I don’t know about you, but if left to my own devices I get nothing done. I’m a chronic procrastinator, and however much I love writing, when I hit a tough point in my project I’ll do anything I can think of to avoid sitting down in that chair and getting the work done.
That’s why I’ve found that setting myself specific, measurable goals really helps me do more writing. I discovered this several years ago when I first started taking part in NaNoWriMo. Even though I failed the first time I did it, I managed to write 42,000 words in one month (which was way more than I had ever written in that time frame!) because I was driven by a goal. Whether I was feeling like it or not, I sat down in the chair and did the work.
I’ve since taken part in two more NaNoWriMos and three Camp NaNoWriMos, and I’ve hit my goal every single time since.
Setting these kinds of goals is something that’s really revolutionised my writing process, and so here’s three reasons why I think they work, and why I think you should set them:
The biggest reason to set yourself writing goals is something I’ve already touched on: motivation. Something about formalising a goal – maybe even writing it down or putting it out there on social media – really helps motivate me.
Perhaps it’s because I have something specific to aim for, or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to let myself down or ‘fail’, but goals really are an incredible motivation!
- You know exactly what you want to achieve.
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t have something specific to aim for I tend to just flail about and not get anything done. Or I’ll do little bits of a variety of projects and never get around to finishing any of them.
That’s why I’ve found specific goals helpful, as it means I know exactly what I’m aiming for, and exactly what I have to do to achieve it. For example, thinking ‘I’d like to write some short stories’ is kind of vague and would probably result in me scribbling down a few bits and pieces here and there, and not achieving much. Whereas saying ‘I want to write one short story a week’ is specific and easy to aim for, because I know exactly what I have to do to achieve the goal, and I’ll know for sure when I’ve done it.
- It can break bigger goals down into more manageable ones.
If you think to yourself ‘I want to write a novel’, then that seems huge. It seems scary and unachievable, and therefore it’s easy to quit before you even begin.
However, if you set a specific goal such as writing one chapter a week or a day, then suddenly that’s a less intimidating goal. That is much quicker and easier to achieve, but it also edges you closer to your seemingly unachievable dream of writing a novel.
So do you set writing goals? What have some of your goals been, and have you achieved them? Why do you think they work (or don’t work!)?