Annie On Writing

January 1, 2012

Goal Setting for Writers

Filed under: Writing Tips — Annie Evett @ 12:01 pm
Tags: , ,

Goals focus your mind on a specific outcome; allowing your actions toward it to have purpose.  However goals without deadlines are no better than dreams.  Its been famously said that a person over- estimates on what they believe they can achieve in one year, but seriously under estimates what can be done in five.

Goals need to be achievable, sustainable and believable. They require not only a deadline as well as a series of progress check ins and a success clause.

Turning Dream Catching into Goal Setting

We all have those scrappy pieces of paper, post its or for the more anally retentive amongst us, spreadsheets where we record a list of goals we’d like to achieve. The easiest way to identify if its a real goal or just a dream, is to see if it has a specific date attached to it.

If your phone is surgically attached to your body, use the technology it contains with reminders, lists, notes or whatever you need to ensure you see those goals a few times a day. If you are a post-it guru – plaster the places you frequent ( yes the bathroom is a great place to post goals in.) Spreadsheets are great for those who sit in front of a screen all day and love to plot and plan.

In reality; it doesn’t matter how you store your goals, the more user friendly you make this list, the more likely you are to use it and to continue to record your progress.


Writing is a juggling act. Most of us have family commitments, work challenges, study or extra curricula activities to pursue as well as significant others to work around time to write. Seriously look at all of your commitments and the time frames you have available with are distraction free. These are the scant times you can slot plotting, editing and drafting in.  Look at how much time a week this amounts to and think about how much time is required to draft a piece in your style or genre, edit, re-edit and polish it.  With this in mind, set your goals knowing what is physically achievable.  It may be one short story a month – or one chapter per quarter year.


Your goals need to be things you care about and that you really want to achieve. They need to be things that you can integrate into your everyday life.  A great example of sustainability is NANO.  Whilst thousands of us hid in corners away from society, our jobs and family feverishly tapping away to reach the 50K word goal, this type of behaviour is not something most of us can realistically sustain over a longer period of time.  If word goals are your motivator, set realistic ones which easily integrate between your kids dance classes and weekly shopping.


As motivating as huge goals may be, they can also work negatively against you.  Just as a baby learns to walk, writers need to take tiny steps towards their bigger goals – goals within goals.  If your goals seem insurmountable, re-adjust them. There is little use in walking away from your dreams, if a self imposed deadline is crushing your spirit.  IN the same vein, don’t make your goals so small that you feel insignificant.  There is alot to say about pushing and challenging yourself.  Know your limits and strive to push them.


Remember the journey of 1000 miles starts with the first footfall?  Plan and then start, regardless of how small a start it is.  Set your goal deadline and then break it down into smaller steps. Schedule these into your diary or calendar around your RL commitments. Celebrate each step of the way and re-evaluate your progress.  Stuff happens, life throws challenges at you. Re-assign goals and work around what you are have. Don’t procrastinate. A year from now, you’ll wished you’d started your journey today.

Progress check ins

With each goal, set yourself small goals or check ins. these are activities or items which are completed or under development which contribute to the completion of your goal. Each stage of writing has its mini goals – from world building and character development, through to editing, polishing , marketing and submission or publication.

Be honest with yourself as your progress toward your goal. If its turning out to be something you don’t actually want to care about, be prepared to alter your path, or change your approach.

Success clause. 

Everyone loves a party and we all crave a small recognition in achieving something. Even if its just you and your goldfish in your lounge room, ensure you celebrate your successes and when you reach a goal.  Reward yourself as you go along as well. This keeps your motivation from dipping into the depths of despair.  Rewards don’t need to be food or drink based – they can be time out to yourself, getting that book you wanted, a night out with friends or just allowing yourself time away from writing.

Start today; but start with a plan. Without your goals, you are like a driver in a new car. Although exciting to jump in and race off in a direction, without knowing where you are going, its a gamble as to where you are going to end up.  It won’t make any difference if you are racing over 200km an hour or dawdling along at grandpas pace at 40km – you’ve no idea where you are going anyway.  Although there is the argument supporting the journey and experiences gained along with way, wouldn’t it be better to have a map to help you and perhaps a plan on what you’d like to see along the way?  Goals help you maximise what you want out of life; you don’t want to miss out on what it has to offer you!


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