Happy New Year, fellow writer. Here we are in 2018. It’s time to freshen up your writing goals. If you didn’t achieve your goals in 2017, perhaps you’ll decide that you’ll do something different this year, and will develop an entirely new set of goals.
Often, that’s a brilliant idea, keeping in mind that if you do what you always do, you’ll get what you always get.
Writing goals: do something different if “goal setting” doesn’t work for you
Way back in the mists of time, when I had small children and tried to find time to write, I discovered that setting writing goals invited disasters. As the saying goes, if you want to give the gods a laugh, tell them about your plans. 🙂
So, I started focusing on process goals, rather than outcome goals like: “by mid-2018, I’ll publish three new novels.”
Process goals: they work, because they create habits
Again, back in the mists of time, I hated writing, because writing terrified me, and yet, I was compelled to write. I wish I’d known about process goals then, I’d have saved myself years of procrastination and agony.
What’s a “process goal”? Some people term process goals “behavior goals,” because they’re goals which focus on things, like your behavior, which are under your control. Contrast a process goal with an outcome goal like: “I will make $100,000 from my writing in 2018.”
In terms of writing, a process goal is something like:
- I will write for an hour a day; or
- I will write 1,000 words of salable material a day.
These kinds of goals are under your control, mostly. Disasters happen; days when you can’t achieve a process goal, but mostly, the goal is under your control
Aim to set goals which encourage good writing habits.
Create goals which help you to develop good writing habits
Once you develop decent writing habits, writing ceases to be a big deal. It’s something you do; you don’t agonize over it. All the angst and misery vanishes.
You’re focused strictly on your process, rather than on outcomes. You wrote yesterday, you’ll write today, you’ll write tomorrow. The results of any piece of writing interest you, but not as much as your process.
As we said in this article on journaling to build a writing habit:
Neuroscientists look on your unconscious as a super-computer. However, your conscious awareness is limited to what you’re aware of, and this is a challenge. If you restrict your writing to what you think you know, you’ll write little.
We all go through life with blinders on. My favorite strategy when a writing student tells me: “I can’t… (whatever)” is to ask the student to write down 20 ways he could in his journal.
Changing your behavior is far from easy
We do what we do because it’s become automatic. Change of any kind is challenging. So, when you set a process goal, make it laughably EASY at first.
For example, let’s say that writing 1,000 words a day, every single day, including weekends, is something you’d like to turn into a habit.
If you write only when someone pays you for your words, and you haven’t developed a daily writing practice, chances are you’ll slip back into your old ways. Therefore, set your goal at 50 words a day initially. You can write 50 words on your phone while you’re waiting for dinner to cook.
Whatever process goal you set, ensure that you can complete this daily task in five minutes or less. Once this becomes a habit, you can do a little more, but always go slowly…
Happy 2018: onward
I hope that 2018 is wonderful for us all. Let’s all do the best we can to make it our best writing year ever. 🙂
Do you find writing a struggle?
I work with writing students every day who believe that they “can’t write.” And yet, they must write, for one reason or another.More info →
I'm sure you've heard quotes like: "if you can imagine it, you can achieve it." And: "if you can dream it, you can become it."More info →
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