Why Your Dreams Hold Your Writing Back… and How to Fix It!

How Your Dreams Sabotage Your Writing, And How to Fix It

The trouble with not having a goal is you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score. – Bill Copeland

It’s that time of year again – the gyms are crowded, Weight watchers is seeing a raise in their subscribers, and writers are telling themselves this is the year I will (insert writer dream here).

Of course, they forget that they told themselves the same thing last year, and the one before that as well.

Don’t get me wrong, long-term goals are important. However, your dreams – i.e., vague, long-term goals – are standing in the way of your success as a writer. More specifically, their wording, execution, and lack of planning.

Why Goals are Important

Goals propel us forward, and help us mark our progress towards the results (and life) we want. Except for a few happy accidents, if you don’t have goals, you can bet that on January 1st next year, you’ll be in basically the same place you are now.

The Reasons Why Your Goals Aren’t Working

What stands between you and your goals?

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There are two big hallmarks of poor goals: First, they’re vague. You have a dream to one day publish a book, but you have no concrete plan about the when, what, and why of accomplishing it. Which is pretty much a recipe to not do much of anything at all.

This leads us to the second hallmark of a poor goal: It requires no immediate action. It’s easy to say I’m going to finish my novel by the end of the year, but if you say that and then immediately go back to binge-watching Game of Thrones, than you can pretty much guarantee it’s not happening. That’s why it’s important to break down your goals into small, measurable tasks. If you’re not sure how to do that, don’t worry, we break the process down below.

So What Makes a Good Goal?

Christ Riche divides goal-setting into three components: the vision, the goals, and the plan. A poor goal is just the vision (“I’m going to publish a book”) without the goals (“Write, edit, and submit a manuscript”) or the plan (Write 500 words a day, edit a chapter a week, etc.).

Good goals are measurable. It’s important that your goals be measurable, both so that you can check your progress, and for your sanity. A measurable goal will include both a number and a time frame. For example, writing 700 words a day, or 20 pages a week. It’s best to stick with daily goals, as it’s easier not to get behind that way.

Avoid unspecific goals like ‘I’ll write as much as I can every day.” I mean, what does that even mean? It will just drive you crazy because you’ll never feel like you wrote enough.

Good goals are attainable. It’s important to choose goals that are realistic. It sounds nice to say that you’ll write 1,000 words every day, but if you work full time and have kids, it will be nearly impossible to keep up. If your goal isn’t realistic, it’s easy to get discouraged and stop writing at all. That’s why it’s imperative that your goal suits your lifestyle and ability.

Good Goals are Meaningful. Be sure that the goals you set are things you actually care about and want to spend time on. It doesn’t matter if a goal is theoretically sound if you lose interest after a couple weeks.

Want more info on goal setting? Check out this post on setting realistic writing goals!

Turn Your Bad Goals Into Good Ones

Spend 5-10 minutes writing down all the goals you’d someday like to accomplish – i.e., getting a book published, being published in a certain magazine, supporting yourself with your writing, etc. Try not to judge these goals. For now, just get them all down on paper.

Now go back and divide what you’ve written down into long-term and short-term goals. Short-term goals are measured by output (writing 500 words a day, for example), and long-term goals are measured by results (getting a book published). Generally, we have more control over the accomplishment of short-term goals rather than long-term goals (You might achieve your short-term goal of submitting your manuscript, but the editor still might reject it.) It’s through the regular completion of short term goals and tasks that we accomplish our long-term goals.

If possible, divide your goals into 2-4 categories. My categories were Fiction, Essays, Blog, and Craft. Yours might be different. Go through and list your goals in each category in order of achievability. For example, here was my goal list for fiction:

  • Publish a book every year
  • Publish a book
  • Finish writing/editing a manuscript
  • Finish first draft
  • Write 500 words per day

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See how the goals at the bottom of the list are immediately achievable? Your short-term goals will be on the bottom, while your long-term goals will be on the top.

Now, go through and circle what you can accomplish in a year, and be honest with yourself. You want these goals to be lofty, but achievable. These are what I think I can do this year:

  • Finish writing/editing a manuscript
  • Finish First Draft
  • Write 500 words per day

Do this for all your categories. Here’s my finished goal-sheet:

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You can see that I outlined the goals I think are doable this year.

I then wrote that out into Yearly, Monthly, Weekly, and Daily tasks:

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Goal-setting Tips

  • Set alarms or reminders on your phone to help you stick with your writing goals. This is especially helpful in the beginning when you’re still building these habits.
  • Post a list of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals somewhere where you’ll see it every day. This will help you keep the goal in the forefront of your mind.
  • Prioritize your goals – decide which two you want to focus on, and put the others on the back burner. Once you get used to your new schedule, you can decide if you can handle more.
  • Share your goals with others, such as your friends, family, or a writing group. Ask them to check in periodically. This will keep you accountable to someone other than yourself. Don’t forget to return the favor for them!

References and Resources

 

Goals are Worthless if….-Writing World

Setting Effective Writing Goals – Writing World

Six Important Reasons Why You Should Set Goals

Setting and Achieving Meaningful Goals

Poor Goal Setting

 

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H. Duke

H. Duke writes contemporary fantasy, horror, and more. She currently lives in Tempe, Arizona with her husband, Giru, and a shiny black dog named Jupiter. Her weird west serial Jeremiah Jones Cowboy Sorcerer is being released in eight episodes (sort of like a TV show, but for your e-reader!). you can get the first four episodes here.


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