Life on the Side, Writing Craft

SMART Goals for Writing (Part II)

Hello again, folks! This is Part II of a little series on SMART Goals. If you missed the last post, you can find it here. This time, I’m going to break down the five components of a SMART Goal applied to writing. So, let’s get to it.

Specific

Solid writing goals that move you forward require specificity. Someone could say they’re going to write a novel, but without getting more specific, it could quickly become ambiguous. Say you work on one novel for a month and then get distracted with a shiny new idea, and another one, and yet another one. Sure, you can convince yourself you’re working on the goal because they’re all novels, but it can turn into years of writing with nothing completed. A more specific goal would be to say you’re going to write [Insert Awesome Working Title Here], narrowing it down to a particular project.

Measurable

It’s probably the easiest one, and it usually has some sort of number component to it. One novel. Four short stories. 1,000 words. 30 minutes a day for 90 days. Twice a week for a month. As you can see, sometimes the measurable component ties in closely with the last SMART Goal component of being time-bound. The next component can also inform the measurement you choose.

Attainable

I can’t emphasize enough how critical this one is. Working with individuals living in poverty, there was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing someone set an unattainable goal and then grapple with feelings of failure and a desire to give up when it didn’t happen.

Look, when setting goals, we all sometimes get caught up in grand dreams and plans. After all, our goals are often built to propel us toward our dreams. This is especially true for writers pursing dreams of publication. However, when building a goal, we must look at what is within our control. I cannot control whether agents or editors love my work. I can control whether I keep working on my craft, completing projects, and submitting them to well-researched agencies and publications.

At the same time, I admit I can’t control my daily creativity levels in my current life situation. Between grad school, job hunting, living with anxiety and chronic pain, and a pandemic, I sometimes have days where my mind is just tapped. Words? What are words? This is why, for one of my goals, I committed to working on a specific novel for at least 30 minutes a day for a set number of days instead of setting a daily wordcount. Some days, I get bupkis. Other days, the words come pouring out, and I end up going for much longer than expected.

Get real with yourself, your strengths and limitations, and your situation when building your goal, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed.

Relevant

Does this goal move you towards where you want to be in life? Does it relate to your values? Does it benefit you in some way? Remember those grand dreams that are the basis for why you’re writing? This is where they come into play.

Take some time to think about why you want to set this goal. We all have days when we lack motivation and want to slack off. Having some solid “whys” for working on a goal keep you going on the hard days. If you don’t have some solid “whys” to make your goal relevant, perhaps you need to set a different goal.

Time-bound

As mentioned, this one often comes back around to the measurable part of the goal. When are you starting it? For how long are you working on it? When are you going to hold yourself accountable for meeting the goal? Will there be interim checkpoints along the way?

This may or may not mean giving yourself deadlines. It really depends on the specific goal and how you’ve chosen to measure it. A goal of completing one short story every three months for one year would have a deadline every three months, as well as a final deadline of completing four stories by the end of the year. However, a goal of developing a daily writing habit by writing 30 minutes a day for 90 days would instead have an end date where you evaluate how you did and perhaps set a new goal to push yourself even further.

Coming Up

In the next post, I’ll give a couple examples of how all those components can come together to create writing goals, and in the final post of this series, I’ll discuss some tools and tricks that can be helpful in staying on track.

Until then, hit me up in the comments or on Twitter with your own insights into the five SMART Goal components or any questions you might have!

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