Successful writing isn’t all about the words. Craft is at the top of the list, but skill and talent by themselves will not make paragraphs morph into a completed project.
The last four days, we’ve covered the tough questions about time, commitment, passion, and voice. Focusing on those areas consistently will raise the level of your writing.
But there’s one more thing all writers must do: set goals.
Sure, you could make the ethereal idea of publication the focus of all your creative pursuits. But that’s an understood. The goals that drive your writing forward when you’d rather give up are much more immediate (as long as they don’t lead to burnout). Realistic goals—the ones you set for each day and for each project—can be the motivation that makes you turn on the computer. Don’t be afraid to adjust them if needed, but, on the other hand, don’t go into a project without setting milestones.
Writing with an amorphous idea of someday completing something maybe often means exactly what it sounds like. Instead of ever following through, the easier route is to write a bit here and there when the mood hits. These projects rarely reach a solid conclusion.
Establish a timetable with clear waypoints: Research researched; outline outlined; prose prosed. Break these into bite-sized chunks so that you accomplish something almost daily. Checking things off always feels good.
The best method I’ve found is to make a hierarchy of tasks. The top goal is to complete the project; the next level down consists of the main tasks that lead to completion (e.g., editing); below that fill in the specific steps needed to knock those tasks out (e.g., revising for grammar). Keep getting more and more specific as your hierarchy grows.
Feel free to set and keep track of goals in whatever way works for you. The point is to put together a concrete scheme for showing progress.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are your long-term and short-term goals as a writer?
- Have goals and expectations ever caused burnout with your writing?
- How do you keep track of your progress toward your goals?
- How effective is this method? Be honest.
- What and/or who motivates you throughout a project?
- In what ways do you hold yourself accountable to reach your goals.
The Writer’s Checkup
Read the intro for background.