Goals are one of the most important tools in the writer’s arsenal. Can goals also become the writer’s biggest hindrance?
One of my year end activities is assessing the goals for the year just past and setting new goals for the next year. Annual goals lead quite naturally to monthly and even weekly goals. For the last two or three years, I’ve also set a writing goal of at least 2,000 words a day at least five days a week.
Recently, however, with fiction in a bit of a quiet season, I’ve struggled to find the words. Several days in the last two or three weeks are marked with a big, fat goose egg and I hate it.
Tuesday of this week, I made a rather surprising realization; a realization that led to a seemingly impulsive decision and startling results.
It may come as no surprise to some of you, but writing doesn’t have to be about fiction. Even for a novelist, there are other ways to engage in the act of writing.
Articles, for example. Freelance article writing is just as much writing as writing the next chapter in the Great American Novel.
Or blog posts. Articles and blog posts need to be written.
I maintain two blogs. This one and a painting blog for my colored pencil and oil paintings. I also happen to write a twice monthly column for the online art magazine, EmptyEasels.com.
Personal News Flash: When I do writing for any of those three things, I am writing.
Yearly, monthly and daily goals reflect my attitude that fiction writing comes first. I should never, never, NEVER take time away from fiction writing to write a blog post (even for my own blogs) or an article for someone else. Those things are important, but not as important as the fiction.
Sounds noble, but it’s not.
Remember those days I mentioned earlier? The ones with the goose eggs? On some of those days, I ‘sneaked away’ to write blog posts or art articles without working on fiction first because I didn’t have fiction to write. I felt guilty. Lazy. Unfocused. Dissatisfied. Did I mention guilty? I wrote blog posts and worked on articles, but a nagging little voice in the back of my mind taunted me all the while. The net result was no fiction writing and non-fiction writing suffered as well because I wasn’t properly focused.
The startling realization that blog post writing and article writing is writing prompted my impulsive decision to focus on non-fiction until something comes up in the fiction department. If writing is writing (and I’d already realized it was) why not give the hour a day to non-fiction and see what happens?
I made my decision late in the day Tuesday.
Wednesday, I started the day with the idea that I would be writing articles, not fiction. I’d start at the regular time in the morning and do as much as I could by the end of the day.
Revised and polished a post for Saturday on this blog. I even scheduled the post, two days earlier than usual. (NOTE: The original post was moved to next week when I came home from a walk at almost ten o’clock Wednesday night, got the idea for this post, and promptly drafted a complete post in ten or fifteen minutes. Isn’t writing great?)
Revised a writing post for each of the next two weeks.
Reviewed a mid-week writing post for the next two weeks.
Drafted both art articles for the month of June.
Ended the day with over two hours worth of dedicated effort, over 4,700 words written, and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
The best news is that in the middle of the activity, an idea for a character came drifting into my awareness. Later, a story idea wandered past. I don’t know where either may go, but those moments were pleasant and pleasing occurrences.
The Moral of the Story
Goals are good. Most of us wouldn’t accomplish much without goals to aim at.
But be flexible enough in setting and keeping goals to know when a course correction might be in order and how best to make a course correction. You won’t be sorry.
Questions for You
Do you set writing goals?
Have you ever found your writing goals too confining? If you did, how did you break out of confinement?