Starting a new writing project can be challenging. You have to decide what you want to accomplish and how to pace yourself. In other words, you have to set some writing goals. Knowing where you want to go helps to determine how to get there. Kind of like plugging in a destination into your GPS.
Far too often I plunge into my work without setting any goals. I just start writing. But so or later I come to a point where I’m not making any progress. That’s when I usually go back and clarify my aim for the piece. Setting writing goals enables you to focus your creativity. It’s time consuming, but makes writing a lot easier.
So the first step is to clarify your vision. I usually journal for fifteen to twenty minutes about what I want to accomplish. I ask myself a basic question — what are you trying to say with this piece? I play with a lot of different ideas without worrying about whether any of it makes sense, kind of like a brainstorming session. Then I go back through what I wrote and underline the phrases and sentences that excite me. I take those highlighted sections and look for a theme. Then I journal about those specific ideas until I have clarified my vision enough to start writing. Sometimes this takes a few days or even weeks. But it’s worth the effort. Whenever you get stuck, those journal entries can help you to refocus.
Once you have a firm idea of what you want to do, then it’s time to establish a deadline to complete the work. If we leave our writing too open-ended, it will never get done. Deadlines helps us to plan our time so we know how to pace ourselves. Word of caution — too much time and you may lose enthusiasm for the project. Too little time and you may feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
But even with deadlines it’s hard to get the work done unless you decide how much work you want to get done in each writing session. I have two friends who write together every Wednesday night for three hours. Another writer friend sets page limits. I vacillate between setting time limits and word targets. I use the time limits to make sure I keep my behind in the chair writing and the word target when I’m under a deadline. Either way, once I reach my daily goal, I give myself permission to stop writing and do something else. Some days I write well beyond my daily target. And other days I struggle. (I’ll share what to do on those days in another post.)
Your writing time will become more productive once you set a goal. You will also see where you need to set limits in the rest of your life. I find that when I have set writing goals I know when I need to say no to friends and family in order to finish my work. They also show me when I need say no to myself, especially when it comes to my guilty pleasure — Facebook.
I spend way more time than I care to admit scrolling through my Newsfeed. I’m always one click away from getting lost in cute pictures, funny videos, and interesting articles. When we first moved to Georgia, it was my only connection to the outside world. I didn’t know anyone other than my family. But now I have local friends, but unfortunately I’m addicted. I even volunteered to administer a Facebook Page for a friend’s business. But that’s a whole different subject for another post. It suffices to say the time I spend surfing would be better spent writing. Take inventory of how your spending your time. Is there some activity you need to limit to create more time for your writing?
Settings goals is also includes rewarding yourself. When you celebrate milestones along the way, it motivates you to keep going. It could be as simple as a little treat (chocolate and a glass of wine work for me) or a big gift (like a massage).
Don’t just read this post,though. Take some time to set your own writing goals. Check out my post on questions to consider when setting writing. Share your answers with someone. It adds another level of accountability. I know there are a lot of people who don’t want anyone to know they write. I’m here to support your efforts and will be glad to hold you accountable. So feel free to share your goals with me. Post them here or send me an email. I’d love to hear what you’re doing.
Until next time,
The Confident Writer