Day 1: Set Your Goals

Since last year’s Writer’s March, I’ve been thinking a lot about goals.  What makes a goal “Good”?   For the purposes of this Writer’s March, I would like to define a “good” goal as a goal that is, above all else, “achievable.”

4 things to keep in mind when setting your GOAL

Start Small but Don’t be Afraid to Push Yourself

If you aren’t already writing daily, don’t jump into five hours/day.  I was writing an hour a day consistently, and when I bumped myself up to 90 minutes, I struggled to keep it.  I grew discouraged, and as a result, I stopped writing.  Don’t let that happen to you.  If all you can do is 15 minutes/day, don’t be afraid to say it.  Chances are that you’ll write for much longer anyway.  Remember, the purpose of Writer’s March is to find a way for writing to fit into your life.  They say that it takes 30 days to create a habit.  Why not make the habit a goal as well?

That said: whenever you sit down to write, aim for more.  Can the 15 minutes become 30?  Can the 30 become an hour?  Just because you’ve set a goal, doesn’t mean you can’t surpass it at every chance you get.

Be as SPECIFIC as Possible.  

They say that goals are better achieved if they are measurable.  In other words, if possible, make your goals concrete.  Here are some of the Current Challenger goals posted so far:

  • Melanie Unruh’s Monthly Goal: To write 4 stories in the month
  • Lenore Gusch’s Monthly Goal: To write a short story
  • Teresa E. Gallion’s Daily Goal: To write a poem a day

What I envy about those training for marathons are the way they are always advertising their running times and training schedules.  Ran six miles today.  Ran ten miles today.  Think of the daily goals as the same thing: what are you doing each day (writing and for how long?),  and what is your version of the marathon (a novel, a story, a single poem)?  And don’t forget: the act of building a writing habit is also an excellent monthly goal.

Once the Goals Are Set: Keep Them!

When I was at the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference in 2010, the question posed at every reading was this: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? John Dufresne, fiction writer and author of Is Life Like this?, gave this advice:  KEEP YOUR BUTT IN THE SEAT.

These are words I have heard so often I can no longer count them.  The first time was through Greg Martin in a Creative Non-Fiction workshop.  Greg advocated for a minimum of 3 hours/day for his MFA Graduate students.  He firmly believed that even if you couldn’t write a word, you had to sit there anyway.  As Greg put it, you are training your body to write the same way a runner trains his/her body.  You sit there staring so that the next time, when the inspiration strikes, you are ready for it.  If you’d like to hear more about Greg’s theory, you can visit his famous TREADMILL JOURNAL (for writers).

And finally: Don’t Let the Goal Stand in for the Task

Derek Sivers in this Ted Talk says it best:

According to Sivers:

“Repeated psychology tests have proven that telling someone your goal make it less likely to happen.  Anytime you have a goal, there [is]…some work that needs to be done to be done in order to achieve it.  Ideally, you would not be satisfied until you have actually done the work, but when you tell someone your goal and they acknowledge it, psychologists have found that…the mind is tricked into the feeling that it’s already done, and then once you feel that satisfaction you are less motivated to do the hard work necessary.”

In a way, perhaps this Ted Talk is saying that Writer’s March is a bad idea.  But I don’t think you have to look at it this way.  Especially when, at the end, he says that if you must say your goals out loud,

state it in a way that gives you no satisfaction.  Such as, I really want to run this marathon so I need to train five times a week and kick my ass if I don’t, okay?

In others, rather than focusing on the end result, focus on the difficult path (because writing daily is not easy).   But whenever possible: STAY SILENT.  For my purposes, I’ll keep my thoughts about my novel to myself.  And if you must talk about your writing, why not talk about Writer’s March (…ahem…shameless promotion…)

Got a Goal?

If you want your name and your goal to be on the “official” Challengers Page, please SIGN UP TO JOIN THE MARCH.

2 thoughts on “Day 1: Set Your Goals

  1. Interesting what Sivers says… I think accountability is the key. Ultimately we need to learn to be accountable to ourselves, however, a support system like Writers March, I think, can HELP not hinder in the achievement of goals–much like a group like Weight Watchers or AA.

    And while I agree that sometimes talking about your writing tricks you into thinking you actually wrote, sometimes I find talking about my writing with fellow writers helps me work out problems in the writing. (more often when I’m in revision phase, not in development phase)

    GREAT POST! “Goals are tools for focusing on your life and for inspiring you to take action.” (Keith Harrell, Attitude is Everything)

    • I totally agree with you about the accountability. I had wondered whether or not to use the video in the post because I worried it might feel counter-intuitive. LIke, hey thanks for letting me post your goals online, but about that… And yet, I felt I’d rather air on the side of honesty. I do believe in keeping ideas silence, but I believe in keeping community more. Writing is so in the head, we need another outlet.

      And now, plugged in for the day, I’m off to write.

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