The clock strikes midnight and it's like someone flips the switch. Gone are the lazy days of winter break where it's socially acceptable to lounge in your pj's and drink copious amounts of hot chocolate. Fast forward to the mad dash towards self-improvement and writing goals galore. Whether you're like us and mapping out every goal you want to accomplish in the new year in your planner or haphazardly flinging your hopes out into the universe hoping something will stick, we've got tips for goal-setting that will help you stick to your writing goals in 2023.
How To Set Writing Goals
(That Will Actually Stick!)
Define What's Realistic
We all have a tendency to overestimate when it comes to goal setting. With big dreams that involve months, even years, of hard work it's hard not to over plan. Especially when we don't know exactly how much time, effort, and resources it will take to make our dreams come true. This applies to writing goals as well. While we enthuse about writing five-thousand words a day and binge writing (and publishing) five novels a year, the reality is often far lower on the bar. Setting realistic goals is important because it allows you to stay committed, and avoid being crushed when unrealistic goals fall through. What's realistic will vary from writer to writer, determined largely by your lifestyle and what you're trying to accomplish.
But here's what a few realistic goals might look like:
Writing 500-1,000 words a day
Write one poem a day
Write for an hour at a scheduled time each day
Finish one chapter per week
Write one blog post per week
Write one journal entry per day
Choose A Way To Measure
Setting clear, measurable goals helps motivate, assess progress, and guides you through your goals while limiting feelings of confusion and overwhelm. One common mistake writers make when they set writing goals is that they keep them too generalized. For instance, saying "I want to write every day." (generalized) versus "I want to write five hundred words every day." (specific and measurable). With general goals it's hard to tell when you've accomplished them, which kills motivation in the long-term. With specific and measurable goals, not only can you tell when you're crushing it, but you'll keep feeling motivated with every box you check off. Accomplishing smaller goals in succession also helps change your daily writing habits, which affects long-term productivity and effectiveness.
Here's what short-term goals should have:
A clear deadline
Numeric measurements (like number of words to write)
Broken down into achievable chunks
Tie into your larger long-term goals (for example, writing a book in a year can be broken down into specific chunks of writing throughout that year)
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is a vital part of staying motivated with your new writing goals. How else will you be able to see how far you've come on your writing journey? It doesn't matter what the length or style of your writing project is- from short story to full-blown novel, to screenplay there's sure to be pages upon pages and thousands of words to keep track of. With this in mind, tracking your progress will allow you to know exactly how close you are to accomplishing your goal.
How can you track your progress:
Using the Nano website year-round
Apps like Wordly and Writer Tools for Android
Using Scrivener's built-in tracking tools
Using a calendar
Using a spreadsheet
Set Clear Milestones
Going hand-in-hand with tracking your progress, it's important to also set clear milestones. These are the middle ground points between achieving small goals and the big picture. They help give a boost to your motivation when things become too routine, helping to gratify the desire for progress when it otherwise may feel like you're creeping along at a snail's pace. It helps you see your progress added into larger increments, allowing perspective when we otherwise might feel discouraged. It helps us see how far we've come and focus less on how much we have left to do.
Examples of milestones:
Finishing the first 10 pages
Finishing the first chapter
Reaching 5, 10, and 20 chapters
Use Positive Reinforcement
Pairing milestones with positive reinforcement helps keep the motivation (and inspiration) flowing. Not only that, but it's just plain fun to receive something you really want in exchange for working hard. Choosing a reward- no matter how simple, cheap, or expensive- and pairing it with your designated milestones serves to keep you striving for more words and avoiding falling into distractions or other pitfalls that ultimately derail your new years goals.
Examples of rewards:
A trip to your favorite bookstore
A coffee date with friends
A new book (or two)
Your favorite dessert
A date night with your spouse
Have Inspiration On Hand
For those times when the muse is lacking and your motivation to write is poor (even with incentives) it's good to have ready-made inspiration on hand. Seemingly trivial things like a themed playlist, your favorite snack, inspirational quotes that sit on your desk, a vision board, or even a candle that you light only when writing can be a huge help whenever you need a mood-setter.
Refer To Your Why
When all else fails, referring to your "why" can help you achieve your writing goals. Your "why" is the reason that you write, and can vary from writer to writer. It can be because you write for therapy, because you want to help readers, or simply because you're passionate about your craft. Whatever your reason, touching base with why you're writing can help you beat discourages like distraction, doubt, and burnout that may appear during the writing process.
No matter what your writing goals are for 2023, you can achieve them with a little patience and persistence. Happy writing writers! You got this!