It’s February first so I figured I’d pop in and talk a little bit about my January writing goals and how I fared. I always wanted to lay out my February goals for an extra layer of accountability.
Does Setting Goals Work For Writers?
I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated by Quora. The question and answer site surreptitiously found its way into my life and I regularly answer questions. I don’t answer well-answered questions. I don’t answer questions I don’t know about. But I do find myself reading both questions and answers and balking. One of the things I balk about? Highly generalized questions. Like the heading I just popped above this paragraph.
Let’s get it out of the way: I don’t know. I have no clue if setting goals is effective for writers. “Writers” encompasses a huge number of people and a hugely diverse number of people at that. But here’s what I do know: setting goals works for this writer.
January was one of my most productive months in my writing life. Not only productive but healthy. Like I didn’t just put words on the page that rambled but allowed me to check a box. I actually produced some decent stuff and my writing has improved. I like anecdotal data and empirical data so I warn you that this is going to be a mishmash of both. But I think anyone would agree that goal setting worked in my favor in January.
January Goals: What Were They? Were They Met?
I set up a spreadsheet with tabs for each month and put in some general things like the number of blog posts I wanted to write (steadily increasing), contests I definitely wanted to do, how frequently I wanted to submit to the yeah write grids (are you still not doing this? go do this!), and some other things. As the month went on I added things ending up with the following goals for the month:
- NYCMidnight Short Story Contest
- Great Flash Fiction War
- Nonfiction Grid
- L. Ron Hubbard Writers Of The Future Contest
- 2017 Nelson Algren Literary Awards
- 4 Blogs
- Bonus blog re: Jan goals recap/Feb goals roll out
- Cindy Reed’s Month of Writing course
- 28,000 total words written (not in a specific project)
- Writers Digest Short Short Story Competition
That’s a LOT for a month. Seriously. But I accomplished EVERY ONE OF THEM except for NYCMidnight. Part of it was a “bad” prompt. Part of it was overextending myself. Part of it was being an idiot.
90% success for the month, though, is pretty good. But there are some things to keep in mind. First, Cindy Reed’s Month of Writing course was a huge part of staying on track. Will I continue now that I finished the course yesterday? Will I use the tools and resources she equipped me with to continue a strong writing practice? I hope so.
Something else to consider: who doesn’t hit their goals in January? It’s new and fresh and exciting. I’m curious to see how I do in February, especially since I am traveling for a week mid-month.
In addition to goals for the month I set some other goals:
- Daily free write
- BIC/HOK for 50 minutes at a time
- Daily writing goal of 1k
- Weekly writing goal of 7k
- 2 submits a week
Before talking about February, though, two things. First: check out Cindy Reed’s Month of Writing Course. Not only is the course great from Cindy’s wisdom but there are also tons of excellent outside readings and resources. Worth every penny. I’m already saving up for her other course.
I spent some time looking at January and noticed a few things. On the days I write first thing, I am super productive. On the weekends I am not productive at all. Thus, a 1k/day wordcount is fairly easy because I write more than that in a session so I compensate for the weekends.
For February my goal is to write 40,000 words. This is around 1,430/day. It’s not doubling it but it is adding quite a bit.
I restructured a few goals to make sure my writing is somewhat focused. Here’s what it looks like:
- 5 blogs; 1 bonus if possible.
- Visit and comment on other people’s blogs weekly
- Post to the yeah write grids twice
- Complete a first draft of a short story I’ve been playing with for a while
- Finish planning another story that’s in my brain
- Critique 2 pieces on Scribophile
Instead of the Cindy Reed course I’m going to go back to working through Gotham Writers Workshop. I like the structure of following a book or course and I find that reading about writing from people who know what they’re doing is really one of the best options when you can’t invest the time in an MFA program.
That’s not to say that an MFA program is not in my future. It’s just not in my immediate future.
I’m in Sacramento with some of my fav peeps from Tuesday Feb 14th-Sunday Feb 19th. We’re not starting until dinner Tuesday night and we finish Friday evening. I am staying until Sunday as a mini writing retreat (about which I am SO EXCITED). I figure I can write on the plane Tuesday in addition to my extra time in Sac. My colleague who lives out there is also an introvert so we heartily agreed that we’ll probably be sick of each other and human contact by the time Saturday morning rolls around. Maybe we’ll grab dinner or a drink. Maybe we won’t. But no one will have hurt feelings.
That’s the biggest issue I see. I think seeing it ahead of time, though, allows for some good game planning around how to succeed even with it. Maybe I write a few blog posts early. Maybe I increase my word counts starting today (I’m already at 976 for today) so that I have cushion. Maybe I save planning the story for Sacramento so that I can be comfortable with just a notebook and the view on the plane versus my chromebook on the tray. That feels far too corporate.
No matter what, I’m happy that I was successful in January and I’m looking forward to continued success in February.
One Thing Before I Go
I’d love to start a monthly blog link up where we do a post like this. We share our goals for the last month and how we did and then share our goals for the next month, any possible wrenches that could get thrown into the machinery, and a game plan for how to work around said wrenches. If you’re interested in something like this please let me know (comment below, Tweet at me, email me) and I’ll get it set up asap.
What were your goals for January? How’d you do? If you haven’t started setting goals are you ready to start?