When you first sit in front of a blank screen with a story idea and plenty of inspiration, you’re motivated to begin writing. You can’t wait to start typing and fill up that empty space. By the time you’re finished writing for the day, you feel accomplished and proud of yourself. Don’t you wish you could hang onto that feeling even once you’ve hit the middle of your book when your story isn’t so new anymore?
Actually, you can, and all it takes is setting a daily goal. How exactly is that supposed to help you? Setting goals is a proven tactic recommended by psychologists to increase motivation and encourage completion of tasks even if it takes you a bit longer than you’d like.
For instance, you’re writing a 70,000 word book, and over the course of the first week, you wrote a total of 5,000 words. You couldn’t be more excited, but…something happened, and now you’re not feeling as motivated about the book as you were in the beginning. You still want to finish it, but you just can’t seem to make yourself sit down and write. That’s where goals come in.
Every task looks overwhelming at the beginning or even when you’re stuck in the middle, but we can all do some small portion of that task at least once a day. Let’s look back at that 70,000 word book. You’re already 5,000 words in. With only 65,000 words to go, you have a long road ahead. So what’s the best way to navigate it?
First, a trip to your local dollar store is in order. There you will find monthly planners for the bargain price of $1.00. Each day of the month has an empty block waiting for you to fill it with your goal for that day. So once you’ve made your purchase, your goal setting awaits.
It will take you one hundred and thirty days to finish your 65,000 word book if you only write 500 words per day. That’s it. Just 500 words a day. So in the first empty block and each subsequent block after that, you’re going to write: Write 500 words on Mary’s Magic (not an actual story title). I suggest using pencil as you’ll see why in a minute. You’ll write this goal in 130 of the days of the week.
In the interim, let’s suppose you also have a story which needs to be edited or your editor is going to send her goon squad after you. Let’s just say it’s a 250 page book. Editing ten pages a day will take you twenty-five days. Make sure this goal fits in with your editor’s requirements and neatly pencil in underneath your first goal: Edit ten pages on Jim’s Journey (again, not an actual story title). You’ll write this goal down in twenty-five of the blocks.
Also, in the back of your mind, you’ve been playing around with the idea of writing a non-fiction article as well. You think you can write a 500 word non-fiction article in five days. So now you write: Write one hundred words on non-fiction article.
So now you’re ready to begin using your goal sheet. Each day you highlight what you’ve accomplished, but what happens when you don’t accomplish one of your goals that day? Just add it to a block at the end of the goal, i.e., instead of completing your goal on Day 130, you would complete it on Day 131.
And suppose you get really motivated and end up writing 1,000 words one day instead of 500? Just erase a day.
Eventually, you may get to the point where you don’t want to specify an amount. Your goal is to simply write each day. In that case, you can still use the blocks. Just write what you did each day, and if you look back at the end of the week and see an empty block, double up that day to catch up if you choose to.
Either way, each day you’ve completed a small goal, and by the time you finish writing that first article, you’ll feel such an overwhelming sense of completion you’ll want to add another goal.
Just make your goals realistic according to what you know is your ability to write, i.e., don’t set a goal to write 2,000 words a day when you know it’s a struggle for you to write 250. This isn’t a race, and no one is timing you. You control the goals, and you control how long it takes you to write the book, edit the book, or write the article.
For added motivation, I write down whatever I’ve done that day for writing even if it’s just a blog post or a synopsis for a completed book. At the end of the week, I can see I’ve written something every day no matter how minute an amount.
Motivation is important when writing, but without an editor hounding you with deadlines, you have to learn how to self-motivate. Goal-setting is the best way, and, ultimately, can be a valuable aspect in all areas of your life.