Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Setting Successful Writing Goals Takes Regular Reflection

Four weeks ago, I began this blog series discussing my take on setting successful writing goals.

I started by explaining the difference between writing vague and specific goals. Then, I laid out the three-part process of setting writing goals in several time frames: long-term goals, mid-term goals, short-term goals. After that, my last blog dealt with the concept of setting goals in other areas of life to help your writing.

Today, I'm sharing the final step, which consists of Reflecting On Your Writing/Life Goals. This is a simple step. Like many of life's simple things, however, this step is often overlooked. The shame of it is that reflection only takes a few minutes a week. That's it. A few minutes a week to reflect on your writing goals.

How do you reflect? I'm a guy who sometimes has a problem understanding my feelings. Yet, that's where it starts in the four-part reflection process straight out of the book, "From Master Student to Master Employee":

  • Check in with your feelings
  • Check for alignment
  • Check for obstacles
  • Check for immediate steps
Here's how it works with my twist for writers...

Check in with your feelings - How did setting your writing goals make you feel? Can you anticipate the satisfaction you'll get from writing that fantasy novel? You should. Maybe that goal of writing a fantasy novel doesn't connect emotionally. If that's the case, you may need to reconsider that goal of writing a fantasy novel. I'm not saying give it up. That would be too easy. But it might mean setting that fantasy novel project aside for now.

Check for alignment - This part of the reflection process is all about checking on whether your goals are on target in several time frames. Are your short-term goals helping you meet your mid-term goals? Do those mid-term goals pave the way for your long-term goals? It's easy to start compromising. Don't, though. Compromises in either time frame will spill over to the others, and eventually your writing projects will be forgotten.

Check for obstacles - This one is tough. The older you get, the more you realize obstacles are a fact of life. Still, life's troubles can discourage even the strongest of us into abandoning our goals. One of the biggest obstacles for aspiring writers can be the need to maintain that day job. Gotta pay the bills, right? The obstacle might take the form of a person who doesn't understand your need to spend precious time writing. Every semester I tell new students to anticipate obstacles to their education. Writers must anticipate obstacles, too. Expect obstacles so you can start looking for solutions. For example, expect to keep that day job. Figure out how to write anyway.

Check for immediate steps - Here's where you get out the calendar. Start with your short-term goals. Create a To-Do List to meet those goals. Recall how specific goals are tied to clear actions. Your To-Do List should consist of clearly-defined steps you can achieve during your day. If you are planning out a To-Do List for goals next week or the week after that, jot it down on your calendar. With each passing day, check that calendar and your To-Do List to gauge your success with those immediate steps.

The ultimate goal is to write. Isn't it? We write because we need to. Setting successful writing goals will focus our efforts and increase the chances of us finishing that novel, publishing that short story or writing that collection of poems. Another thing I tell students is that we are good at setting goals, but not at following through to meeting those goals. I hope this four-part guide helps you follow through to writing success.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to let me know. Would you like to suggest a series topic? Send me a message. If you can support my blog, please donate $1 using the button at the top right of the page.

Good luck with your writing!

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