Friday, January 22, 2016

Setting (and Keeping!) Writing Goals: Tricks and Traps. A Recap of the January 2016 Westside Writers Mingle.

by Rebecca Light

With 365 days of potential goal-setting before us, Westside writers mingled to share tools and ideas with each other to make the most of a new year of writing. As part of the evening’s introductions, each attendee stated whether goal-setting motivated them in their writing…and a mixed bag of perspectives poured into the room.

Some writers preferred goals tied to an external event like a competition or a contest such as NaNoWriMo or the 12x12 Challenge, while isolated personal goals remained nebulous and ineffective. Of course the opposite was true for others who felt that contests impeded their own self-motivation.

For those of us paralyzed by a list of goals, Lori recommended a journey-based approach to productivity. Focusing on the journey can free an anxious writer from the pressure of a targeted outcome. It is indeed possible to achieve without specific goals if you learn to work from moment to moment based on your principles and what you value.

Another writer in the room offered the profound advice to always go back to why you are writing. When productivity starts to feel like a punishment, take a moment to meditate on what made you want to tell the story in the first place. Revisiting the core of your passion can sometimes be enough to motivate you back on track.

Technology no doubt plays a huge role in our modern approach to goal-setting. There exists a tool for  every taste. Some writers use distraction-eliminating software to keep them on target. Applications like Evernote, Trello, and Do It Tomorrow assist in project creation and organization. You might also try some of the more whimsical tech tools to keep you on track such as Written Kitten, which will treat you to a picture of an adorable kitten every time you hit your targeted word count. A more punishing writer might appreciate Write or Die, which uses negative reinforcement methods to keep your fingers typing. For anyone suffering from a smartphone addiction (a prevalent affliction these days), one writer recommended downloading the app Forest, which grows a charming tree on your screen as long as you don’t fiddle with your phone to Tweet, text, or do anything else not associated with writing a book. It looks like this:

Laurie handed out a worksheet from the website of Michael Hyatt on something called SMART goals, which are goals that are:


Follow the link for the full article on this goal-setting technique.

Also suggested was the blog of author Susan Dennard. She has dozens of wonderful articles and resources for writers on her website.

Whether you thrive by long-term goals or prefer to focus on the challenge of the present moment, all attested to the value of periodically reevaluating plans. If you’ve set specific goals at the beginning of the year, review them next month. Are they still realistic? Are they serving your ultimate purpose and passion? Review and revise often. If you’re not one for a map of goals, take a moment at intervals throughout the year to process all that you’ve accomplished. Is something missing from your approach to your writing? Is the journey taking you in your desired direction? Honest reflection on our habits and productivity can be the magic elixir that leads to our best writer selves.

I’ll end on an editorial note by sharing my favorite quote, which may or may not have been written by Goethe. Whoever did write this passage, it never fails to inspire me. Happy New Year everyone!

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

1 comment:

  1. OMG...Written Kitten? Must. Download. Immediately!

    Thanks for the lovely recap, Lori. Still hella bummed I missed this Mingle!