black, Regan (2011-04-03). ‘Goal Setting for Writers: Making Revisions Work in Life and Art’ (Kindle Locations 37-38). Kindle Edition.
The subject of goal setting is an easy one to research. Every January you will find blog posts on the topic.
But as a core habit, goal setting and planning your writing work shouldn’t be pinned to a particular part of a year. You must form core habits of goal setting to accomplish what you want to write – every day of the year.
Securing Your Writing Goals
Via: Sage Cohen (Author of ‘The Productive Writer’), Writer’s Digest / Writing Articles, July 21, 2010, ‘Top 10 Productivity Pitfalls for Writers to Avoid’:
- Unclear big-picture vision. Without an idea of where you’re headed, it will be impossible to set realistic goals and measure your progress along the way.
- Lack of short-term goals. You can’t hit a target you can’t see. Knowing your daily, weekly, monthly and annual goals (both practical and aspirational) can help you keep moving in the right direction.
The productive writer will set two types of goals for themselves –
1. The Big Picture Vision
“Write a 5 year plan…every 6 months” – ‘A Writer’s Bucket List’ by Dana Sitar*
This is the long-term or strategy goals, often set for a year or more in advance. Similarly we may visualise ourselves into a 5 or 10 year future. Take a look at the Core Habit Pack download (below) for some of these visioning exercises.
For some, setting long-term goals works well as a New Year’s exercise, similar to setting new resolutions. For others, a longer-range strategy is more beneficial – it may take longer than one year to write a novel, and market it – In My Y is for 2.Years.2.a.Book post coming up at the end of the month, I submit a 2 Year Program of writing a book, for instance.
In this case, a re-assessment of the big picture goal is required more regularly through the months and years, to ensure smaller goals still lead to the same place.
2. Short-Term Goals and Plans
Once you have a long-term big picture of what you want to achieve, it’s time to break this down into achievable chunks.
For example, I work in yearly chunks from my own big picture vision. This year I set several goals, broken down into months. I posted my writing goals infographic in January.
Some of my goals have now slipped due to several unknown events and issues I couldn’t calculate at planning time. Obviously, I now need to re-assess it.
3. After Chunking, Plan the Attack
“Do something every day to guide you towards your goal [being a published writer]. Goals are very important”. Paul Reed.
Once you have the chunks of work for the year, break these further down into monthly, weekly, and daily SMART tasks, action plan and schedule them. As a professional writer, you may well want to build a writing business plan with these tasks.
Some writers get on well with prioritised to-do lists or productivity practices such as David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’. I don’t get on well with lists, but find my writing journal / dump pages helpful in structuring each day’s writing efforts. I use them for planning.
4. Supporting Your Goals and Tasks
I’ve previously found a great lot of support – and motivation to succeed at my own writing goals, when I’ve gone public with them.
The ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days) blog challenge was founded by Kait Nolan for this very purpose. ROW80 writers must set a measurable goal to aim for during the round (of roughly 80 days) and provide weekly check-in blog posts towards their successes or otherwise. Fellow participants then visit your blog post and comment. This kind of public attention can provide motivation and be a good way to start getting into the habit of setting and re-assessing writing goals.
The ROW80 concept is based on the principle that we should and must re-assess and possibly change our goals when they are not achievable if real life gets in the way. I maintain that successful writers will, with practice, form a core habit around goal-setting, planning and re-planning. Real life won’t get in the way, the writing work becomes simply part of this real life. (Yes, it’s easier said than done, but nobody said writing was easy anyway).
Should You Broadcast your Goals or Not?
In this TED talk Derek Silvers warns you: ‘if you have a goal you really want to achieve, keep it to yourself, because through the act of talking about it, your mind feels you’ve already achieved it. Then it slacks off’.
This theory can be applied to visualising the big picture writing life you have ahead. Make sure you don’t allow your mind to slacken with false-achievement feelings. Stop this by also visualising the actions and work needed to get there. (See more on this via B is for BPS – Best Possible Self, also covered in the attached worksheet).
Your Most Important Goal
Your job as a successful and productive writer is to set yourself big picture life goals, then to break those down and schedule into SMART goal-tasks for your writing day. As a productive writer you will also learn to recognise how to motivate yourself into achieving those goals – whether it be from external support, or by rewards you gift yourself when tasks are completed.
But before heading off to your [writing] work, take a step back, and make sure you’re working on the right goals at the right time for a persistent motivational reason.
Sage Cohen, in ‘The Productive Writer’ talks about a principle of “Paying Yourself First”, (financial experts and accountants will now be nodding). As a successful writer, ensure that you have selected writing goals that will allow you to pay yourself. I’m not necessarily talking about money, because many writers don’t make a lot of money nowadays.
Ensure that your writing and general goals provide some measure of payment – money, more writing time (a valuable payment for any lifetime writer), the ability to gift or be of service to others etc. Your highest values must be reckoned in as payment for the goals and tasks you choose. Writing for love is one thing, but writing for a sustainable writing life is another. Make sure you’re working on goals that pay.
The Writer’s Core Habit Pack for Writing Goals
In the two page free PDF download is included several big-picture exercises to try out, plus a sheet on chunking down to smaller goals.
Use these exercises to establish a vision and plan for your writing life, and use them again to reassess these plans regularly.
Download the WCHP Goal Setting sheets.
|The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success|
|Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity|
|Goal Setting for Writers: Making Revisions Work in Life and Art|
This blog post participated in April 2013’s Blogging from A to Z Challenge, along with many other blogs on subjects as diverse as writing, foodie blogs or mummy blogs.
This blog post is part of a themed series or pack on Writer’s Core Habits. I acronym this as WCH or WCHP © . Do a search for these tags, and you will find more in the series.
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