Want to Make More Progress in 2017? Write Down Your Writing Goals

It’s the New Year – new calendars, new notebooks, a new start!

I am a New Year junkie. I love the reminders to reflect on the previous year and lay out plans for the year to come. But as a staunch list-maker, I don’t just noodle on my goals for the year, I write them down.

At the end of each year, I pull up my 12-months-old list, x-ing out the goals I’ve accomplished, and mulling over the ones I haven’t. Some goals surprise me – did I really think that was a priority in 2016? And some are oddly outdated, reflections of circumstances that no longer exist in my life, like the year I insisted I was going to get back into shape, only to discover I was pregnant before I could even make the appointment to tour the gym.

I have a friend who writes herself a letter every New Year’s Day, telling her future self about the things she hopes to accomplish, the problems she’s currently facing and the hopes and fears she holds for the coming twelve months. The next New Year’s Eve, she opens the letter and reads the time capsule from exactly a year ago.

It turns out, my friend and I both practice a key strategy for success: writing down your goals.

New research reported here in NYMag.com, appears to show that the simple act of writing down your goals makes you much more likely to achieve them.

Of course, a big section of my 2017 Goal List is devoted to writing. Every year, I think about where I am now – what am I working on? What do I have waiting in the wings? How much time/energy will each of these projects take? Where do I want to go with each? And then I formulate a plan.

Are you ready to set your writing goals for 2017? Grab your coffee, your notebook and some chocolate and follow these tips:

DO be specific: Write a best-seller is not a great goal. Not only is the sales status of your book almost entirely out of your control, but the goal itself is too vague to be of use. Instead try to hone in on what you’ve already got going on. Finish first draft of my dog in space book or Query Yellowstone Adventure YA are more realistic.

DO set deadlines: I love to give myself a rough timeline. On my list this year is Finish first draft of YA WIP by March. Knowing how much I have to go and my current pace, this feels like a reasonable, achievable goal – and it serves as motivation if I start to slow down or slack off.

DO be flexible: Sometimes we can’t or don’t accomplish our goals for reasons out of our control. Sometimes our goals change completely. You can be determined to query your picture book about fairies, but if you hear fairies are done, or you suddenly realize you were meant to write adult true crime, that’s OK. Adjust mid-year.

DON’T beat yourself up: All too often, I’ll check in on my goals halfway through the year and zero in on how much I haven’t accomplished, instead of seeing how much I have. If you need to course-correct, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad or lazy person. It means you have a life! And you still have another six months to get back on track.

For me, the act of writing down my writing goals also becomes an affirmation that this endeavor is important, worthy of my time and attention. And in a business where progress can be achingly slow, it is heartening to see that I really have moved forward as the months have rolled past.

Do you write out your writing goals? How does it work for you? And if you’re trying it this year for the first time, let me know how it goes! Maybe we can do a check-in in June and see how much progress we’ve all made.

Write on!

11 thoughts on “Want to Make More Progress in 2017? Write Down Your Writing Goals

  1. This is so timely for me. I respond so well to goals. They really drive me, but for the past 5 years so many major life-impacting incidents have stolen my thunder. I stopped making goals because I’m so hard on myself when I don’t achieve them, even if it’s for reasons outside of my control. But I’m going to be brave and try again. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. I’m glad you’re ready to join the goal-setting team again! I, too, get pretty down when I don’t accomplish what I set out to do, but I try hard to remember that there is as much — maybe more — value in the journey as in actually reaching the destination. Good luck, Michelle!

  2. Thanks for this inspiring post, Richelle! I’ve never made a goal list (maybe for some of the reasons Michelle mentioned) but thanks to you, I’ll do it for the first time this afternoon. At the moment, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed about the number of things I want to accomplish: do you aim for a certain number of goals each year?

    Related, I just finished reading Jen Sincero’s You Are a Badass, in which she strongly advocates goal-setting around everything you want. She encourages her clients to believe that the thing they want already exists for them and to imagine the achieved goal in delicious detail. Sincero believes focusing on the details helps us actualize our goals. As writers, we should be naturals at this!

  3. Yay! I’m excited to have a few more goal-setters in my circle! Let’s check in mid-year for commiseration and congratulations!

  4. Nice post, Richelle! I’ve been trying this in reverse for a few years. It helps to cross out all the days I WON’T be working so that I can see what days are actually available. Saves a bit of unnecessary guilt about not writing so I can enjoy the days off. Seeing that a project actually might fit in the days allotted gives me hope when I’m in the middle of it. Forgiving myself for what didn’t work and appreciating what did work helps me too. I finally looked back on my writing in 2016: I wrote a whole rough draft in the first three months that I had forgotten about! A mid-year check-in sounds like a smart idea.

  5. I’ve made my list of resolutions. I’ve done this for a couple years. But the one thing I like from the article Gita sent around was not just writing the list, but putting it somewhere that I’ll see it regularly. I’m usually pretty good about hitting a couple of the things on the list hard, but a couple others, like getting outside for some fresh air every day (another thing Gita is great at!) fall by the way side as I focus on the more “productive” items on the list. Here’s a toast to a both productive and centered year!

    1. That is an excellent idea. I wonder if I would accomplish more of my goals each year if they were staring me in the face every day! Something to try…

      1. Yes to having to stare them in the face regularly! I’m adding mine to my bullet journal with a plan to read through them every Sunday night before I go to bed to keep my focus.

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