The Rolling Stones had a hit when they sang "Time is on my side." Mick Jagger sang "Yes, it is!" But as many times as Jagger said it (and yes, it was cool), truth is time is not on my side or yours. Time is against us. The sooner we understand that as writers, the better we'll be.
As a journalist for more than a dozen years, I learned to respect time. As a college educator, I am trying to teach students to respect it. When you're 20 years old, it may seem time is on your side. Before you know it, however, you'll look in the mirror at a 40-year-old staring back at you wondering, "Where'd you come from?"
OK, enough trying to establish the importance of time. If you're still reading, then you are the type of person who knows this. You're reading to get help with your writing goals. Right? Then keep reading.
So we're clear, time and goals go together. Let me explain.
In my classes, I tell students they should know what they want and how to get it. That is why Step One to making successful writing goals is so important.
Step One: Write Specific Goals.
Writing specific goals means you must know what you want. Sounds simple doesn't it? Fine. Who has a goal like the following:
I want to write a novel.
I want to be a published writer.
Sound familiar? It does to me. I've written down similar statements over the years. But the two goals above are not specific. They are examples of "vague goals."
They are vague because they lack the kinds of details that will force you as a writer to take daily actions to make them a reality. You see, a vague goal like "I want to write a novel" is easy to manipulate. A year goes by and you say, "I'll do it next year." You hear Mick Jagger singing? "Time is on my side!"
So how do you transform this vague goal into a specific goal? Try this:
I want to write a novel in 30 days.
"Hold your horses!" you say. "That's ridiculous." If you think so, then you should visit our friends over at the National Novel Writing Competition, better known as NaNoWriMo. True. It is a daunting goal to write a novel in a month, but many have done it (including myself). I will admit it was an excruciating exercise. Yet, I learned plenty about setting specific goals and meeting them (and somewhere in there I learned a little about novel writing, too). This is just one example. Instead, a specific goal might be "I will write a 300-word Micro Fiction story today." That was my specific writing goal two days ago.
Now let's recap...
Time is not on our side. Time and goals can't be separated. Vague goals are evil. Specific goals are good and make everyone smile. Changing a vague goal to a specific goal involves adding details that force you to take action (And that means making a deadline and/or word count, or other quantifiable result, and sticking to it).
So, this first step in Setting Successful Writing Goals begins with writing specific goals. Spend 10 minutes brainstorming as many writing goals as you can. Then examine them. Are they specific? Do they include details that force you to pull out pen and paper or your laptop and start writing RIGHT NOW!?
Give it a shot and message me your goals, your thoughts. Try it now. Don't believe you have time to do it tomorrow or the next day. Time is not on your side. Do it now.
Maybe you want more guidance. Good! This is just the start. Over the month of August, I will outline the four parts to Setting Successful Writing Goals. The four parts are as follows:
As I explain the strategy, you may recognize parts of it. Truth is I adapted it from general goal setting strategies I have taught to college students using the text, "From Master Student to Master Employee," edited by Doug Toft. So, if you are serious about setting successful writing goals, be sure to read my article series this month. For more immediate help, send an email or leave a comment. I will respond.
NEXT ARTICLE IN THE SERIES
AUGUST 8TH, 2011: PART 2 IN THE SERIES - PLANNING WRITING GOALS IN THREE TIME CATEGORIES