When it comes to writing, I have found that setting goals can be incredibly important if you (or I) actually want to achieve something in our writing.
Most writers have full time occupations that do not involve writing our darlings into existence in the form of novels, short stories, articles, or poetry. We have rent to pay, groceries to buy, and families to provide for. Hence, we go to work. This sometimes only leaves margins of time for writing—the early morning before work, after the kids are in bed, lunch breaks, etc…
When you’re writing in your “spare time”, it is so very easy to get tired, to put off that next chapter, or even next sentence, until tomorrow. Tomorrow has the uncanny ability of stretching into next week or next month, though. Life gets busy; the hours get filled, and off to bed we go, no words written.
I have found that countering this with a scheduled word/page quota for each day and week makes a huge difference. I know, your artist nature cringes at the idea of having something as mundane as a schedule forced on you, but trust me, it helps. It really helps.
The knowledge that there is some kind of referee (and yes that is you and an excel spreadsheet in this scenario) is remarkably effective at giving the extra push toward getting the writing done. Your effort is being calculated. It’s being graded in some kind of tangible manner. Use this. Let it help you.
That brings us to the Yoda Problem.
Yoda’s famous line of, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” can come into play in a couple of ways with setting goals.
Goals scare us. We’re afraid of failure, and setting up the bar might just mean that we fail to jump over it. It is easier to just let the “I’m writing a book” float out there as an abstract, artistic, someday. But, to sit down and spell out a plan of how you’re going to make it happen, well, that is something else—something bigger, something harder, something more tangible and real.
What if you set a goal and don’t make it? What if you’re supposed to write 400 words a day and can only scrape together 200?
Well, this is where Yoda’s line fails us. You see, we’re not Jedi. We’re just writers, the sculptor of words. If you can only scrape together 200 words today or every day, if you fall short of your hefty goals by half, well, you’re still incredibly further along than you were sitting back at the starting line, dreaming about writing one day.
If your goal is to write a book this year and you only write half a book, then write the other half next year.
But write. Don’t live in fear of the failure. There is a try in this situation. Give it all the try you have, but give yourself some grace, too.
Go ahead and set the bar high. Give your absolute best effort, accountable to some kind of tracking system. But also give yourself some grace when “life” happens.