5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune 

We write for so many reasons, but whatever motivates you, you need to find your ‘why’, set achievable targets and take yourself seriously in order to stay on track. 

A couple of years ago, I was running the independent press I founded 13 years ago, editing and promoting the writing of lots of great authors, teaching writing courses and working longer and longer hours to do it all, but my own writing was always the thing that constantly got pushed off the ‘to do’ list.

Then I began working on a novel trilogy that had been simmering for years. I got an Arts Council grant to travel to do research and take time out to write and it forced me to make the leap of commitment.

Two years later, I still love running Cinnamon Press but it’s no longer all-consuming and I’m passionate about sharing ways to give writing the time it needs and about sharing how other writers can do this. 

So how do you take control of your writing life?

1. Have a clear sense of your ‘why’

Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself… It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless.-Harper Lee

Writers have a million reasons for writing, but you need to know what your reasons are.  Dig into your motivation and get clear. Ask yourself why you write.

Imagine the answer is ‘to communicate with the world’

Next ask ‘Why do I want to communicate with the world?’

If you answer ‘because I want to bear witness to X (some particular even or idea)… then next ask – ‘Why does this matter?’

Keep digging – it might take 8 or 9 layers of question, but get down to your personal motivation.

When you know what motivates you, you are much more likely to take it seriously and make it a priority.

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
2. Have a place to write

Understanding your why is crucial because in busy lives we can only focus on a few priorities at any one time so having clarity will help you stay on course, but there are also practical things you can do to support your writing.

Whatever your living circumstances you need to carve out a bit of space where you can write without being interrupted at least some of the time. It might be your bed or dining room table first thing in the morning or a room where you can hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign at least a few hours a week.

If you are lucky enough to be able to grab a dedicated space, personalise it with things that get you into the writing frame of mind, whether it’s a picture of a place that calms you or a candle.

3. Have a time to write

Writing takes time so you have to consider when in your busy life you will make that time.

It’s amazing how much of life is spent on

       activities that drain us
       tasks that fragment our attention
       things that leave us feeling dissatisfied

Make a list of all the ways you use time and all things that can be dropped to make the time you need. Annie Dillard is reputed to have said ‘It’s endearing how people think writers have the time to dust.’

What activities have to go if you are going to write? It might be the dusting or surfing social media or some of the time spent watching TV… Make sure everyone knows that’s now your writing time and it’s sacrosanct.

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
4. Have goals that are challenging yet realistic

Once you know why you write, where and when you will write, then you can set goals. Small steps soon add up so don’t overwhelm yourself, but by the same token give yourself a challenge that you can constantly recalibrate as you get into your flow.

If you have only half an hour a day, don’t expect 1000s of words a day, but if you have 4 hours a day you can raise the bar.

1000 words a week is 52,000 words over the year and chances are you can soon push to 2000 words a week and have a draft of full novel within a year. 

5. Take yourself seriously as a writer

In addition to knowing your motivation and having the logistics in place, you need to believe that you are a writer.  When people ask you what you do, don’t just mention the day job or that you are a mum or … also say ‘I’m a writer.’ If you don’t believe it, no-one else will.

How would you describe the writer you want to become in the third person? Be bold. Be imaginative. What needs to change for you to move towards being this writer?"

5 Essentials For Setting Writing Goals You’ll Stick To, Guest post by Jan Fortune
Jan Fortune is the founding editor of Cinnamon Press and has taught courses online and across Europe over the last 13 years. She blogs at https://janfortune.com/ and is passionate about helping writings develop their practice and writing lives.  Her most recent books are the first two novels in the Casilda Trilogy, This is the End of the Story & A Remedy for All Things.


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