I’m not one who believes you have to have a certain word count or number of hours clocked in every day when it comes to writing. I know there are times when a person can’t write at all due to other circumstances often beyond their control. And quite frankly, sometimes we get burned out and need to step away from the computer, shove the notebook in the drawer, and leave our to-be-read pile to collect a little dust.
However, I am a strong advocate of setting goals. Pushing yourself to work by a deadline is a great discipline to learn for when you get representation or a book deal. Depending on your circumstances, set realistic goals and deadlines for yourself. If a job or school is a big priority don’t stress out about not writing 3,000-5,000 words a day. Know your limitations but don’t pander to the lazy voice that likes to tempt you to put off writing for another day without a just cause.
I’ve recently committed myself to try to finish a story in two months time. I have several chapters to get through (revisions) and a full plate when it comes to responsibility in my daily life. So I counted up the number of chapters I had left and divided it by the number of weeks in my goal to figure out how much I needed to strive for each week. Then I had to sit back and think realistically about this goal. Do I have the capability of meeting it? I think so. I’m certainly going to try.
When setting goals it’s also important to have a reward for meeting that goal. We all need to see the finish line and have the hope of a prize. In my case, I get to present that finished story to someone who’s waited years to read it. And then I’m going to indulge in a fun round of National Novel Writing Month where I can switch off the internal editor.
Maybe you’re not a long-term goal kind of person. That’s okay. Set achievable short-term goals. Perhaps this week you want to finish writing a difficult chapter or you need to get some important research out of the way. Set a goal and do your best to meet it.
For additional strategy, use those same time sucks/wasters that we often procrastinate with as your reward for reaching short-term goals. Say you have to get through the edits of two chapters before jumping on Twitter/playing that game on Facebook/watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show.
Long-term rewards could be buying a new book to read, treating yourself to a movie or dinner out, or maybe a coveted evening of doing absolutely nothing—guilt free. Let the reward fit the goal.
When making a goal, write it down and stick it somewhere you’ll see it often. Writing down a goal makes it more real. Or do like I did, in this case, and make the same type of goal with other writer friends and then motivate each other to success. Show a sense of commitment to your goal(s).
Do you have a writing goal right now? What is it? What reward do you have in store for accomplishing it?