A new year dawns and brings with it inspiration, courage and determination, triggering many writers to set their writing goals or resolutions.
There’s always been something magical about passing from one year to the next, a kind of promise that we can start afresh, or get one step closer to reaching our dreams. Somehow we’ll be wiser, kinder, faster, thinner, richer and more successful. January 1st offers hope.
Dreams inspire us and hope keeps us going, but the only way to achieve your writing goals in 2014 is to plan ahead. So how do you make the most of this burst of new year inspiration? Here’s some tips:
Know your writing goals
You’re unlikely to hit a target without knowing where it is. I want to be a successful writer is a fine dream, but it’s not a goal unless you know what you mean by successful, and you have a plan to reach that point. Achievable goals follow a clear path.
- Identify your long-term writing goals. This is easy. Do you want to be a published author? Do you want to be a best-selling author? Or perhaps you want to make enough money for a new house. There is no right or wrong dream for your future, it’s your life, what do you want from it? Write a short passage describing your idea of a successful future, what does it look like? Before you plan your yearly goals or resolutions, you need to know where you’re hoping those achievements will take you.
- What steps can you take in 2014? What areas of your writing career can you work on this year? Perhaps you need to sharpen an aspect of your writing, network with professionals in the writing industry, promote yourself, submit to editors or be more productive? You need to be honest with yourself if you want to move forward–there’s no point planning to submit more short stories, or market yourself, if you are not producing any writing products. If you make excuses to avoid writing every day, make a word count or minimum time to write part of your writing goals.
- Cull your goal list. This is the hardest part for many writers, including myself. Be realistic. You can’t do it all. Even if writing is your full-time profession, there will be other ares of your life that require attention such as family, health, finances, hobbies, and so on. If you have twenty writing goals on your list, are you really going to be able to achieve them in just twelve months? A goal list should be challenging but now stressfully exhausting. Try choosing a theme for your year, such as educating yourself, promoting your writing, submitting your work or focus on one novel from draft to releasing your novel. My theme for 2014 is ‘distribution’. I’ll be finding ways to make my work more accessible to readers through online platforms, bookstores, libraries, schools, and other markets. My writing goals will prioritise those issues, but of course I’ll still be writing, editing, learning and networking. You don’t give up the other areas of writing, instead you’ll focus and prioritise one aspect of your writing to help you get closer to reaching your long-term writing goals.
- Measure your progress. Goals need time-frames, or they become easily forgotten. If you say, ‘By the end of December 2014, I shall have submitted twenty-four short stories’, you’ll probably find come December you still have twenty-three left to submit. If you want to submit twenty-four stories, perhaps you could plan to submit one story every fortnight, or two stories at the start of each month, leaving the rest of the month to focus on writing more stories. Keep a chart of your progress, or a journal to acknowledge each time you stick to your writing goals. The great thing about measuring your goals is that there is no real failure. If you only ended up submitting twelve short stories over the year, and it was eleven more than you submitted the year before, that’s still a win.
- Remind yourself to achieve. Don’t leave your goal to manifest itself, remind yourself to work on it every day. Here’s some ways to trigger your focus:
- Keep an inspiration board by your desk.
- Set your writing goals as your screensaver.
- Put lists or pictures of your goals on the fridge and anywhere else you will see them.
- Write affirmations and say them aloud each morning.
- Add at least one step to your goal to each day’s ‘to-do’ list.
- Seek support from friends and family.
- Eliminate excuses. Of course you’ll have some failures, there’ll be days when you can’t be bothered and it will will always seem that this week is an inconvenient time to begin. Be kind to yourself when you fail, pick yourself up and move on. But do it now, not when ‘the timing is better’.
Do not wait; the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along.
I won’t say ‘good luck’ with your goals, because it won’t come down to luck–it all depends on you, and I know you can do it! I’ll let you know how I go with my plans to increase distribution and will share my learnings along the way. I’m excited about 2014! Are you?