Tormented by Toothless Writing Goals? Try These Tools

Competitie voetbalwedstrijd /  League soccer match

Whether you’re ready to renounce slackerdom, or simply hope to increase your writing production, you’re probably contemplating what you want to get out of 2013. With this post, I hope to set you up for success.

Begin with a step recommended by psychologists, coaches, and efficiency experts. Draft goals with teeth by using the SMART format.

Though you’ll see variation in what each letter stands for, here’s the gist:

  • Specific: You’ve crafted external goals for protagonists and antagonists, so you understand the power of specificity. Our characters don’t merely wish to become healthy –not  if you want immersive, compelling fiction, anyway. They want to run the next Boston Marathon in under two hours, thereby winning a bet so they can cash in their winnings and save the family farm. Aim for comparable specificity in your goals.
  • Measurable: To know if you’re making progress towards your goal, look for embedded and trackable numbers. Word counts are a good example. But what if you’re doing a task that cannot be easily quantified, such as plotting or editing? Or what if your brain shuts down when given a concrete goal? Quantify your time. For example, you might decide to spend 1 hour per day, Internet blocker on, giving your full attention to the task at hand. (I like StayFocusd — a Chrome extension and free.) Alternatively, quantify your day’s effort on a sliding scale out of 10.
  • Actionable: Can you take concrete, discrete, and visible steps to make your goal come true? Does its completion depend only upon you? If not, reframe or adjust.
  • Realistic: The best goals invite a sense of excitement rather than complacency. When you think of your goal, don’t end up looking like Eugene Levy in this SCTV parody of a Perry Como performance. On the other hand, don’t make your goal so gargantuan you won’t wish to begin.
  • Time-bound: Give yourself a ticking clock, a deadline. You can set daily, weekly, monthly goals, and build in purposeful days of rest.

Examples of SMART writing goals:

  • I will complete the first draft of this novel by Mar. 17, 2013 by writing 3000 words per week.
  • I will edit 3 pages of this manuscript daily until complete, which should take place on Feb. 2, 2013.
  • For the next three months, I will free-write for 15 minutes daily, with the exception of Sundays. During that time I will use the Internet blocker and put in an effort at a 7 out of 10.

The mere crafting of SMART goals is seldom sufficient.

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