For many, January is a time to reflect on both what didn’t happen in the previous year and what they hope to do in the coming year. For writers, this means examining our writing progress and refocusing our goals. I’ve found that revisiting my writing goals each year can be a helpful way to refocus and get re-energized.
But I also see some writers growing discouraged when they don’t meet the impossibly high goals that they set for themselves each year. I know I’ve been guilty in the past of setting resolutions for myself that were too broad or unrealistic to be helpful. So instead, let’s discuss how to create resolutions that are not only achievable but will also help you improve your writing in 2016. Here are my tips for creating writing goals:
- Focus on what you can control
If I have any one tip for creating resolutions, it’s this one. So much of publishing is outside of the author’s control (and that’s true even if you self-publish). Where I often see writers getting discouraged is when they set goals for themselves like “get an agent this year” or “sell x number of copies of my book” or “get published this year.” But there are so many factors here outside of the writer’s control that these goals may be impossible. Try refocusing that goal on factors you can control. Instead of “get an agent in 2016,” how about “send x number of queries in 2016”? Instead of “sell 500 copies,” how about making a list of new promotional efforts to try? Instead of “get published,” break down the steps in that process and give yourself a reasonable timeline for completing them. Instead of thinking about selling a book, think about how you can better write one. By focusing on the things that you have complete control over, your resolutions will be both more helpful and more achievable.
- Be specific
Once you’ve identified which goals are within your control, be specific about how you want to achieve them. “Write more” probably isn’t a helpful goal, because it doesn’t give you a way to act on it. Instead, think about how you can write more. “Get up an hour earlier to write” or “write for an hour longer each day” are more useful goals.
- Identify your true goals
When making resolutions, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about what you’d like to happen and not what you’re actually committed to. Something might be a great idea, but if you’re not determined to make it happen, then it’s not the best goal for you. “Write an hour more each day” is a great resolution if you’re committed to it, but maybe it isn’t a goal you can–or want–to commit to. Many ideas can be great goals, but it’s important to focus on which ones you actually want to give your time and energy.
- Create a solid plan
Now that you’ve thought about what you want to achieve, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to make it happen. What tools or resources do you need? What’s the first thing you need to do to get started? How long will it take? What are the steps involved? Set deadlines. Make a plan. Know both what your goals are and how you’re going to make them happen.
- Be realistic
This is one that I am definitely guilty of: overachieving. It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new year—and you have a whole twelve months to get things done, right? But at a certain point, resolving to do too much isn’t productive. If you’ve resolved to achieve twenty different goals, chances are you’ll spread yourself too thin and not accomplish any (or most) of them. It’s good to push yourself, but it’s also good to be realistic about what’s humanly possible. Make sure that your goals are things that you know you can do. For example, if you know you write about 500 words a day, it’s reasonable to plan to write a 75,000 word novel in 5 months; it’s not reasonable to do it in 10 days. Be realistic about how much you can and can’t do.
What do you think? What are your writing resolutions for 2016? Let me know in the comments!
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