How do you set writing goals?
I have a bad habit of listening to alternative hits from my junior high days during the last week of the year. It sends me down this weird path of melancholy and nostalgia. It reminds me how fast time can tick while I can get stuck watching videos about singing groundhogs… Like I said, it’s kind of a bad habit. (And whatever you do, don’t Google those bands you used to listen to, just to see what they look like now. JUST DON’T.)
But I also have a good end-of-year habit: reevaluating my writing goals for the coming year! Like those pop-alternative bands, I was kind of a one-hit-wonder. “I’m going to write a lot this year! I’m going to publish a book!” But I always lost steam, oh, right about the time I went back to teaching for the new semester.
Then, a few years ago, I set better goals. Here’s how to set writing goals that you’ll keep:
Make Goals That Are Meaningful
Duh, right? But don’t dismiss this point so quickly. Think of the most common New Year’s resolution: to lose weight. The parking lot at the gym is packed in January. Come back in March and it’s empty. What happened? The goal to lose weight isn’t specific or meaningful enough to resist the box of donuts at the office or the quick takeout on a busy night. The goal didn’t mean more than the moment. If dieters will instead remember *why* they want to lose weight–to change their family tree, to live with more freedom, to feel fantastic everyday–the goal will suddenly become more meaningful than the temptation to sleep in and skip the gym.
Likewise, when you set goals for your writing, move away from broad, general ideas. Don’t just proclaim, “I want to publish a book!” Tie in your purpose: “I want to write fiction that inspires and entertains.”
Get as specific as possible. Visualize your article in your favorite publication. Play around with the topics you’ll discuss in your author’s talk at your first book signing. Don’t just think of the ‘what’; drill down to the ‘why’.
If you discover that your goal feels sort of empty to you, that’s okay. Better now than later! Maybe you’ll find that you don’t really want to write a book any longer, even though that was your long-time desire. Perhaps you’d rather develop a coaching course to help addicts navigate recovery, or a video training series for bloggers, or any of a myriad of other ideas you may have.
Listen to your gut. Just make sure you’re not bowing to the voice of fear.
Review Your Goals Every Morning
You’d think that once you reveal your burning passion and purpose, it would be easy to remember it, right? Wrong. Our minds just aren’t wired that way. What’s urgent on Monday becomes casual by Friday and forgotten by the following week. So you need to do two things with your big goals: write them down and post them somewhere you’ll see them everyday!
Writing your goals out by hand connects brain to body differently than just tapping out a note on your favorite app. (Although you can keep a list there, too!) Write them clearly and boldly. Yes, you just wrote that you want to be a best-selling author. Yes, your heart beats a little faster now.
But none of this does any good unless you can *see* your list. Tape them to the bathroom mirror, the carton of orange juice, your steering wheel–some place impossible to miss. If you find you’re looking at it but no longer truly seeing the paper, hide it in a new place you’ll be sure to see it the next morning.
Prepare to be weirded-out by how opportunities will arise seemingly out of thin air for you to make progress toward your vision!
Try this. Say, “I’m going to run for city council one day.” Now say, “I’m filing my candidacy in three weeks.” Which statement packed a more visceral punch? When you place a deadline on the steps you’re taking to achieve your goal, suddenly you start looking for ways to make them happen. Try it with anything. “I need to go to the grocery,” versus, “I need to go to the grocery within the next hour.” Immediately your mind begins throwing up reasons you can’t, swiftly followed with alternatives that *may* allow you to slip off to Kroger for a quick trip.
Whatever your personal feelings about deadlines, know this is a mind hack–your wonderful, fearfully fantastic, often-overworked brain does its magic automatically!
Schedule a Quarterly Check-In
Get out your calendar, bullet journal, or app and schedule a day to check-in with your goals each quarter. Make it something you’ll look forward to rather than dread as just one more line on your to-do list. Go to your favorite cafe or park. If you just land on the couch for half an hour and stare at your goals list, it sends a message to your mind that your goal must not be very important. Make an event out of it, an appointment worthy of your big goal. You can even invite your accountabilibuddy–but choose wisely. Goals can be fragile things; don’t share them with just anyone, even friends and family. Judge carefully.
Read and Destroy!
Read one or more of these incredible books to help you set up a system for crushing it *big* in the new year:
No matter how you feel about setting New Year’s Resolutions, it’s a great time to harness all the energy of a clean slate. Use that momentum to give you a running start toward your writing dreams. Don’t be afraid to set a big, uncomfortable, stretch goal, either. Remember: It’s more important to have a goal than it is to achieve it. So test that theory this year 🙂
Go get ’em, writer!
NOW YOU: How do you stay accountable to your greatest goal in the new year?