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We know, we know. Goal setting for writers sounds super boring.
But actually, it’s only boring if you set the wrong kinds of goals. Like New Year’s Resolutions.
AKA the goals that 80% of people fail within the first 30 days.
If you set goals in the right way, though, you can surpass even your wildest dreams.
How goals make us better writers
When you have a goal, you have something to work towards. It gives you a focus and helps you to avoid shiny object syndrome.
This is when you get distracted by new stuff, so you never actually finish anything. It’s a big problem when you have lots of ideas. It’s something I dealt with a lot in my early writing days, and I fixed it by using what I call creative blinkers.
Avoiding shiny object syndrome
For creative blinkers to work, you have to really want them to. I found that with mine on, my ideas have been much, much better quality.
With them on, I didn’t have an idea that wasn’t related to my What Happens in… books for three or four years.
Before that, I’d have at least a couple a month. And no, I didn’t finish much.
Setting the right goals
The right goals give you a focus. So, if an opportunity or ideas comes along, you can ask yourself if it helps towards that goal. If it doesn’t, you can make a note of it for later, or abandon it completely.
It sounds harsh, but it’s necessary. If you have a goal, you’ll achieve it—and surpass it—faster if you’re focused. Distractions—and that includes new ideas and opportunities unrelated to your end goal—hold you back like a lead on a dog.
You want your dog—that’s your creativity—to be well-trained enough that you can let it off to explore, but to also know its limits and when it needs to come back to you. Training it like that takes time, just like dog training.
Specificity in goal setting is important. If your goal is too vague, how will you measure if you’ve done it? You need to be able to tick it off somehow, whether you want to sell 100 books or make £100.
What your goal is will depend on how you’re motivated. Some will find financial goals more motivating, others the number of books they publish. This might change over time depending on your situation.
Just don’t make these your New Year’s Resolutions. With 80% failing within 30 days, it’s setting you up for failure.
I decided a few years ago to have yearly themes. The rest of my goals then fit in with that yearly theme, but I change my goals quarterly.
This allows me to be more adaptable. It’s also easier to focus and much less intimidating.
Most people have heard of SMART goals, but we prefer OKRs. I used to hate them, but if you can get your head around them, they’re much more helpful for measuring results, holding yourself accountable, and challenging yourself.
They stand for objectives and key results. They started at IBM, and really came into their own with the help of Google. OKRs were key to Google’s success and rapid growth in the early 2000s. A lot of startups use them for this reason.
Your big objective is the thing you want to achieve. Your key results are the three or four things you do to get there. These help you measure how on track you are.
If your goal is to get 100 downloads of your book, that’s your objective. Your key results could be to run three Facebook ads, take part in five newsletter swaps, and publish the next book in the series to cross-promote it.
Your day-to-day to-do list comes from the tasks you need to do for your key results. For instance, learn how to do Facebook ads, write the copy, design the image, etc.
You then measure your success as a percentage at the end of the quarter.
It really breaks the process down and allows us to be adaptable. And if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we need to be adaptable.
Deciding on your goal
Think long-term: what do you want to achieve with your writing? What matters the most?
I aim for how much I publish and my relationship with readers. These help me achieve my financial goals, and also I enjoy talking to readers. It’s a win-win.
When you’ve reached your goal, make sure to reward yourself! Even if it’s a small win, like hitting your word count. You’ll learn to associate what you’re doing with the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from your reward. Over time, you’ll start to associate that feeling with your writing, so you won’t need the reward.
But you should also reward yourself when you fail.
You tried, which most people don’t even bother with. When you punish yourself, you drag out the pain. Instead, think about what you’ve learnt. What can you do differently? Then go eat that ice cream!
It’s really about training your brain to focus more, and rewarding it for getting shit done.
Building your confidence
Goal setting wasn’t the thing that really helped me publish six books in a year, though. It was building my confidence.
You can’t do anything if you lack the confidence in your skills and abilities. But many people who lack confidence don’t know they lack confidence, because it manifests differently for everyone.
Procrastination is a prime example. My friends and I used to wear it like a badge of honour growing up, but it’s nothing to be proud of. It’s just an excuse to run from problems and things you don’t want to deal with. It’s another manifestation of fear. Ditto anxiety, depression, and even physical pain sometimes.
That’s why I designed my Creative Confidence Class.
It teaches you how to get over what’s holding you back, using techniques that helped me. Instead of running, it teaches us to face your problems head on. It’s the key to success.
We’ve seen the impact some of the activities have had on people, and they’ve really helped people. One of our community members faced the negativity that was plaguing her, and it really helped bring her characters to life. It’s surprising what you discover.
Goals should be:
- Rewarded, even if you fail
And if you’re struggling to decide on yours, think about the bigger picture:
- What would you like to look back on your life and say you’ve achieved?
- What are you filled with desire to do, right now?
- Do you think you can maintain that desire for the next quarter?
Staying motivated is the hardest part, so you need to analyse if you want it enough to stay motivated.
To do that, ask yourself:
- How much do you want to tell this story?
- How much work are you willing to put in?
- Do you give up too easily?
And of course, work through as much as you can that could get in your way before you start. That way, you’re better prepared to deal with obstacles that get in your way before you write.
If you’re looking for accountability for your goals, why not pop into the Facebook group and share what you want to achieve?
We’re in there every day offering moral support, inspiration, and advice. Come join us!