Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It’s That Time Of Year

No, not when you realize you’re behind in your holiday shopping. Nor when you slap the heal of your palm to your forehead because you forgot to make your daughter’s costume for the school play, and you leave an ugly red spot that reminds you of the time you had three too many beers and walked into the closed door at that party your mother told you you couldn’t attend. Nope. It’s time to start thinking about your writing goals for the coming year.

You do set goals, right?

According to everything I’ve read, for goals to be effective they must meet three criteria. They must be measurable, meaningful, and attainable.

A good goal for me is “to write two short stories each month.” It’s easily measured. It has meaning and is attainable. A bad goal is “to become a better writer.” How does one measure that? A better way to reach this goal is to set a series of goals that, if completed, will make one a better writer; such as “reading three articles or one book on writing each month,” or “completing two writing courses during the year,” or “write four days a week for a minimum of thirty minutes each day.” These goals are measurable, meaningful, attainable, and should make one a better writer, if accomplished.

One of my goals for last year was to write and submit to my critique group one to two flash stories per month. This is a goal that fits the criteria. Checking the chart I use to track my work with the group, I submitted at least one story every month, except March. I don’t count this as a failure, however, since I submitted three stories in January, four in February, and three in April.

Another goal was to critique one to two stories submitted to the group each week (four critiques are required each month to remain in the group). I accomplished this goal. On the other hand, I was remiss in my goal to read two to three published stories each week. I’m not going to list the rest of my goals for the year. I will say I had seven; and I met them all, but the one noted. {Pat myself on back}

An additional criteria might be that the goal must be realistic. “Write every day” is an example. What if I find that impossible to do? Does such a goal help me, or does it hinder my progress as a writer if I spend more time obsessing over not writing than I do with my butt in the chair pounding out a series of words. Setting a word goal for each session might be a good idea for some. Others may be more comfortable with a time limit. Goals need to motivate writers and help keep them on track. If a writer finds he is unable to meet a goal, maybe it’s a poor goal for the circumstance. The writer may be better off reevaluating the goal and changing it to something that is attainable. Otherwise, he may find himself giving up on writing altogether.

So, as 2009 comes to an end, think about what your writing goals should be for next year. You don’t need to overdo it. Mine fit on a 3x5 index card. Just remember that for you to meet your goals they must be measurable, meaningful, attainable -- and realistic.

Here are three articles on setting writing goals that you might find helpful.

Setting Effective Writing Goals by Moira Allen
How to Get There from Here: The Magic of Goals by Holly Lisle
Setting Your Writing Goals by Sharon Hurley Hall


Deb Hockenberry said...

This was a great blog & you offer good advice. Also, you offer good resources. Maybe it's time for me to set my writing goals for 2010!
Deb :-)

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

Jim, I keep it nice and easy.

My goal?




Jim Harrington said...

Thanks, Deb. I'm glad you found this helpful.

Lea, you can't go wrong with those goals.