Last month you said you’d have 50,000 words by the end of the summer. Last week you said you’d finish your story by the end of this week. Yesterday you said, for the 100th time, “I’ll write tomorrow.”
I’ve been there—making promise after promise, scribbling an arbitrary word count on a post-it note like it was going to force my fingers to the keyboard.
And I’ll be honest: sometimes I’m still there.
It was worst during the year that followed turning in my MFA thesis. Now that deadlines no longer breathed down my neck, there was nothing constantly driving me—or my writing—forward.
Nerd that I am, I researched my heart out. I read up on productivity, on goal-setting strategies, on the writing habits of famous authors. I dove so deep into the work of others I forgot my own, and every time I tried a new strategy, I gave up almost immediately.
I was thinking a lot about how to get myself to write, but I still wasn’t writing.
Why wasn’t I writing?
And it wasn’t just me.
This was an issue plaguing many of my friends and fellow MFA grads—and it continues to be an issue for a lot of writers.
The problem with the way we set writing goals is, most of the time, we’re not doing so in a way that will actually get us to sit down and write.
We make the mistake of assuming that because so-and-so famous writer produced a thousand words a day, or followed such-and-such specific schedule, that we have to operate within the same goal-setting framework. As though all writers are wired the same!
Which is crazy, really, because something that often defines writers is how not like everyone else we are.
We pride ourselves in thinking outside of the box, in seeing the world differently—and yet we try to fence ourselves within these arbitrary parameters because, hey, it worked for Hemingway/King/Woolf/insert-famous-author-here.
The key to setting effective writing goals is recognizing that different writers write differently—and should set their goals accordingly. When I struggled to set writing goals that worked, I failed to consider a crucial piece of the equation: me.
I’ve outlined three goal-setting styles below—along with how to decide which approach is the right fit and how to modify them to make your goals work for you.