Setting Goals

jan17writing

Somewhere around six months in to the time that I’ve been writing this novel of mine (since September 2012, according to my earliest saved document on my computer. Oh my god time flies! What the hell!) I came to realize that it is completely unmanageable to me to approach it as: WRITE THE ENTIRE NOVEL IN ONE SITTING OKAY GO. Rome wasn’t built in a day, good things come to those who wait, a watched pot never boils (does that one apply?), etc etc etc. Patience is a virtue at which I’ve never been particularly adept, so the intense frustration at not being able to make words appear on the page as quickly as I wanted them to was counteracting all of my forward progress and was especially discouraging. That, on top of the already daunting task of pulling an entire novel from the depths of my brain. So, you know, I totally understand why writers are depicted as tortured souls a lot of the time. And alcoholics. (Gin!)

But I’ve been setting little milestones for myself, little tangible goals to work towards and cross off (or accidentally light on fire…) so as not to get overwhelmed. The idea came from this Instagram photo from Kate back in November 2012. It was so simple and yet so genius and completely changed the way I approached writing this novel: set a goal, a number. Suddenly it wasn’t about writing an entire book, writing 100k, it was about writing small, manageable chunks at a time. My brain could focus on individual parts and small conversations and details without worrying about the bigger (scarier) picture.

jan17writing2

I’ve made a goal to hit at least 50k by May 1st. That gives me a third of the year, four months, to write about 15k. Breaking it down, I need to write 3,750 words a month, or 938 words a week, or 134 a day. A totally realistic way to look at it, yes?. And some days I don’t write my 134, but others I may bang out 500. It evens out, but at least I’m being kept on track. I’m accountable to those little pink post-its, as nuts as it sounds.

I’m curious, how do you manage goals? Are you working towards something that seems overwhelming? When it doubt, post-its!

PS. There’s a new link in the header menu to all these novel-related posts. 

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January 17, 2014 / life / dog / read / watch / LEAVE A COMMENT / 14

14 comments

  • i think this is perfect. it’s more celebratory, rather than setting you up to feel down about not being close to your end goal. and with things like this it’s going to be quite awhile until you are close to the end. so, yes, i like creating these little steps in goals. it feels so much less daunting to accomplish smaller goals. break it down girl. i break everything down or else i’d never get anything done. i’d just stand in the middle of my house staring wide-eyed.

    my goals are always with my business. there’s is always something new to learn, to do or another goal to reach for. it never, ever ends. i don’t even know what my end goal is anymore i’ve broken it down so much and it’s so far in the future! but i am learning and growing along the way so it’s all good. here’s to 50k my friend!! xoxo

    • Exactly! Smaller goals are, for me, way less overwhelming. I wouldn’t even know where to start, so your image of standing in the middle of the room staring wide-eyed is so accurate, haha. Only I would be sitting in front of my computer, staring blankly. Oy.

      I’m always so impressed with your industriousness when it comes to your business. Plenty of people would be content to just let it ride but you’re always doing something new and learning new things (light studio lights!). Here’s to both of our goals, twinsy. xo

  • So do you give yourself a reward for ever 134 words? I’d totally be tempted! Way back in the day when I was novel writing, it was all about word count for me too. Not daily (if I remember correctly) as much as making chapters work and fit. I’m generally horrible at tangible goal setting (much better at list making), and that’s one of my goals for the year actually. Check in with me in 2015. ;)

    • Hah, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me! But I like the way you think ;) Right now, the progress is the reward. Is that too cheesy to admit? Who knows what I’ll do when I hit 50k, or better yet, 100k! I’ll throw myself a parade! xo

  • i love your way of managing goals – visual and in your face. me, i’m a list maker and i like making little boxes that i can check off. putting a check in a box is sooo rewarding. makes me feel like i can get things off of my chest. any way – i hope you make your goal by may 1st, so far, you’re on a roll.

    • Ohh yeah, crossing things off a list is super rewarding and so satisfying. One of the ways I handle my anxiety disorder is by (compulsive) list-making. Break it down into baby steps, just like in “What About Bob?” (Have you seen that movie? Baby-steps!). Thanks for the encouragement, darling! I hope to report back with good news by the deadline :) xo

  • love this post erin! fabulous idea… i guess i kind of mentally do this to… break things down into little bite-size chunks… look at getting through one day at a time… can’t wait for your book launch (no pressure!)

    • Love the phrase “bite-size,” it’s so accurate! And no, no pressure at all ;) xo

  • I know a lot of people do the word count goal but my sister did it differently.. yes my sister is a writer. and she approached it more like writing in pages. She wrote 5 pages a day and the best piece of advice she gave me when writing.. is to just write and don’t look back until your finished :)

    You can do it!

    • That’s such a good bit of advice! The little editor in my brain is always encouraging me to go back and re-read so it can shred it to pieces. Brains are mean, haha. If I let it, my internal critic would have me delete every single word of the 36k I’ve written. There’s definitely something to shutting up the negativity and just writing. Thank you for the encouragement, Erika! xo

  • I actually went the totally opposite way of you. instead of making goals and breaking them down I just keep going without keeping track. I find it too frustrating to not meet my own expectations. I did limit the things I want to achieve though. so now there are never more than two to four things I’m working on (yes, it was lots more before) and I give myself a year or more. I just try to do as much as I can whenever I can without beating myself up over not having done enough yesterday or last week. after a few months I take stock and am usually surprised as to how much progress I actually made. it’s always a positive surprise because I don’t know what to expect. took me long enough to get to that point, and I’m not sure if it’ll work in the long run, but for the past couple of years working that way has been good… xoxo

    • That’s really impressive, Petra. I can guarantee that if I didn’t set these type of goals for myself I’d never get anything accomplished. I can’t trust myself to be as efficient as possible without keeping myself accountable somehow (in this case, pink post-its). You are very diligent and you must be so pleased with yourself every time you “check in” to see how things are going. I think I could even be more aggressive with the goals I’m setting; I wish I’d written more than 35k from September 2012-December 2013, but no matter, I can try harder this year! I’ll definitely take a page out of your book and stop beating myself up so much :) xo

  • Yay for writing! You know, going back to high school days (eeps), I used to manage goals by writing them on post-its and sticking them all over my room. I’d splice them all into little manageable steps so I’d have the pleasure of ripping them down and throwing them away. I’m still a crazy list maker to this day. I have faith in your writing skills and know you can get there!

    • Sounds like I’m late to the party with this post-it idea! Apparently it works, and it’s such an easy visual reminder, and you’re right, there is nothing more satisfying than taking them down! Thanks for your encouragement, girl! xo