With New Year’s Eve just one day away, you may have been thinking about your resolutions and goals for 2017. I know we here at Writership have. We have some pretty exciting plans for the business (which you’ll hear more about next month). We also have self-care and family goals, and—as we’re fiction writers ourselves—personal writing resolutions.
We’re using Leslie’s eight steps to setting writing goals to ensure our new year’s resolutions are more than just wishful thinking. The steps are laid out in her post, below. This was originally published three years ago but, as you’ll see, the process is time-tested and true, and just as helpful today.
We invite you to join us in reading the post, following the steps, and making personal writing resolutions for 2017.
Setting Goals: Your roadmap to keep you on track
As writers we have lots of tasks and projects that we want to accomplish in any given year. Creating effective goals and getting them down on paper is a great way to stay in touch with them. When you consider that the world is full of distractions, but also important responsibilities, you can understand why it’s not always easy to stay focused on what we want. We have to make choices about where to use our time and energy. For me, that means I need a roadmap to keep me on track.
Let me be clear that it is absolutely fine to write for writing’s sake. I did it for many years. But if you dream of writing a book or starting a blog to share your stories or what you’ve learned, it’s helpful to set clear intentions.
The process I outline below is one that I’ve been using for several years. I’ve taken different parts of it from many sources, including Your Best Year Yet by Jinny S. Ditzler, Pick Four by Seth Godin, and The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth.
Step One: Taking Stock
The first thing you want to do is take stock of where you are. Make a list of all your writing accomplishments from the last year. We seldom do this, and we often forget how much we do accomplish, and thus, what we’re capable of doing in the future. I like to set a timer (writing practice style) and list as many as I can. Be sure to include anything related to your writing that you did in the last year.
Step Two: Reviewing the Secret of Your Success
Next take that list and ask yourself, “How did I get all of this done?” Did you form regular habits? Did you prioritize your writing by scheduling it rather than leaving it to chance? Did you get help from a friend? Did you take a course? It’s okay to not know for sure, but you can probably think of a few strategies that supported your writing in the last year.
Step Three: Acknowledging Disappointments
Now, list your disappointments from the last year. What had you hoped for that didn’t work out? Where did you fall short of expectations? Your aim in this process is to choose attainable goals. As a result, you want to see what didn’t work and where you need help. We learn as much (or more) from our disappointments as we do from what goes well.
Step Four: Examining Disappointments
After you’ve made your list, ask yourself, “Why didn’t these things work out?” Did you set goals that were unrealistic given your current commitments? Did you procrastinate? Did you fail to set boundaries with others? Did you fail to make your writing goals a priority? What got in the way and prevented your success in the past?
The intent here is not to beat yourself up because that is not useful or helpful. You want to see as clearly as you can what worked and what didn’t so you know where to put your focus and attention going forward. Now, set those lessons aside for a moment; you are about to enter Dreamtime.
Step Five: Entering Dreamtime
Make a list of all your big writing dreams. Assume that money, time, and the present state of your skills are no object. If you want to quit your day job and write three bestsellers, put it down. This process is designed to uncover the deep dreams that even you don't know you possess. So get after it and write anything down that occurs to you. One crazy idea might lead to another crazy idea until you zero in on the one true thing you've always wanted to do with your life. You can dial it back a little later in the process if need be. For now, the only limits are your imagination and your heart’s desire.
Step Six: Weeding Out
Now it’s time to whittle down that list into a manageable size. Get rid of anything that is illegal, physically impossible, or was there because someone else thinks you should do it. But don’t cross off anything just because it’s really hard and will require you to learn new skills.
For everything that is left, ask yourself “Why do I want this?” and “How would it feel if I achieved this?” Write the answer next to each entry that remains. If you can’t think of why you want something, or if achieving it wouldn’t feel very good, cross it off.
Step Seven: Honing In
Once you have a clear list of goals you truly want to achieve, pick three or four that you are willing to commit to over the next year. By commit, I mean that you are willing to put in the work and learn new skills to accomplish it. You might be tempted to add five or ten, but resist the urge. The more goals you list at one time, the more you dilute your time and effort.
Craft goal statements to support your success. Your goals should possess these qualities:
Specific: Be clear about what it is you want to accomplish.
Measurable: How will you know you’ve achieved your goal?
Attainable: Given your other commitments and what you have control over, is this goal attainable?
Relevant: You’ll need motivation to carry you through. Make sure your goals are aligned with your values and your big dreams.
Time-frame: When do you plan to have this goal completed? Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be this year.
Step Eight: Getting Help
We all need some help along the way. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your shiny new goals.
- Write them down and keep them visible. Keep a regular reminder of where you want to go. If there is a visual image that reminds you of your goal, display it prominently.
- Make a plan. Break big goals into smaller chunks and tasks. Schedule these tasks so they get done. Always know what your next step is. Look back at your lessons learned. What do you need to add to the plan to be successful?
- Figure out what skills and resources you will need to complete your goals. Make a plan to get these.
- Stick with it. If you get distracted for a time, jump back in. Don’t let one day missed become two or three. Keep working toward each goal unless you find that you were truly mistaken about wanting it.
- Get an accountability partner or support team. These are people you can share your progress with, who will ask you about how things are going, and who will remind you of why you are doing it.
When you set writing goals using this process, you will be well on your way to achieving them. What are your goals for the next year? Tell us in the comments below.
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