Goal setting – how to help yourself get writing

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I mentioned in my earlier post that one of the ways to help yourself get motivated and write more is in goal setting, and it seems like a good moment to write about that. I’m stuck at the moment. I finished my last major project, Balancing Act, in the middle of the summer, and I wrote a short story for the Mslexia quarterly submission, but in the week or so since that’s been finished, I’ve floundered. This frustrates me, aggravates me, because I spend several hours a week in front of my laptop not knowing what to do next. Like I said in the last post, I don’t really believe in writer’s block, I think it’s an excuse. I don’t know what to do next because I haven’t planned it and I sit at my keyboard expecting some fully-fledged story to flow like magic from my fingertips which is ludicrous because it has never happened before.

GoalSettingSo – I need to set myself some new goals to get myself through the rest of the year, because three months is a good space of time for goal setting. It gives you enough time to accomplish something meaningful but isn’t so long that you drift off track.

Know where you want to get to.

I like Jim Rohn’s technique for this – make a list of fifty goals you want to accomplish. He encompasses everything: work, family, wealth, personal development and characteristics, hobbies, education. Do the same – it’s also a nice way of working out what’s important to you elsewhere. Then, note whether you want to achieve this in three months, six months, a year, three, five or ten. On my list is that I want to be making a regular living as an author. As a starting goal, that’s fine, but it’s too vague for a short term goal.

Be specific.

Smart goals (specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, timed – although there are variations) have had a bit of a bad reputation as being ‘management speak’ simply because it’s an acronym, I think. In fact, they’re essential. If you don’t know what you’re aiming for (specific) how will you know you got there (Measurable)? If you can’t achieve something, then you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment –likewise if you’re trying to do it in too short a time space for you to be able to do it. And why wouldn’t you make your goals rewarding? They make sense to me.

So my writing goal for the next three months is to write two complete short stories, a poem and have started the next CPA novella. It’s a challenging one in terms of time, especially as this time at work is usually the most hectic, but I think it is achievable if I plan my time properly.  The poem in particular would be rewarding, as I want to get better at writing poetry because I think more than anything it makes you truly consider language.

Plan daily habits and routines

I already try to write from 6.30-7.30pm to make sure that I give some time every day to writing. I’m going to add to this to keep planning, but move that planning to the end of the previous writing session. This should mean that when I sit at my desk at 6.30, I know exactly what I’m doing so there’s no messing about, thinking, wondering, planning. It’s done for me already.

Set interim deadlines

Goals are in ink; deadlines are in pencil

This is generally a good idea – sometimes things take longer than you thought for one reason or another (and you should always try to work out what that was so that you can avoid it next time) and it makes sense to simply extend the deadline a little rather than give up and beat yourself up about a failure.

There are some writing deadlines that are set in ink in terms of competition or submission deadlines but even then, if you miss it – finish it anyway and send it somewhere else.

My deadlines:

 Break it down:

Split your goals into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline, so that you can look at one at a time rather than be intimidated by the entire project. If this was a novel I’d be planning drafts, chapters and scenes. It also means that once you’ve added them to a to-do list, you have a great opportunity to cross them off as they’re done and build your self-esteem with how much you’ve accomplished!

23rd September – have drafted a poem for the ILF in outline
26th September – redrafted poem
28th September – be putting finishing touches to poem
3rd October – plot outline for Mslexia sub
15th October – 1st draft Mslexa sub
20th October – ‘Spring’ plot outline
28th October – 2nd draft Mslexia sub
6th November – 1st draft ‘Spring’
19th November – Mslexia completed
25th November – 2nd draft ‘Spring’
27th November – post Mslexia entry
5th December – Spring completed
10th December – post Spring

Sounds ambitious, and yet manageable, because it’s in small stages that each have their own deadlines! I feel more confident and positive about it already, because I can clearly see how these things will work and how much time they each have.

I’ll keep updating the blog with how I get on, and we’ll see how closely I manage to hit these deadlines!

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