Last week, I published the article Setting Realistic Writing Goals, where I talked about my new writing philosophy: having smaller writing ‘goals’ in order to be more productive.
I was chatting with a writing friend about the article, and we started talking about productivity and making your goals easy and achievable.
It was during this conversation that I realized that in last week’s post, I was using the word ‘goal’ when what I really meant was ‘task.’
This was a revelation for me. Let me explain:
A goal is, by definition, something that is not easily achievable. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defined it as “something you are trying to do or achieve.” ‘Trying’ implies not only difficulty, but also possible failure. You don’t ‘try’ to do something you know for sure you’re going to do, you simply do it.
A ‘task’, however, is defined as “a piece of work to be done or undertaken.” It is just something you must do, a means to an end. It might be difficult or unpleasant (writing is work, after all), but it must be done – there is no question about it being achieved or not.
Think of it like housework: You must wash the dishes, or you won’t have any clean plates to eat dinner on. You must do your laundry, or your pants will all have stains on them.
You must write a certain amount of words every day, or you won’t finish your book.
It’s as simple as that.
The power of language
As someone who studied linguistics in college, one of the things I am always aware of is the words I choose to use.
For example, at the library where I work, I make it a point to refer to all library activities as ‘events’ rather than’ programs’, the word more commonly used by librarians.
‘Event’ sounds fun and exciting, like a convention or a concert. ‘Program’ is less clear, with connotations of computers and rehab. It also sounds more routine, like something that happens every day. ‘Event’ sounds like a one-time thing you don’t want to miss.
Goals are made up of tasks
Goals are still important, just not on a daily basis. Goals are the reason we have tasks in the first place. Large goals are made up of smaller goals, which are in turn divided into tasks.
What is the difference between a writing goal and a task? Simple: a task can be done in one sitting. A goal cannot.
The anatomy of a task
Like I said above, in order for something to be called a task, you must be able to do it in one sitting.
For the purposes of a daily writing word count, your task must also be easy enough do every day. You may be able to write 10,000 words in a sitting, but you probably can’t do that for every day for an extended period of time.
A good daily ‘writing task’ must be both easy and sustainable.
On that note, keep writing, my friends!