I recently hit a wall with my WIP. Feeling it had sat on my computer for far too long, I labeled myself a failure as a writer and nearly gave up in the form of tossing my computer out the window. What had brought me to this unbalanced place?
As writers it’s incredibly important to set goals. Otherwise, yes, we could fall to distraction or procrastination—two of our greatest enemies. But another enemy we often don’t see is an unrealistic goal. So how do we avoid this?
- Don’t set your goal based on someone else’s.
Social media is a killer for this one! We pop on Facebook or Twitter and see a fellow writer’s word count for the day. Or we hear they whipped out a manuscript in two weeks. Then, either due to competition or the honest belief that we should be able to attain similar results, we set a matching goal. Except your life isn’t theirs. Your schedule, your family, your other job…even your writing style are all different and need to be taken into account. A goal crafted from someone else’s life will always fail. Create a goal that is as unique as you are. For me, I’ve learned it takes around a year to fully write one story, polish it, and send it out. That’s far slower than many of my writing friends, and that’s become fine by me.
- Be real about your schedule and what you can’t use.
What stage are you at in life? Retired? Homeschooling? New mom? Full time employee? This stage of life won’t last forever, but it’s the one you are in now, and you need to become okay with it. I’m a homeschooling mom. Many of my friends can write while their children are at school for the day. I cannot. When I try to, I always end up frustrated…and I shouldn’t be! This is the current stage I am in. What’s yours? Be honest about it. Then mark off those hours on your calendar as non-writing hours. Let them go. Don’t even expect to use them. If you wind up able to, it’s a bonus.
- Be real about your schedule and what you can use.
Now look at that calendar again. What blocks of time are left? Choose which ones you’ll use for writing, and—again—be honest with yourself. If you’re not a morning person, don’t mark an open block at 5 a.m. But make sure to look at all your available evenings. Then put it on the calendar and honor that time. Even if it’s a twenty-minute opening you can write a few hundred words or do some necessary research. It’s like that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Approach your writing and open time slots the same. Use each one you can find, no matter how big or small.
- Be fluid.
Understand life is always changing and moving. Even with scheduling our time, things out of our control happen. Be all right with having to change your goals. At the end of last summer we lost my father-in-law. I had just started my current WIP, and it wound up on my back burner for several months. It’s all right to set writing aside, but remember why you did it. When I came back to writing I didn’t adjust my goals. I assumed the same timeline as before and was frustrated when my book wasn’t accomplished in that time frame. In reality, my true start date for this WIP wasn’t until I returned to writing in January. I’m still under my year mark, I simply had to remember to account for the change. Be ready to do the same. Life is fluid, writers need to be also.
So that’s it. The current guidelines I’m using to knock unrealistic goals from my life. Hopefully it helps you do the same and pushes you to set some attainable ones for your future writing. I’d love to hear any additional points you’ve learned or adapted in your life. I’m always growing this list.