As we near the end of the year, it’s time to set your writer goals for the next 12 months. But where do you start?
Why should writers set goals?
In all areas of your life, whether work, hobbies, personal development or relationships, it’s important to aim for something. It gives your activities purpose, instead of muddling along, unsure of why you’re doing what you’re doing or where you’re headed.
When you’re employed, many of your work-related goals are probably set with the help of your employer or your line manager through a development programme. Writers and authors need to be motivated to work out their short- and long-term goals for themselves.
Setting goals will remind you why you sit down to write every day (or whenever you have time to do so!) and will motivate you to improve your craft. It will help you to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible.Setting writer goals will help you to achieve more than you ever dreamed possible. Click To Tweet
How to start setting writer goals
I like to start top-down. I begin by thinking about where I want to be in a year (or longer), then gradually break down these goals into three-month goals, then monthly goals.
The best writer goals are SMART. That’s in caps for a reason. It stands for:
Be clear on what you’d like to achieve and why. If relevant, also pinpoint who is involved, where it is located and which resources are needed.
For example: I’d like to complete the final draft of my manuscript, ready for agent submission, to make all my work so far worthwhile, to be ready to start approaching agents and to prove to myself that I can do it.
How will you know you have achieved your goals? When you have written ‘The End’? When you have reached a certain percentage, level of earnings, particular analytics?
For example: I’ll know I’ve completed the final draft of my manuscript when I have incorporated all the beta feedback that I want to act on.
While it’s important to stretch yourself, ensure your goals aren’t so far out of sight as to be unattainable. Make sure your goals are achievable in terms of finances, time available to you, resources and knowledge/experience.
For example: My goal of completing the final draft of my manuscript is achievable because I’ve already printed proof copies of my book and have received beta feedback. I also have the determination and will to finish it.
Your goals need to be applicable to your situation, to you as a person and to the time in your life and writing career. They also need to be relevant to the socio-economic environment and in keeping with other goals you have set. (Some people use ‘Realistic’ instead of ‘Relevant’ here, but this seems too closely related to ‘Achievable’ to me.)
For example: The goal of completing the final draft of my manuscript is relevant to me because when I write is the only time I feel that I shouldn’t be doing something else. My beta feedback has been far more positive that I ever dared to dream and I can’t wait to get my book out into the world.When I write is the only time I feel that I shouldn't be doing something else. Click To Tweet
Each goal you set must have a deadline, otherwise it will be hard not to let daily tasks get in the way. If your major goal has a long deadline, set milestones along the way to keep you motivated and to break up the massive task into manageable steps. Ensure your deadline is achievable, yet stretching.
For example: I will complete the final draft of my manuscript by 31 March 2022.
Know your ‘why’ for your writer goals
This is related to being specific and relevant (see ‘S’ and ‘R’ in SMART goals above), but it’s so important that it deserves its own mention.
Don’t pick a particular goal just because other writers have similar targets, or because you feel you should be in a particular place by a certain age or stage of your writing career. If you do, you may find yourself struggling to achieve it.
Good goals are personal to you. Know why you are striving for something and remind yourself frequently. This is a strong motivator and will keep you focused on the prize.
You can see my ‘why’ for each of my goals below.Knowing 'why' you are striving for something is a strong motivator and will keep you focused on the prize. Click To Tweet
Each time you achieve one of your goals, or a milestone towards that goal, it’s important to reward yourself. This will create a feedback loop by giving you a dopamine hit, motivating you to hit the next milestone or goal.
The reward doesn’t have to be big. OK, a bottle of bubbly when you complete your manuscript or hit the New York Times bestseller list. But for the most part, a reward can be something like:
- an hour reading in the bath (for pleasure, not work)
- a round of golf
- a massage
- a cup of coffee at your favourite café.
Find a planner or journal that works for you
Why use a planner? Because the good ones will guide you through the steps outlined above. This means you don’t have to remember how to set effective, achievable goals. A good planner will also help you to work a little towards your goals each day by breaking them down into weekly or monthly milestones and tasks.
People often ask me which planner I use. I’ve tried a few different ones with varying degrees of success.
Then I hit upon the Legend Planner. This was a game-changer for me. Ones I’d tried before were either too detailed or not detailed enough. Some demanded quite a bit of time each day to set daily goals and debrief every evening. Others didn’t ask for enough data about reasons for goals or how to reward myself.
Enter the Legend Planner. My Goldilocks journal – neither too hard nor too soft.
There are various formats available, but the one that works for me is the ‘Deluxe Weekly and Monthly‘ version. (If you already have your perfect planner, scroll down to see my own writer goals for 2022, along with my ‘why’ for each one).The Legend Planner is my Goldilocks journal; neither too hard nor too soft. Click To Tweet
What I love about the Legend Planner
- Guides you to set long-term and short-term goals
- Starts by encouraging you to think big and imagine your ideal life
- Doesn’t demand much time each day to keep it updated
- Doubles as a journal and planner
- Covers a whole year, whereas other planners only last three or six months. There is also a Legend Planner format that does last 90 days and allows you to plan each day in detail if you prefer.
- Undated, so you can start any time
- Lots of different colour covers available (click on the colour you like below for more details, or to see even more colour options!)
- Stickers (motivational, celebratory, functional and more)
My writer goals for 2022
It may help you to know my writer goals for 2022. Here they are, and I’ve tried to make them as SMART as possible to give me every chance of success:
- By 31 March 2022, I will have finalised my novel manuscript.
- By 30 June 2022, I will have sent my manuscript to five agents.
- Between 1 January 2022 and 31 December 2022, I will have read ten fiction/true-life story books and five books on writing craft or the publication journey.
- I will incorporate two 10-minute yoga sessions into my working day (five days per week) to keep my mind and body active, focused and relaxed.
- I will drink one litre of water every day for at least five days each week to improve my physical and mental wellbeing.
Want to know more?
Once you’ve set your writer goals, it’s time to make sure you do a bit each day, or each week, to stick to them. For a great system on how you can do just that, read this article: A how-to guide for setting better goals by Aline Holzwarth. Aline takes you through the example goal of drinking more water and breaks it down in such a way that it would be difficult to not achieve it.
Let me know in the comments what your biggest writer goals are for 2022. Seeing them in black and white will give you some accountability and make them real!
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