Goals are invaluable. They can give you inspiration and motivation, and they can act as stepping stones for your career. They don’t even have to be elaborately drawn out or anything. They can be small and simple. But whatever they are, they should be specific, realistic, and achievable for you and your situation.
With newer writers, and even some more experienced ones, I see goals that are unrealistic—either for that person or for their current circumstances. What I mean is this: Let’s say you set a goal of 2,000 words a day. For some writers, that’s completely doable. But for someone who hasn’t written more than 500 words in a day before, that’s not the best goal. Instead, a goal to “increase daily output” would be better. That’s achievable, realistic, and still specific.
There’s not necessarily anything wrong with setting a goal that will push you out of your comfort zone, though; but there’s a fine line between pushing yourself and setting yourself up for failure. No one likes to feel as though they’ve failed at something—especially their goals. It can end up backfiring, stifling you and your writing, and all around make you feel like crap about yourself. None of those are good things! So make your goals realistic and achievable.
Now, there are different levels of goals, too. Short-term, Long-term, and ones I like to call Dream Goals. I think it’s best to have all three, because it’s all about the stepping stones. Think of goals as plotting for your future.
A short-term goal might be ‘write 10k on TheBestNovelEver this week’.
A long-term goal might be ‘finish writing TheBestNovelEver by Christmas’.
A Dream Goal might be ‘hit the USA today list with TheBestNovelEver’.
All of those goals are, technically, achievable and realistic, at least on the surface. But you can’t make the Dream Goals happen just by doing the work, unfortunately. Other than crossing all your crossable things, the best you can do is set yourself up to make those a possibility in the future.
One way to do that is to break your Dream Goals down into smaller goals. So, if your Dream Goal is to hit the USA Today list, you know there a few things you have to do before that can ever happen. First, you have to write a good book. Second, you have to get it in front of a lot of people. To do that, you have to promo the hell out of it. None of those will guarantee your Dream Goal will happen, but you know those are the minimum steps you can take to increase your odds and set yourself up for success.
Personally, I’m horrible with goals, even though I love having/making them. I set them too high or don’t take into account the things going on in my life. And as I said above, that can make things worse. Failure is not a cool feeling, so be sure to keep your current situation in mind when making goals. If you work well under pressure, then set some that are out of your normal comfort range. If you don’t handle pressure well (like yours truly), then set some that might push you a little but are still flexible. It’s all about what makes you comfortable.
You don’t need twenty or thirty goals, either. Heck, you don’t even need ten. If you’re a writer, then your most important goal should almost always be: Finish the book. For now, that’s a good enough.