Disclaimer: I’m still learning
If you’ve been following my writing agony on twitter the last couple of weeks, then you already know how downright terrible I am at gauging my own potential word counts. It’s a problem. Setting timed word count goals is a relatively new practice for me, so my excuse is that I really don’t know my own writing speed or stamina very well yet. Well, that, and my writing productivity varies a LOT depending on multiple factors. Using my own trial and error over the past couple of months, I’ve put together a few ways that goal setting does work for me…when I’m not grossly overestimating my own speed writing abilities.
Daily Goals are your friends
In his writing memoir On Writing, Stephen King says he aims for 2000 words a day, but recommends 1000 for beginners. I know some writers use time goals instead (2 hours a day, for example), but I am incredibly good at wasting time. Like, it could be my super power. So setting a daily word count goal works best for me, because I’m motivated to keep working until the goal is met. Time goals don’t do that for me, but they might for you. Find what works and do it!
Periodic challenges can be fun
I really believe this. Truly. Granted, I get a little too excited about them and tell twitter that I’m going to write 8500 words in a day when I’ve never ever ever done that before and only manage around 3500, but I believe in the idea! Aiming for higher word counts on days I have more time to dedicate to writing keeps me improving and helps me build stamina. Failure, however, is never fun, so I do recommend setting challenging (but not impossible) goals. *cough*
If you respond well to rewards, have a system
I’m new to this one and have only just implemented it myself, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Do any of you use reward systems for your writing? For clarity’s sake, let me say that writing is indeed its own reward. It’s a privilege to do it and I generally don’t need any external incentives to make it a priority every day. For me, my system is more about celebrating success than rewarding a reluctant behavior. I admit that I’m pretty stinkin’ close to finishing the rough draft of my current WIP and I’m pretty stinkin’ excited about the item from my Amazon wish list that I’m giving myself when I finish it. Maybe that’s silly, but I’m okay with silly! I enjoy writing and I enjoy presents. Win-win! If you’re like me, you might consider giving it a try. It can’t hurt, right?
Big picture goal setting + time sensitive = success
Experts seem to agree that if you set a goal with a (challenging, but doable) time limit, you’re more likely to meet that goal. When I finished my MA degree last summer, I gave myself two years to accomplish certain milestones in my writing career. Starting this blog was one, completing my current WIP is another. I’m right on track with those two and am looking forward to the next steps. I think approaching a writing career this way is important. Yes, writing is a creative process, but it can also be a profession, so approaching my professional writing goals the same way I approached my academic goals makes sense to me. I like to think that my organized and structured framework helps protect my creative endeavors and improve my overall chance at success. I hope I’m right.
What about you? Do you have a goal setting system for writing? What it is? Do you use rewards? Leave a comment below to share your wisdom!