A notebook full of goals has a prominent position on my desk. Some of the things in the notebook are get a full time job, exercise daily, and (my favorite) finish that book. With each goal, I have four or five “action steps” listed – things I can do with RIGHT NOW to accomplish a goal. Things like “write for a half hour every day” (it’s easier than I expected – especially if I take my notebook to work and do it on break) and “design one project a month.” That one is crochet, by the way. Reasons for why I should follow through on the goal are also there, at the bottom of the page. Feeling accomplished is on almost every page. And guess what – I’ve finished two goals and I DO feel accomplished – which encourages me to keep going.
Having goals is an important part of life, so that we aren’t just dragging our feet from home to job and back again – goals give us purpose. So we had better have some goals when we are writing!
What are my overall writing goals? This question is the key to how writing fits into our lives. Is it a hobby, a career, a passion? Answering this question, truthfully, can help you decide how to focus yourself.
I want you to go past “I want to be a published author” and “I want to be a bestseller” and “I want to reach/change/impact the world.” While those are great goals, they are surface goals. They are the goals every budding writer comes up with. Think a little more personally. What does writing mean to you? How does it impact your life? Where do you see your writing going (think hard about this one – it could go towards editing, copywriting, technical writing, freelancing, books, poetry, and so, so much more)?
When you have that figured out, give yourself some action steps, things you can do today, in this moment, to set yourself on that path, or keep your journey going. (As for me, I’m going to do my half-hour writing as soon as I’m done with this post.)
If you are a fiction writer, you have to think about more than just your goals – you’ve got a whole cast of characters fighting for attention – fighting for their goals to be fulfilled. Just like our goals give us direction and meaning, so do theirs*. Something more than “the good gal is determined to beat the evil witch.” Because while that can be an overarching goal, that good gal had better have some compelling goals for her own life (or a compelling reason that she’s got to defeat the evil witch). Just like us, they need action steps that they can accomplish to get them closer to their goals. Sure, they will make mistakes (at least they better!), but everything they do should advance the goals (hmm, sounds like some plot-relevant advice, doesn’t it?).
Now, let’s get back to us. When writing our lovely novel, we’ve got the task of keeping everything on track. So stick to your goals, even if your characters lose sight of theirs. Get that book finished, get it published or stowed away or whatever you do with finished manuscripts, and then get on to the next one.
Take care, travelers
*Sure, you can have an aimless character, but you will have to have a fantastic story to make that work – too often aimless characters get drug around and have no say about anything. Of course, your goal-oriented character can also have these things happen, and they can make bad choices based on hopes for accomplishing their goals – being goal-oriented doesn’t mean the story is boring.