Monday, August 3, 2015

Setting Writing Goals

I have had the entire summer off of work. I can just hear all the "Good for you"s clamoring about the web. There's a point to my bragging about having time off. My intention was to spend my free time writing. I have several books in my head just waiting to jump out and onto the paper; I've been wanting to update my blog for months; I have several short stories in the works. So with so much to do and so much time to do it, why haven't I gotten started?

The easy answer is - I'm lazy. The problem with that is that I'm really not. Once I get started I can't stop; I would write for days straight if I could. My biggest problem is getting started. So here's the thing: I have so many stories, blogs, and poems in my head that I don't know where to start. I sit down at my computer and stare at the screen with all these plots and characters banging on my brain and I just can't get my fingers to move. Everything gets jumbled and the plots intertwine; characters jump from one story to another and that just doesn't make sense. I start dozens of stories, but never finish them.

So what's a budding author to do? That's what I set out to find out. I started doing some research on setting writing goals. I booted up my computer, brought up Google, typed in "writing goals" and started sorting through all the entries. Most of them had to do with writing goals and objectives for lesson plans - not really what I was looking for. Some were about why you should write down your goals - again, not really what I was looking for. Time to refine my search. This time I narrowed the field down by adding "for authors". Bonanza! I clicked on the first entry that sounded interesting:

I never got past #3 - Guest post for a blog you read/admire. There are plenty of great ideas in the post and I intend to get back to it and read the rest of them, but reading that one item inspired me to dig out my old blog and start back up just writing my thoughts about writing. Sweet relief! It feels like putting on your fluffy, feety pajamas and curling up with a bowl of popcorn to watch your favorite old movie with your best friend. I didn't realize how much I missed just writing my thoughts down and sharing them with other writers.

So now that I have on my feety pjs and have popped my popcorn, what about those goals? One of the entries I read was about writing short term and long term goals and about making them specific and quantifiable. So what does that mean? Let's look at each one separately, starting with long-term goals.

So what would a long-term goal be? This is  where you might put something like "get published". Another long term goal might be "sell enough stories to pay for a trip to Aruba"; or "get my own byline in the local paper". It really depends on what you want to accomplish - what will make you feel like a successful writer. Once you have your long-term goals written, you can start chunking them into monthly or weekly, or even daily short-term goals.

Short-term goals are exactly that - what are you going to get accomplished in a short amount of time? Set a time limit, say one week. What do you want to work on in that time? What do you want to complete? It could be a number of pages written per week; it could be how many times you want to update your blog; it could be a number of hours you want to spend writing. The important thing is that you set a goal that is attainable in a short amount of time. You definitely don't want to set "get published" as a short-term goal - it's just not going to happen that fast. So how specific do you need to be with these goals?

Setting a goal that states "write a blog" just isn't going to cut it. It's too broad; what's the blog going to be about? How often will you update it? How long will your posts be? Do you see where I'm going with this? Being specific and setting quantifiable goals pretty much go hand in hand. Be detailed about what you want to accomplish and set a way to measure it so that you know if you accomplish it.

Overwhelmed yet? I think the best bet for me is to start small. I think I will just set a goal of updating my blog once a week and see if I can accomplish that. Once I know if I can keep up with that, I can sit down and set my long-term goals and other short-term goals. What about you? Do you set goals? What approach to goal-setting do you use?

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