Monday, April 4, 2011

Setting Writing Goals: What's the Point?

I recently wrote a paper for one of my PhD classes about a favorite band, Joy Division.  The research was fascinating, and the topic was one I'd been thinking of writing about for years now, but had never had the opportunity.  I didn't want to stop researching or writing, and I felt that the final paper was more of an outline for a book than a self contained essay.  So, with Haley's encouragement, I've decided to expand it and turn it into a book. 

I'm not really intimidated by the thought of writing a book, but I think it's because I'm naïve and have never written anything longer than a master's thesis.  I mean, how hard can it be? Isn't it just like writing ten 20 page papers?  Haley informs me that no, it's not like that.   She also told me that I needed to start setting writing goals if I wanted to actually start writing the book, let alone finish it.   But, why would I need writing goals, I asked her, can't I just write when I feel like writing, when I have some spare time?  She laughed at me.

I know why she laughed.  A good idea, a dream, a book that wants to be written will never happen without a plan.  Without writing goals this book will be sitting in the back of my head indefinitely.   And while it sits back there it will probably disintegrate into a memory of a good idea I once had.  I don't want that.

So, this week I'll be working on setting writing goals, and we'll feature on the blog various methods and ideas of how to set goals, for all types of writing.

To start things off I recently came across a handy article about setting writing goals.  The author said that to be effective your goals should meet three criteria: they should be measurable, meaningful and attainable.   A goal is useless if you can't tell whether it has been met or not.  It is also easy to become sidetracked by goals or tasks that are important but that do not help meet your writing goals.  For instance, I have three papers I should be working on in the next couple of months.  Those are immediately important to me, but I still have to define time to work on my book.  Finally, the goal must be attainable.  While the large goal of writing a book seems inconceivable, short term goals help break the journey into manageable bits. 

As I begin my own writing journey, we'll look more specifically this week at these and other elements of goal making, and we'd be very interested in any suggestions you might have.  How do you make writing goals?  What writing goals have been the most effective?  We'd love to hear from you! 

Images thanks to angietorres on

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