As a physical therapist, I’ve had to learn how to write goals to make sure health insurances cover my patients’ therapy. Saying: “Mrs. Smith will be able to walk better” just doesn’t cut it. Goals have to be specific, objective, measurable, realistic, and timely. An example that works would be: “In three weeks, Mrs. Smith will ambulate with minimal gait deviation using a single point cane and stand-by assist for 1000 feet.”
Now, before you all nod off, and believe me, I know that sounded excruciatingly boring, there is a point to this. Learning how to set goals can help writers. My long term goal is to be a published author and to write and publish throughout my life. (Yes to the smarty pants out there – I do realize I didn’t put a time frame on that one. Otherwise, it is a specific, objective, measurable, and realistic goal!) So, for me, simply saying, “I’m going to finish a novel someday” just doesn’t cut it.
There’s a system out there that is very similar to what we use as physical therapists: SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (Relevant), and Time-bound. Like the PT method, it works for setting writing goals: “I will write 25 rough-draft pages in my YA novel by this Saturday.”
When I first started writing, my approach was much more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants: “I think I’ll try to write some this week, if I feel inspired.” “I hope to finish a novel someday, maybe try to publish.” I found day after day passing me by, my pen untouched, my brain untapped. Not the best approach for one who really hopes to break into the writing business. I’d resisted setting goals, fearing it would squelch my creativity. In fact, I’ve found that making daily goals for my writing has been liberating rather than confining. Writing every day keeps the cogs of my mind lubed and moving, so that when I do sit down to write, things flow much more easily than they did when I randomly sat down to scribble something out, usually under the pressure that I needed to have something that night for my writers group. When I set a daily page goal for myself, I’m able to relax and write. Before, I would rush through a scene, trying to just get it done. Now, I’m able to relax and immerse myself into what I’m writing. I feel my characters out, dig deeper into their emotions, let things just flow, and then suddenly, I see the little star I drew at the bottom of page number X, and – I did it! I made the progress I’d hoped to make that day. It means a small victory every day, and I can leave the self flagellation (I really should be writing, I wasted all my time today, etc.) behind.
Though I’m yet unpublished, I treat my writing like it’s a job. Luckily, it’s a job for which I have endless passion and plenty of drive. I love hearing what published authors have to say on balancing the creative process with the more objective side of writing – understanding the business, finishing projects, knowing what you hope to accomplish. It takes strength in both to make it in this field.
By the way, one of my goals for today was to write a blog on writing goals. Done!