I’ve never been
one for resolutions, mainly because I never keep them.
But goals are a
whole different ball game. Goals can be measured, they can be
changed, but most of all, they can be extremely motivating.
For as long as I
can remember, I’ve set goals for myself. You could even call
No matter the
project or how big or small it is, I always set goals for
myself. This not only gets me motivated and writing, it also
gives me guidelines that allow me to plan even more projects.
This is a great way to keep moving ahead.
Perhaps I should
go back further…
Before I ever
got any of my work published, goals were one of the biggest
factors in working toward publication. Back then my sights were
set on much smaller achievements at any given time. In those
early days I received one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever
had – take baby steps. In other words, don’t try to take on too
much at once, ruining your chances of achieving that goal.
advice has stayed with me for many years, and I don’t think I’ll
ever forget it.
helped tremendously in achieving what I set out to do, and
setting goals was definitely one of the vital stepping stones to
Start by working
out what it is you want to achieve – the end result. In my case
I started reasonably small and worked my way up. I gave myself
twelve months to get just one short story published. That
Then I decided
to have two short stories published in the following twelve
months. That goal became a reality as well.
Next I wanted a
regular column. This time I gave myself two years to secure a
regular monthly column. Although I achieved my previous goals, I
didn’t really work all that hard at getting results. This time I
had more at stake – because I’d just had to give up my day job
due to a medical condition – so worked harder at achieving the
was my starting point. What could the column be about? Once the
subject matter was decided, I wrote up some sample articles,
taking as much care with them as I would have if the column was
secured and they were going to be published.
Next was the
market research. I found six magazines that I believed would be
suitable for my column, then sent them off with a covering
Then it was time
to sit back and wait.
I lucked out
with all six publications, but didn’t give up. With my goals
still intact, the search for a regular column continued. A
couple of months later, my goal was met – way within the
timeframe I’d set myself.
I know for a
fact that if I hadn’t set a goal, written it down, and had it
clearly on display for others to see, that I absolutely would
not have continued on my quest.
It’s no good
setting goals for yourself if no-one knows about them. If you
have ‘internal’ goals, what are you going to measure them
against? You can fool yourself about the dates, change the
deadline to suit yourself, but if it’s on display for all to
see, the goal needs to be either met or worked toward.
When I’m working
on a book that isn’t yet contracted, I tell my writing buddy as
well as family and friends the deadline I’ve set for myself.
That makes me accountable for a finish date. It also gets me off
my butt and working.
need to be changed. This happened a few years ago when I
fractured both feet in three places.
I was working on
a novel and had been fiddling about too much. Excuses were easy,
and it just didn’t get done. So I set a goal of six months. Then
the fractures occurred. I was in way too much pain to write, so
the goal was moved up six months. But I hadn’t counted on being
on crutches for six months, so I moved the goal yet again. This
time I met my self imposed deadline.
checklist to assist you in your goal-setting:
about what you want to achieve. Instead of saying ‘I want to
finish a book by October’ state ‘my 120,000 word fantasy
novel will be completed by October, including all editing’.
o Break this goal into
smaller chunks…’baby steps’ of say 3,000 words
per week. (Using 120,000 words as your basis, if
you divide that by 3,000 words, it will take 40
weeks to write this book. Or 5,000 words a week
means it will take just 24 weeks.)
o Setting yourself an actual
word count will allow you to understand exactly
how much you need to achieve each week to meet
your goal. Not taking this step leaves you wide
open to missing your deadline. Giving yourself
an achievable goal means you are more
likely to reach it.
must be measurable, otherwise how do you or others know
you’ve achieved what you set out to do?
Is the goal
attainable? Don’t set your sights too high. Always work
within your own abilities, otherwise you will become
o Keeping ahead of your goal
allows for all those ‘life’ situations that you
may (and probably will) encounter. It will also
encourage you to stick to your plan of writing X
number of words per week.
yourself an end date. This gives you a specific time-frame
to work with.
goals and your project throughout the period you’re working on
it. Assess your ability to finish within your goal. Don’t set
yourself up for a fall – not only can it be disheartening, it
could leave you with a bad feeling toward goal setting.
electronic diary to its full advantage. Make little reminder
notes to assist with the smooth progression of the project.
Alternatively, use a yearly wall planner – one that can be
displayed in a prominent position.
I use a
combination of these, plus a print diary that has a day to a
page. That way I can scribble little reminders of things I
specifically need to do each day, or things I need to follow up.
something you may not have heard of before. It’s simple but
Take a large
piece of cardboard and draw a large thermometer. If you have
more than one project on the go, draw a thermometer for each
project. What you need is something that looks like a ‘real’
thermometer – with a bulbous bottom and two straight sides; you
often see these used for charity fund-raisers.
thermometer 6 or 7 cms wide by about 50-60 cms tall. Write your
total word count at the top, with markings at regular intervals
of say 2 cms to measure your progress. (I mark mine at 5,000
word increments, but use whatever suits your specific needs.)
As you achieve
the word count, colour from the last level you achieved to the
next. I find that watching the progression of the thermometer is
a big motivator in getting to the next level. One recent project
progressed from not being started, to one third written in just
three weeks using this system.
If you need
motivation to finish (or start) your projects, or even if you
don’t, set doable goals and go for it! You’ll be very glad you
Click here to download your free printable "Setting Goals
Worksheet" (pdf format)
Read the follow-up to this article: Motivation
author: Cheryl Wright
is an award-winning Australian author and freelance journalist. In
addition to an array of other projects, she is the owner of the
Writer2Writer.com website and the Writer to Writer monthly ezine for
writers. Her publications include novels, non-fiction books,
short stories, and articles. To keep up to date with her
publications and new releases, visit Cheryl’s website