Sent by Susan Fox
Do you dream of being a writer? Well, put your fingers to the keyboard and type a few words. Presto, you’re a writer!
But that’s not really what you dream of, is it? What would “being a writer” look like for you? When could you say that your dream had become a reality?
Dreams are a wonderful thing. They provide happiness, hope, and motivation. Yes, send all those positive thoughts and energy out into the universe. But, in my humble opinion, you need to be more than just a dreamer. You need to be practical, realistic, maybe even business-oriented. You need goals.
Good goals are SMARTT-F
- Specific: Who is involved, what do you want to accomplish, where (if relevant), when, and why? Example: In order to finish the first draft of my novel by December 31, I will write in my home office, with no internet or other interruptions, for at least an hour a day, six days a week, and produce at least 10 pages a week.
- Measurable: “I’ll write more” isn’t measurable. The goal above is.
- Attainable: Is this a goal you can attain on your own? The goal above is. Being published by a traditional publisher isn’t; you need an editor’s cooperation.
- Realistic: What is realistically achievable for you to accomplish? Don’t set your goal too low or you won’t feel motivated, challenged, and gratified. Don’t set it too high or you may get discouraged and quit.
- Timely: Set a time frame so you’ll stay focused.
- Tangible: Can you experience your goal with one of your senses? Example: the word and page count at the bottom of the screen.
- Flexible: You must be able to adapt to circumstances and take advantage of opportunities. Goals should be reviewed regularly and revised when appropriate.
The elephant and the bites
We’ve all heard the saying: How do you eat an elephant? A bite at a time. The elephant is your long-term goal, be it to write your family history or to support yourself with your writing.
Break that elephant down into bites. What are your goals for this year (making sure they’re SMARTT-F, of course)? Now you have, what, maybe a haunch? Break that haunch down into quarterly goals, then monthly goals, then weekly goals, and finally daily goals (nibbles!). Maybe even set up a schedule for the work hours of each day.
For example, if your goal is to write the first draft of a 100,000 word novel in 10 months, and there are 5 days each week available for writing, you will need to write approximately 500 words on each of those days. That’s less than 2 pages in double-spaced Times New Roman 12.
If all you need to do today or perhaps this week is to spend half an hour doing research and to write 500 words, that’s not so hard to tackle, is it? (I bet you’d spend at least that amount of time surfing the Internet, and write that many words in chatty texts and emails.)
There will be obstacles
It’s a rule of life. You will face challenges and obstacles. As much as possible, try to identify actual and potential ones in advance and figure out how you will handle them.
How, day after day, will you keep defeating the obstacles and working toward your goals? That’s where motivation comes in – and we’re back to dreams. Your dreams are the biggest motivating factor.
As well as motivation, you need practical strategies. Some of the following will work for you; others may not.
- Make your goal list and “to do” list visible so you can’t ignore them.
- Review your goals regularly. If you’re behind, why and what are you going to do about it?
- Set priorities and respect them by exercising self-discipline. Is a coffee break, a TV show, a game on your smartphone, or social media more important than your writing goals? When a new task comes along, evaluate where it fits on your priority list.
- Respect yourself as a writer and respect your writing time, and ask others to do the same. Set boundaries and enforce them. Look for alternatives (e.g., car pool rather than drive your kids every time). Say “no” when you need to. Feel proud rather than guilty when you do these things.
- Use all your time effectively – e.g., in the dentist’s waiting room or picking up kids at school.
- Make writing a habit. If possible, write at a regular time each day, when you’re at your creative peak. Each day, write a specified number of words or for a specified amount of time.
- When you end one writing session, note down what you’re going to do next time so you’ll be ready to go.
- Turn off the internet.
- Make yourself accountable. Have a goals partner and report your progress. Keep a record of your writing achievements and a log of your writing time
- Have a writing space of your own and organize it effectively.
- Look for courses that may help you.
- Research how to avoid writer’s block and apply those techniques as needed.
- Don’t be a perfectionist and don’t submit to the internal critic, or you may be crippled. Learn to live with self-doubt.
- Learn how to cope with fear, whether it’s of success or of failure.
- Try visualization. Use affirmations and positive self-talk.
- When you get frustrated about the things you can’t control, focus on something positive that you can control.
- Reward yourself when you accomplish your goals.
- Have a support group. Avoid people who aren’t supportive about your writing.
Successful writers develop both the dreamer side and the practical side of their personalities. I wish you the best of luck in achieving your goals and realizing your dreams!