Monday, November 10, 2008

Setting Writing Goals-A SMART thing to do

What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? Perhaps you'd like to get published in a magazine or land a book contract, or finish the novel that is bouncing around in your brain. Whatever it is, you will be more successful if you take the time to do some serious goal-setting. Goals are important because they give you something to work toward and quantify your desires into something tangible and attainable. Here are some guidelines for setting some SMART writing goals. (I did not make the acronym up--it's useful in many settings.)

  • S is for specific-So you want to see your byline in a magazine? Good goal. Now get specific. Which magazine? What will you write about?
  • M is for measureableIt's not enough to say that you want to write more. Set concrete goals for your writing. How many words will you write each day? How many magazines will you query in a month? It's also very helpful to break your big goal (magazine article) into more manageable chunks. First you might brainstorm ideas for the piece and write an outline. Then find several magazines that are suitable for your topic. Then you'll need to craft a query and send it out. While you're waiting for replies you can do more research and write the first draft. Breaking your goal into specific and measurable chunks will make it feel more do-able.
  • A is for attainable-When setting your writing goals, be honest with yourself about the time you have available for writing--try not to bite off more than you can chew and build in some margin for those unexpected delays and interruptions we all encounter.
  • R is for realistic-Yes, we all want our novel to land on the NY Times Bestseller List. That's a great goal to keep in the back of your mind and it may propel you to keep writing, even when you feel like giving up. However, this is probably not the most realistic goal for the beginning writer. Try getting published in your local newspaper first, then gradually work your way up the ladder.
  • T is for time-specific-You'll be more successful in accomplishing your goals if you give yourself deadlines. Make them attainable and realistic, but do write a date on your calendar for when you expect to have each item on your to-do list accomplished.

My final word on this is to find someone to help hold you accountable. It could be a fellow writer or a good friend, but make sure it is someone who will do a good job of checking in with you from time to time.

Happy goal-setting!