Note: this post has been mildly updated for 2020. All dates are left the same, so you can see my historic goal-setting.
One of my yearly writing goals:
“Fail as much as possible.”
I want to fail at more writing projects. I want to get more rejections letters. I want to finish books, and have them completely bomb.
In order to do that… I’ll have to write more. Lots more. I’m talking mountains of paper and 1,000,000+ words that nobody will ever read.
Why Should You Have Writing Goals?
A few years ago… I wasn’t writing at all.
Dreaming of writing, yes. Telling people I was going to be a writer, yeah.
But actually writing? Rarely, if ever…
…until I started writing for fun, on a site called Reddit. There were a few “writing prompt” subreddits I wrote on pretty regularly.
(You can even find my name in the Hall of Fame).
Eventually, I was writing 2000+ words per day… on Average.
The nature of these writing subreddits forced me to implement short, sharp deadlines for my work. If I wrote too slow, someone else would steal the coveted “first spot” – and nobody would see my story… no matter how hard I worked on it.
This was my reason to sit down and just get to it. Because if I didn’t… someone else would. I would miss my chance.
Everyday you don’t write, you miss your chance.
To get good at almost anything, you must be consistent with your practice.
Goals are the best way to become a consistent writer. Therefore, goals are the best way to improve your writing.
If you achieve your writing goals – or, at the very least, attempt them – it is impossible to not improve.
Even if you fail at your writing goals, you will improve. And, you’ll probably learn something.
Lastly, goals are the only way to know how far you’ve come… and how far you need to go.
For example, last year I made a goal to write for 2+ hours for 200 days out of the year. I surpassed that goal by 80 days.
Which means… that goal was way too low.
You can tell in the image above that after October… my writing dried up.
Goals will drive you forward. They motivate you.
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
How to Set Your Own Writing Goals
1. Make your goals SMART
Acronyms grate on me… most of the time. But in this case, I allow it because it’s so damn helpful.
Your writing goals should be…
- Actionable (this is the most useless part of the acronym)
So my 2+ hours in 200 days should fit all of that criteria.
2. Write down your goals.
WRITE THEM DOWN. Right now! Go write them down somewhere that you can look at them regularly.
A cheap whiteboard. I don’t care – get a thumbtack and a piece of paper and write it down.
This will motivate you every time you sit down and think about wasting time.
Your “past self” has insanely high hopes for your future self. Use that. Allow your past self to “guilt trip” future you.
Keep your real dreams front and center, so when that shiny, red, new notification pops up – you have the strength to ignore it and stick to something that matters.
3. Set a Goal You Can Fail
I’ve seen people say “My writing goal is to write 1 sentence per day.”
Decent. But you can do better.
How much will you actually learn from 1 sentence per day?
Why not 10 sentences? Why not 100? Be “too hard” on yourself now, and do everything you can to help future self do it anyway.
I’m not religious, but I love this quote:
“Don’t pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”
How to Actually “Win” Your 2020 Writing Goals
Here’s five sure-fire ways to make sure you achieve your goals this year. Or, at least, fail better at your goals this year.
1. Make a writing plan.
One of my goals this year – well, my main goal this year is to write for 1000 hours.
That’s 60,000 minutes. I’m choking just looking at that number.
But I know I can do it… because I’ve planned it all out.
I’m going to write for 180 minutes every day.
That’s about 334 days of writing for 3 hours each day.
Because I have a plan, the chances that I will actually accomplish this goal will go way up.
I don’t have to plan every day. I already know what I have to do.
2. Find someone to write with you.
If you’ve never achieved your writing goals before, this is the way to go.
For me, it was a combination of Reddit and online “writing races.”
For you, it might be writing meetups or real-life friends.
Find an easy, enjoyable way to make your writing goals social and rewarding, and the very act of writing will become something you crave.
3. Create a new place to start writing.
Every morning my dad wakes up, he does two things:
- Find the newspaper
- Sit down at the breakfast table
Nothing will ever distract him from that newspaper while he is at the table. It’s become his habit.
For me, it was writing instead of a newspaper. And a local coffee shop instead of the breakfast table.
I went, most days before work, some days after work, and bought the cheapest item on the menu (which happened to be coffee, praise be to the bean gods)…
… and then I wrote for 2 hours. Easy.
If you don’t already have a spot solely dedicated to writing and nothing else, I suggest you make one. Find a way to make one. Even if it means going to your library with nothing but a juice-box and a typewriter. Make it a habit.
Because some days the words will refuse to come out. And when that happens, you can always go to this spot… and they will simply flow.
4. Figure out your writing barriers.
This tip comes from thewritepractice.com:
What’s stopping you from writing?
- Fear of writing?
- That intermittent beeping sound from the microwave?
Write about it. Spend twenty minutes figuring out the problem – once and for all.
Count that as “writing time,” because figuring it out can unlock hundreds of extra hours of writing for you in the future.
5. Start writing as soon as you can, every day.
I’m a night writer.
Partially because I think it sounds cool, and partially because I don’t have time in the mornings. I’ll figure it out one day… but until them, I’m a night writer.
Yet – as soon as I see a stretch of “free time” on the horizon, I stake it out as writing time.
When you decide to write as early as possible, you remove a ton of stress from your life. Which, oddly enough, makes it easier to write.
Many famous authors write in the mornings. So there must be something to it, right?
My Writer Goals (to Become a Professional Writer)
One of the most important things I learned last year…
…and you can probably see this in my calendar…
…is that momentum matters.
“The more you write, the easier it is to write more.”
That’s why I’m setting the bar so high for myself this year. I want to write more. And I want it to be easy.
So, I’m going hard on myself this year.
Here are a few of my writing goals for 2018:
- Write 1000 hour
- Post to this blog at least once per week (52 posts in 52 weeks)
- Send publication attempts of my short story to at least 15 publications
- Finish two full drafts of two novels (I’m already working on the 2nd draft of one novel)
That last one is my most ambitious. But, also, the one I’m most excited for. I spent a ton of time last year working on a short story… only to realize that I am far more passionate about novels.
So, I figured… why not turn that passion into a goal?
What Are Your Writing Goals?
You can do it.
And even if you don’t, you can try. Writing is one of the most rewarding passions out there… and if you keep working at it, it could be something more.
I hope I inspired you to be a bit braver this year.
I want to ask you now… what are your writing goals? What are you going to do to achieve them?
Post a comment down below!
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