Writing Goals – Confining or Liberating?

Writing Goals Confining or LiberatingGoals 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 past year 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. For most of this year, in fact, every day has been marked with a big, fat goose egg in the fiction writing category.

But the experience has led to a rather surprising realization; a realization that led to a seemingly impulsive decision and startling results.

Surprising Realization
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 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 teaching blog for colored pencil and oil painting. I also happen to write a regular column for the online art magazine, EmptyEasels.com.

Personal News Flash: When I do writing for any of those three things, I am writing.

Impulsive Decision
Yearly, monthly, and daily goals used to 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 surprising 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 time to non-fiction and see what happens?

Startling Results
I made my decision early this year.

I started 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 every day until the fiction well began flowing again.

The results?

  • Nearly 40 articles for EmptyEasel (that’s almost one a week)
  • A handful of other freelance articles for various publications, on- and off-line.
  • 52 blog posts for the art blog
  • Nearly 60 blog posts for Indie Plot Twist
  • Nearly 50 blog poss for the author blog
  • A handful of journals, some of them lengthy, as I processed various events through the year, including the length, depth, and breadth of creative stillness.
  • August, September, and October averaged over 90,000 words per month.
  • Over one million words so far this year

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.

Do you set writing goals? Have you ever found your writing goals too confining? If you did, how did you break out of confinement?

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