Winter. The days grow dark before dinner, work takes up most of our week, and caring for our families takes up much of the rest. This is the reality for most writers.
I’ve just deleted several lines that made the situation feel dire and pointless. Why write? Why try if I’ll never finish?
It’s simple. Writers write. It’s a matter of self-expression, self-discovery, sanity and the love of a good story that needs to be told. If we’re not writing, then we’re agonizing about our writing. It’s the one activity that carries every emotion in the dictionary with the placement of each letter.
Non-writers think our minds are ever-flowing with creativity and ideas. We know that we struggle to express the essence of an idea in just the right amount and configuration of words.
Writers love writing. Writers hate the moment just before starting.
But this post is not about the struggles to make time to write or forcing a flow of literate prose onto a page. It’s about goals.
The stories we learned as children were meant to share a lesson. Big word sprints may get you towards a finished story in chunks, but then add in the days (or months) wasted in mental anguish trying to carve out the necessary time. This approach sets you up for writer’s block and writer’s guilt.
Set a low word goal for your writing session or carve out fifteen or twenty minutes and see how much you can get done. Do this every day. Slow and steady wins in “The End” when you finish your story. There are also some wonderful things happening in your brain (and your writing) when you take this approach.
- Because you reach your goal, you feel a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem.
- Because you write every day, your work is moving forward towards the ultimate goal of a complete story or novel.
- Because you write every day, your characters become real within the story, the plot doesn’t stray as much, and your writing will improve as your comfort with the story increases.
It’s not really a race.
Take the pressure off yourself to be done. Instead, focus on showing up. Keeping a low goal that’s highly achievable will make it easier.
Don’t compare your work or your progress to anyone else. Strive to be better than you were last week.
How am I applying this mindset?
I’ve set a writing project goal of 25k words. Not only does this seem easy compared to a 60k word novel, it’s making me rethink plotting and pacing. There’s always room to learn and refine your craft. Good writers are always learning.
I’ve set a daily word goal of 500. That’s just a few short paragraphs. I hit that goal every time, but most days I write much more. I’ve discovered that by 500 words, I’m either in the flow or not. Either way, I’ve furthered my story and that feels like an accomplishment. Even after work, dinner and family time, I’ve found this is a manageable goal.
I also give myself permission to write crap if necessary to get going. Until your muse kicks in or your mental flow pours out words, it helps to just write and see what happens. You can always edit and delete later. And sometimes you discover what your characters were up to when you weren’t looking.
What else qualifies as a writing goal?
Anything that enriches your writing and makes it possible to write.
- Reading – Essential for writers! Study how your favorite writers fill in backstory seamlessly or add character details. Read like an apprentice.
- Research – Learn your main character’s hobby so your description takes on tactile detail. Talk to experts related to your topic, plot or characters.
- Walk – Sunshine, fresh air and daydreaming about your characters can help you discover motives, plot connections, and new twists. Movement is as good for your brain (and creativity) as it is for your body.
- Create – Get out of your head and create something with your hands. Play an instrument, play with clay, pick flowers, paint, build something, cook something from scratch. The new thought processes and sensory input will shake loose fresh ideas for your writing.
My goal strategy: *Daily **As Needed
- Set a small goal**
- Take a walk & daydream**
- Write a little*
- Read a little*
- Do something creative other than writing**
Yep, it’s cold. Sleet is pinging off the windows and you feel like sinking into the sofa with cocoa and a blanket. Sounds like a perfect moment to tackle a small goal. #amwriting
If you found these ideas helpful, please consider sharing. Thanks for hanging out. @jpg_writer
4 thoughts on “How To Set Writing Goals”
I love this post, Judith. I’ve started setting lower wordcount goals too, and often write past it. But you’re right; we’re either in the flow by then, or at least we’ve hit the goal, and don’t have to feel bad.
Thanks Cynthia. I feel good if I at least get the 500 words on the page, then I’m moving forward and it feels like a win. When I write more it feels like a bigger win. It’s funny how writing and exercising both need mental hacks to get you started. Both are good for you and make you feel great, but getting started always feels intimidating. Hope you’re having a good weekend:)
Wonderful advice, Judy. I enjoyed this very much. I look forward to seeing what else you write!
Thanks Andy, Great to see you here!
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