I am not great about setting goals. I mean, I do set them, but I am the kind of person that will easily be distracted from the things I am pursuing. The thing is, without a goal a dream is just that, something intangible and not achievable. The goal is the thing that gives you a map to work towards, a way to get to that dream.
I’ve met lots of writers who have said something to the effect of “I could have a story published if only I had all the time you have.” or “I could have a story published if only I didn’t have other obligations.”
I do not have a 9 to 5 job, but I don’t lack for distracting obligations that would love to keep me away from the writing desk. Writing gets done thanks to dedication and goals, not thanks to a wealth of time (though that may help). Many hugely successful writers were not able to sit at their desks all day, but they still managed to write and finish their stories. This is because of dreams, deadlines, and dedication.
If you aren’t sure how to start or what kind of goals a writer should set and how to go about being successful at them, here are some tips for you.
Set a daily word count goal
It doesn’t have to be an ambitious goal like 1000-3000 words a day, it can be something small like 200-500 words a day. It adds up quickly if you stick to doing it each day. In a week, 200 words a day will equal 1,400 words. 500 words a day will equal 3,500. You do not have to set goals that are hard to achieve in order to be successful. Set a goal that you know you can accomplish and then see if you write more and need to set your bar a bit higher. There are lots of word trackers out there, but my favorites are from Svenja Gosen, who has several available here.
Treat writing like a job
Don’t get me wrong, writing should still be fun, but if you treat your writing like you are a professional, you will get very different results than your friends that treat it like a hobby. I still write for fun, but I also have set hours each day during the week that I devote to my “Job.” I show up on time and I do my work. For some, this will mean writing for 30 minutes each night, uninterrupted and not distracted. For others it will mean spending a few hours doing writing sprints each day, working toward their goals.
Give yourself a deadline
Make a deadline and do your best to stick to it. Tell others about your deadline, so that they can help hold you accountable to it. Your deadlines may shift, mine almost always do. If you write shorter fiction, find places to submit that have deadlines that you can’t wiggle around.
Be accountable to someone
This can be a writer’s group, a group of friends, or just someone on the internet. Just make sure it’s someone who knows what you are working on and will expect you to finish it. You should do the same for them. I have a group of women (including my best friend) that I email when I want to do writing/work sprints, most of them are working on their PhDs. We might be doing different work, but we are excellent at making each other accountable and cheering each other. Writing can be lonely work, and sometimes a good “Hooray” or a good kick in the pants can be just what you need.