I’m about to show you my 2022 writing goals.
I'm doing this for a few reasons: I want to give insight into my writing life, I want to show you how to create your own writing goals, and maybe - maybe - to encourage you to be more ambitious with your own life.
Want the short version? In 2022, I aim to...
How did I arrive at these numbers? What are the chances I'll hit my goals in 2022?
Keep reading, and I’ll tell you 🙂
In 2021, I intended to write and publish three full novels and a novella.
I did about half that.
The truth is, I don’t think I’ve ever accomplished my annual writing goals.
I’ve won NaNoWriMo a few times, I’ve finished drafts of novels on self-imposed deadlines, and in 2021 I did a three-month daily writing streak (swiftly followed by a soul-crushing bout of burnout. I do not recommend).
But those huge, long-term milestones continue to evade me. In a way, I’m proud of that. I started an incredible journey, and made enormous progress over the last year. Maybe I should be more realistic with my ambitions… but 50% isn’t bad. In fact, 50% towards a goal is a reason to celebrate.
In 2021, I did outline, write, and perform first-round edits for three epic-length novels. For someone who has never written a book in less than 2 years before, that’s quite an accomplishment.
And, as I’ve said before, nothing teaches you faster than failing.
And oh, me, did I
fail learn a lot last year.
If you bit off more than you can chew, don’t be afraid to spit it out, and try again.
Last year, I read a book called Peak Performance. It was a quick, easy read that really hammered in the importance of REST. That is, if you want to excel at something, you need to respect your body’s need for focused, high-quality rest.
If you find yourself stretched thin, if you feel tired and pressured to keep working, you should really read this book.
Here’s a takeaway that helped me the most: the goal is not to spend all your energy every single day. Instead, you should end each day with energy still in your tank. Otherwise, you might find yourself waking up "already tired."
When the words are flowing, I’m pretty bad at listening to my body or my brain. So it really helps me to have a hard shutdown time, ending my days with a simple journal routine. This also ensures that I don’t use 100% of my battery every single day… or worse, to ensure I don’t steal energy from the next day.
Certainly, it depends. There must be a balance, and I think every writer needs to find their own (which you can only do by trying it yourself).
On the one hand: unrealistic goals can make you push yourself harder. You might be surprised by what you can do…
On the other: you are unlikely to achieve unrealistic goals. Every time you miss a goal, it can hurt your confidence, which can hurt your ability to write, thus beginning a downward spiral.
Go for a balance. Decide on a goal that you know you can do, then reach a little higher.
By setting ambitious goals - and attempting to stick with them - you will learn so much about your abilities and your process than you ever would by setting surefire goals.
I had enormous blocks of time to myself, which is an introvert writer's dream come true. And I learned how easy it is to squander those wide, open blocks on your calendar.
In fact, I might have done nothing all year, if not for my two favorite tools: consistency and blocking out my writing times on my calendar. Now, I start and stop writing at a certain time every day (except Sundays).
I don’t know what witchcraft is at work, but I swear it gets so easy to start writing once you build the habit. If you’re struggling with this, I strongly recommend you set a TINY goal here. As in, “I will write 1 sentence every day at 8am” or something like that.
Most of all, last year was an experiment with time.
You have no idea how frustrated I was with myself. Why can’t I just be more disciplined? Why can’t I start writing earlier? Why is it so hard to stay focused?
At some point, I started journaling before and after every writing session. No matter what. The rule was “write three sentences.”
No matter what.
This journal grew into a notebook full of ideas, inspiration, and pages of peeling back my beliefs to sink into harsher truths.
It helped. Immensely. Writing in a journal gave me distance to see where I was falling down, again and again. Journaling also gave me the idea I’m most excited about in 2022, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
If you feel stuck on a problem, or trapped by an emotion this year, reach for your journal or note-taking tool. It might only take you and your pen only a few short sentences to untangle your thoughts.
Because I learned so much last year, I had to make a few major updates to this Goal Setting Guide for Writers.
Namely, I’ve moved from a purely time-based writing system (write for X hours a week), to a hybrid of word counts, timed goals, and milestones. I know, I love to overcomplicate things for myself.
These are my goals for 2022…
End of January Update: I am already behind on my milestones. The words are flowing, but Book #3 keeps growing. That is no bad thing, because the book needs to be as long as it needs to be.
However, this means I'll have to reconsider my milestones soon. I'll do that in March. If you don't meet your own expectations, change your expectations and move on. It's better not to get caught up in the oversimplified binary world of success/failure.
Maybe these goals look lofty to you. And I know it’s impossible not to compare yourself. But we are different people (right? I hope we are), and what works for me will not necessarily work for you. For example, there are authors out there who write 10,000 words a day and it still blows my mind.
My goals came from hundreds of hours of writing and testing over the last few years. In 2021, I tracked everything I wrote by word count and time, so I have the data to prove how realistic these goals are for me.
Plus, I developed habits and a schedule that works around my most frequent points of failure. For example, I have to take off at least one day a week. Burnout is both painful and invisible, and if I don’t get enough rest, it starts to eat me alive. Word counts suffer, attention spans suffer, and overall creativity crashes and burns.
I also learned that I can safely write, on average, 1000 words an hour. Sure, there are times when I fly through the words faster than that, but when you’re trying to write more than half a million words, it’s not about those speedy sprints.
It’s not even about the marathon. Writing novels is more akin to running a marathon multiple times a week, every week, for months. Which means I need to set a doable, daily schedule that doesn’t drain you too much.
My goal of 697,500 words comes from a rough estimate of word counts from my monthly milestones. This goal includes words written and edited, so more likely this will only amount to ~350,000 fresh new words.
All in all, that’s 2600 words a day, 5 days a week, plus a shorter day on the weekends (around 1600 words). The math-ier people among us will note this includes an extra day off, or two, each month. Because everyone needs a good ol’ fashioned break.
I haven’t told you about my secret weapon yet.
Finally, I get to talk about something ridiculous I’ve been working on.
I built a game.
Well, really, I built a spreadsheet.
The idea came from a question I asked myself in my journal last year:
“How can I reward myself for having a good writing day?”
I play a lot of video games, and I love figuring out how the addictive elements can immerse players into a world. Progressing in a game always feel real, tangible, and powerful.
So, I’m trying to do that with my writing. I built out a quick game:
It’s a simple game, but that’s the point. I don’t know if I’ll stick with it long term. It might change completely in the next few weeks. Or, it might fail and die any day now, but again - that’s okay.
The point is to try new things, and experiment with systems to build better writing habits.
That’s all these goals are: attempts to improve myself.
I hope you try something this year, too.
Am I scared to fail?
Will I get stressed out when I fail to meet a weekly goal?
Last spring, I developed a horrendous inability to sleep. We’re talking lying in bed for 4-5 hours, wide awake. (Here's a tip: don't do that.)
I've always had problems sleeping, but not like that. Still, I'm glad I went through it-
Okay, that’s a lie.
I am glad that I learned how to deal with it. I'm sleeping much better now.
The root cause was self-induced stress. My expectations from myself were too damn high. Goals are fun to dream about, but I have a tendency to dream for too much… which meant I either had to work twice as much, or fail.
It was bad. I was constantly stressed by how far behind I was. Eventually, I got to the point where I would wake up and already feel like I had “failed” the day.
This time last year, all I had were those lofty goals. I had no experience writing so much, no schedule, no systems, no healthy writing habits.
This year, I’m ready. Here’s what I’ve prepped:
Hopefully, this improves my chances of achieving my goals in 2022.
BUT… I’m already preparing myself to fail better at my writing.
Frustration is the enemy of productivity. So, it’s important to be kind to yourself when you fail your goals.
My monthly milestones are just a map, and knowing that I will probably have to deviate from the shortest path doesn’t bother me at all. I know I’ll get where I’m going, as long as I focus on consistent writing.
If I can hit my word goal in a week, I’m golden - no matter what. And if I can’t?
Rest. Pick myself up. And try again next week.
Often, when you keep failing, you already know why.
You just have to pull that reason out of your brain.
In lieu of advanced full-brain extraction technology, you can just use a journal.
When I sit down to journal, I try to talk to myself about why I failed, or why I feel like I failed. I ask what good happened because of, or despite, my failure. And I try to figure out what I can do (realistically) to win the next time I go write.
This way, every day gets a fresh start. And every week, a clean slate.
If I find myself consistently failing, I have a simple 10% rule. Did I fail two weeks in a row? Drop the weekly goal by 10%.
When I start succeeding again - and building my confidence - I might consider increasing the goal by 5%.
Small bites are always better than big ones. When working towards anything huge and long term (like writing novels), it’s critical for most of us to build our confidence. And hitting a small, reasonable goal is a great way to put a smile on your face.
2022 is already rolling, and I’m rolling with it.
For me, this year is about strengthening the habits I created in 2021. It might look and feel the same as last year, but I’m a totally different person. And, I’ve got a new secret weapon.
I have always wanted to toy around with gamifying my writing. That is, taking the reward principles from video games, and attempting to apply them to my own writing habits.
Whether or it works, or whether it’s just a passing experiment, either way I’m glad I have the chance to write, and to test out new writing ideas.
So, what are your goals this year? Did anything from this post help you out? Let me know in the comments below.
If you haven’t yet, don’t wait. Set Your 2022 Writing Goals Now.