How to achieve your writing goals

Woman on a laptop

Motivations/Strengths and Weaknesses

Motivations

We can set goals and do our best to reach them but there are a few factors to consider if we want our efforts to be as successful as they can be.  If we want to write our book then we need to consider our motivations, and take a look at our strengths and weaknesses.

When I talk about motivations its less about why you are writing your book.  That is incredibly important but for the purposes of this exercise its more about whether we are motivated towards something or away from something.  Let me explain.

If, like me, you are motivated towards something then you are motivated by such things as seeing your named on your published book, being comfortable saying you are an author, seeing your book on bookshelf or even on Amazon.

If, like so many, you are motivated away from something then what gets you writing is the desire not to have to put ‘writing my book’ on your New Year’s resolution list or not having to answer ‘it’s a work in progress’ to friends, family or work colleagues when they ask how your book is going. 

Neither is right or wrong but knowing which one motivates you can really help.  For example, drafting a book cover on Canva with your book title and your name and putting in somewhere you can see it every day, can be a remarkable motivator.

Strengths and weaknesses

You are reading this because you haven’t met your writing goals.  You’ve undoubtedly tried previously and not succeeded in getting your books started or finished.

So, its helpful to take a look at why.  What distracted you?  Why wasn’t your book a sufficient priority to get it finished?  Everybody has well developed procrastination techniques – whether its kids, housework, reading or working – we all have our ‘go-to’ options when our writing is challenging us. 

You need to look at what yours are, acknowledge them and then decide how you are you going to manage them.  Those are our weaknesses. 

I’m not a fan of routine.  I love the romantic idea of writing being a process undertaken when the muse takes me on a journey.  If I followed that theory I would never have finished a single book.  I have to force myself to get started writing.  Why?  I love writing – really love it!  That doesn’t stop me finding credible excuses not to get started.

What are yours?  Find them, flush them out and manage them. 

Your strengths are just as important. What do you do well?  Are you best with a deadline?  If so, set one – and if committing to yourself is not enough, then make a clear commitment to someone who will hold you accountable.

If you are reliable and always turn up to your meetings, then schedule a meeting in your diary for your writing. 

Set goals

It’s a no brainer that we need to set goals but how can we do it to make sure we achieve them?

SMART goals are a good place to start if you don’t already have something that works for you. 

Make your goals:

http://www.houseofhunt.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/SMART-Goals.jpg

(http://www.houseofhunt.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/SMART-Goals.jpg)

But better still…

We’ve all been told that writing down our goals makes a huge difference but there is evidence. 

Gail Matthew from Dominican University and Steve Krause from Harvard put it to the test.  They took a random sample of participants and broke them up into five groups who were all asked to decide on their goals for the next 4 weeks.

Group 1 were asked to decide on goals 

Group 2 were asked to write down their goals

Group 3 wrote down their goals and make commitments to action

Group 4 wrote down their goals and make commitments to action to a supportive friend

Group 5 wrote down their goals, make action commitments and progress reports to their supportive friend. 

The good news is that Group 2 who simply wrote down their goals did significantly better than those in Group 1 at achieving their goals. 

The great news is that Group 5 did better than all of the other groups. 

So, 3 key pieces of advice about achieving your goals are evidenced by this research – accountability, commitment to action and writing down your goals. 

(You check out the summary of the findings at Dominican.edu/academics/ac/undergraduate-programs/psych/faculty/assets-gail-matthews/researchsummary2.pdf)

Overwhelm

Setting goals that are unachievable is not going to motivate you to write and neither is trying to take on an entire book at all once.  If you sit down at your computer and decide that you’re going to write a book the chances are that you’re going to feel like hiding. So, here are some options to help.

Break down your goals into bitesize pieces.  As most people crazy enough to take on NaNoWriMo (where writers take on the task of writing 50 000 words in 30 days) do, you should break into down from 50 000 words into smaller, achievable pieces.  50 000 divided by 30 day is 1666 per day.  Now that sounds a lot more doable – doesn’t it?

Another strategy is to set aside chunks of time to write every day.  Some writers argue that they don’t need to write every day.  Here is where we need to be extremely honest with ourselves.  If you are meeting all of your writing goals, then by all means use whatever strategy you are currently using.  If you’re not, and that would be most of us, then you NEED to write every single day, whether its for 10 minutes or 3 hours.  Regular writing, every single day. 

Prioritising your writing

Another strategy advised by Julia Cameron author of the ‘The Artist’s Way’ is to make an appointment with yourself.  It’s a very clever idea to prioritise your writing.  Most of us have a tendency to prioritise those things that are scheduled in our diaries. 

Many of us don’t prioritise our writing – in my case its because I see it as fun so I feel as though I need to get ‘my work’ done first.  Yet writing is my work.  I should be prioritising it and even if it wasn’t ‘work’ then why is something I enjoy so much, not one of my main priorities in my life. 

The truth is that even the busiest person will find time to write if its important to them.  What you feed is what you will grow.

Another suggestion is to write first thing in the morning.  I personally write better from 10pm to 2am however with too many things I have to get done, I often find I’m too tired to get it done late at night.  I have had to change my schedule to accommodate it in the mornings to give it the energy it deserves.  Many writers find the quietest, least interrupted time of the day is before their families get up. 

A friend of mine shared this idea with me many years ago while they were writing their dissertation. They would set a timer for 20 minutes and force themselves to write for that twenty minutes.  If they were really struggling they would finish up after twenty minutes but they most often found that they were so ‘into it’ by then that they wouldn’t notice the timer run out. 

Some other ideas…

If your writing is starting to feel like ‘work’ then consider changing your environment.  Even something as simple as writing in a café, in a garden or even, as Marian Keyes is known to do, writing in bed in her pyjamas, can make it feel less like a job. 

Ernest Hemingway used to track his writing.  To check that he was achieving his goals he would write them down and every day, when he finished, he would record what he actually wrote.  Then he would check the two against each other to see if he was achieving his target wordcount.  

Another way to achieve your goals is to carry a notebook or your phone to record any ideas you have and to take advantage of any free time you have.  One writer I know wrote their entire crime novel in her lunch breaks. 

Happy writing!

Author: nicolejohnstoncomms

With two decades of professional writing experience, I am a ghostwriter, content creator and writing coach. I help busy people realise their dreams of finishing their books.

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