There’s a beauty to accomplishing a big task, especially when it comes to writing. Sure, deep down we all want to be recognized for our work, whether it’s by our friends, co-workers, family, or Matt Lauer. No matter the form of acknowledgement, we all want to see something come of the fruits of our labor. But what comes before this sparkling recognition and cheer? Work. Lots and lots of independent, isolated, secluded work.
So what’s the magic trick to get from started to finished? The snake oil which will cure all that ails you? Goals. Setting a goal is one of the best ways for you to measure your own progress and know when you have completed your task. This can be a goal of writing one short story, first draft in a week, or revising a quarter of your novel in two months. Whatever it is, a goal, if you respect it and work toward it, can increase your productivity and help motivate you to get writing.
But setting a goal just like that may be setting you up to fail. To live this writing life you’re going to need to make your goal a manageable one, realistic enough to be met by deadline without tearing your hair out. If necessary, break up your goal into bite sized portions to make it achievable. Not that you’ll publish one story every three months (you don’t have any control of that), but you can submit four stories a month. Having a goal you can actually reach will lead to your success, and that feeling of achievement can help you to set and meet more goals in the future.
Another key to a good writing goal is to make your goal measureable. If you can’t follow your progress, how will you know how you’re doing? You don’t want to say that you’ll write an entire book in two months. How will you know when you’re halfway there? What is an “entire book?” Unless you know your word count or page goal you won’t know when to say you’ve reached the finish line. A measureable goal will tell you how many words you’ll need per day and allow you to see when you take the lead or fall behind. With a measurable goal, then all you have to do is make the time to write and get started.
Finally, one of the more fun aspects of this writing life is the fact that meeting a goal is also a reason to celebrate. If you don’t bask in your sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line of your story, then what was it all for? Sure, you’ve completed a story, book, novel, or collection of poetry, but celebrating, even quietly, adds fuel to the productivity fire, making your next goal possible. Of course, we’re writers, the budget for celebration is often low, but taking a night off from writing to go to the movies, stay in and read, or just take a long bath with no interruptions can be reward enough. If you don’t have one, set a goal, work toward it, and don’t be shy in letting people know you’re a person who does what they set out to do.