28 December 2010

Setting achievable writing goals

It's this time of year: stock taking, New Year's resolutions, setting goals.
Have you been thinking how to become a better writer? A successful one? Published?Finish that b***y manuscript?
What is your writing goal?
Do you know how to achieve it?

I admit, I'm addicted to setting and achieving goals. If we don't count the evergreen weight loss, I have achieved everything I've ever really wanted, sometimes a little later than I initially thought, but generally as planned.
The key to my successes has always been the word: REALLY.
I believe that you can achieve everything you really want, although there is a price for it. A lot depends on whether you want to pay the price.

When setting a goal, any goal, you need to ask yourself a number of questions and answer them as honestly as you can.

1. What is it what you want to achieve it? Name it. Don't be shy. How will you know you've achieved it?

2. Do you really want to achieve it? Because if you don't - what is the point of trying?

3. Are you prepared to pay the price? Whether it's money, time, or some other sacrifice, there is always a price for getting what you want - can you afford it?

4. Why do you want to achieve it? This is a question about your motivation. It will come handy in times of struggle!

5. How you want to achieve it? In one big go? or as a series of little steps? If you set a smaller goal or a series of 'baby steps', keep the bigger picture in mind. Try to break big goals into smaller steps - it'll help you getting where you want to be.
Keep track of your steps, review your journey, celebrate little successes on the way. It will make it easier.

6. When do you want to achieve it? By the end of next year? within the next couple of 2 years? Be specific, but also realistic, think about potential pitfalls, like family holiday (I find it hard to concentrate on writing when on holidays), or school breaks if you have kids; it's not a very good idea to set yourself a goal of finsihing your novel in a year when you're also planning to get a new day job, sell a house, move countries, settle into new life, and... well - you get the picture (that's why my first novel is still unfinished: it's been with me through 1 baby, 2 continents, 3 countries, 4 jobs and 5 houses).

7. Set yourself up: get rid of unnecessary things, irrelevant activities, distractions.
Hard, I know - I'm guilty of checking my emails or Twitter account umpteen times a day, too.
There are ways of deleting addictive games from your computer, there are programmes, which won't allow you to use Internet for more than pre-set amount of time; mobile phones have 'Off' button, landlines can be unplugged. It's your writing time - your decision.
You can track your writing progress with progress meters -I find it very motivating.

8. Get support: from your family (it may be difficult but it will pay in the end - if you manage to convince them that you REALLY want to finish that novel they may want to support you and share some of the chores so you have time for writing!), friends, and particularly from other writers - they know how hard it is to be a writer.

Here is the graph I use when setting a goal:

My goals for 2011 are:
- sell a fiction manuscript or get an agent
- finish that b***y novel
- get another non-fiction proposal accepted

What are your goals for 2011?

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