Life gets busy and distractions never end, so it’s important for writers to stay focused and complete projects. Inspiration gives us a good start, but we need to set achievable goals so that our writing lives make sense and result in finished work that we’re able to share with the world.
Like all writers, I have more ideas than I have time to write. And, I have several files with unfinished blogs, articles and books that are waiting for more of my words. I randomly open these files to remind myself of what I started and to see if these projects are worthy enough to pursue. I always get excited by my prospects, and every once in a while, I realize that it’s time for a certain writing project to make its way to the top of my priority list. Much of the time, I simply enjoy the visit with my ideas before closing the file and moving on.
Even with a bit of unfinished work lurking in my archives, I have been able to make a living at being a writer for nearly three decades because I insist on sitting myself down at least once a year to see where I’m at and to commit to where I’m going. The following are some of the steps I take to set annual goals for my writing life.
1. I like to take myself out for coffee and a meal so that I feel rewarded for the effort. I make a date and schedule between 1.5 and 2 hours for the session. When I’m alone in a crowded room with a good amount of time, I tend to be more serious about my purpose for being there.
2. I make a list of all that was accomplished in the previous year, including writing projects, other work I'm involved in, and random items related to my family. This ensures that I “see” the progress and give myself credit where it’s due.
3. I ponder the list of accomplishments and write out the names of people who helped or supported me in the process. I either call them on the phone or send emails or texts thanking them for their part in my success. (This exercise deals with my ego that wants me to believe I have done it all myself and that I don’t need anyone else to make things happen.)
4. I write out a list of writing projects I am currently involved in, along with those that are on my mind to do. (This clears out all the jumbled thoughts that tend to run around the minds of writers!)
5. I create four categories on another sheet of paper (or another Word file if you’re using your laptop). These include:
a. Must get done
b. Should get done
c. Want to get done
d. It’s not time yet
6. I place all the writing projects in their appropriate category. This does away with procrastination and excuses for the high priority projects, and releases me from thinking about those projects whose time has not yet come. In other words, I clear my mind to get and stay focused on what’s right in front of me to do.
7. From the Must get done category, I select the Top writing project and create a serious timeline for its completion. This project takes precedence over all others, even though I will do other writing in between. For example, I have a social media consulting business, so I write a lot for my clients. But that writing is for business and is separate from the rest.
8. From the Must and Should get done categories, I select two other projects for possible completion. I create timelines for each and decide if I’m able to accomplish both (in addition to the Top priority). If not, I decide which of the two projects is more important.
This cleansing process is good for my soul. I highly recommend you implement your own rendition of this goal-setting date with yourself so that you can settle in and buckle down.
Here are my final thoughts on the subject of setting writing goals: Since my imagination is busier than the rest of me, my mind continually condemns me for not doing enough. The truth is, I will never be able to complete all that is in my mind and heart to do. Therefore, I will set myself up for success by focusing on what I know can be accomplished.