If you’ve been here a few times you’ve noticed that I talk about writing goals quite a bit. If you know the Myers Briggs here’s what you need to know about me: I am a flaming J. FLAMING. If you don’t know the Myers Briggs here’s what that means: I put shit on my to do list I never intended to do simply for the joy of crossing it off.
Like if I go to the grocery store with a list and while I’m there Kris texts me and says, “Can you also pick up milk?” I pull out my pen, add milk to the list, go get the milk, and cross it off. There is no need for that. Except that my flaming J-ness makes it a part of who I am.
And for that reason, I love goals. But not any goals.
How SMART Goals Help Me Write Better
I hate buzzwords. In fact, I used to have a boss that was so buzzy I started making bingo cards for staff meeting and charging a dollar per card. And we had a signal that someone won. And they got the money. He was an asshole, so it’s okay. Buzzwords serve no purpose except to try and take advantage of consumers who don’t know better.
That said, I do like acronyms and that’s what SMART is.
What are SMART goals?
If we define “goal” as a desired outcome, a SMART goal includes information to get us there. It’s a goal that sets us up for success. How? It forces us to flesh out the goal by asking if it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time bound.
WRITE is a goal. And guess what? I just achieved it! Ooh! I did it again! YES! This is easy.
But, that’s not what I want when I set the goal to write. What I want to is to produce a set amount of words, devote time, or finish a project with the end goal of getting published and, maybe, paid. But “Write” as a goal doesn’t really say all that. And Produce 10k a day on short stories doesn’t either. Let’s look at the components of a SMART goal, build a few, and then look at why they work.
Is Your Goal Specific?
I want to write. You want to write. Anyone who is here who doesn’t want to write is probably here by accident or stalking me. So I’m going to funnel this information down to writing goals. So we’ll start with the goal: I want to write more.
This goal specifies two things: what you want to do and how you want to do it. You want to write. And you want to write more than you do now.
That is a good start. But let’s be more specific. What questions am I left with? Here’s a few:
- Write what? how much more? how much do you currently write? why do you want to write? why do you want to write more? to publish? to generate ideas? to make money? to journal?
When you start writing a SMART goal trim it down *you can have more than one!* and make sure that you give it a specific reason.
I want to write more —> I want to write more so that I have more fiction to enter into contests.
You now have a goal that is specific.
Is Your Goal Measurable?
SMART goals are goals you can measure. Yes, they use data. This may require getting a baseline. And you’ll notice that my questions from the goal of “write more” brought me there. How much more? And how much do I write now?
Now, my current goal, as written, is in fact measurable. I can look at how much I write in a week and see if next week I write more. But is that the point? Today I have written two blog posts and kicked ass on my word count. But my goal, once I got specific, was to write more fiction to enter into contests. For that reason, it’s a good idea to further tweak your goal by including measurable things that help you get to where you want to be. Again, you can have more than one goal in a month.
So. Right now I produce fiction a every few months. What if I set the goal of writing one draft and one outline a month? That is more than I’m doing now and it is also measurable and specific.
I want to write more so that I have more fiction to enter into contests —> Each month I want to write one draft of a piece of short fiction and outline a new piece.
Am I being specific? Yes! Is my goal measurable? It is!
For what it’s worth: in February I have the goal of finishing the first draft of a short story and I’ve started planning another. So this is actual stuff in action. But is this goal SMART? let’s look at another benchmark.
Is Your Goal Attainable?
This one is easy and doesn’t require any deep writing. Can I, as in “is it possible to”, write a draft of a short story and outline another this month?
I think so. It might push me a little since I’m traveling this month. And since I don’t have a contest deadline staring at me. But it is totally doable to write a draft and an outline. And to do this while working, blogging, and coming up with other new ideas that I get in my daily free writes or while walking the dogs.
My goal is attainable.
Is Your Goal Realistic?
Realistic and attainable are two different things. Realistically I can write a novel. However I cannot attain this in one month. Or I can, but it wouldn’t be worth it. Because I have learned from NaNo that it just doesn’t work for me.
Realistic goals mean that you have the tools, the skills (or are working on them) and that they don’t run counter to other things. For example: if I decide I want to write my memoir and someone is interested in a spec of said memoir, I probably don’t have time to devote to fiction to reach this goal. But since my goal is about fiction and I’m not dealing with a conflicting goal, I’m all good. My goal is realistic.
Is Your Goal Time-Bound?
This is the one that gets people. And that’s because there are two types of people in the world: those who believe in timeliness and those who do not. Honestly, I could try and recruit the nay-sayers but it’s like spitting into the wind. I’ll lay it out for your straight: not having a time limit gives you a false sense that you have all the time in the world. Maybe you do. I don’t. I want a publication in my 40th year. That year starts next month. It’s arbitrary but damn has it given me a serious need for goals.
So… let’s talk about that goal:
Write one draft of a piece of short fiction and outline another each month.
It meets the requirements and I know my reason: to have fiction to put into contests. My goal is specific in scope and number, it is measurable and attainable. It is realistic and it has a definitive deadline.
What Are Your Goals?
Take some time to look at your own writing goals and see if they are too vague. Consider using these benchmarks. Not interested in five? There’s an alternative for those who want to get to the writing and stop with the goal setting (at least stop with it sooner).
Simpler Goal Setting
If you want to set better goals but SMART goals are making your head spin, here’s something to consider. Make sure that every goal is direct, doable, and deadlined.
- I want to write three, 300-500 word blog posts this month.
- I want to post one piece of fiction to the yeah write grids this month.
- I want to post two pieces of nonfiction to the yeah write grids this month.
- I want to work through one chapter of a writing book a week until I am finished.
You can easily scale down goals. Personally, I like that a SMART goals forces me to really think deeply about my goals but I also get that not every one has the time, energy, or flaming J to do it.
So, what are your writing goals as they stand right now? How can you change them to promote your success?