Do You Really Need to Set Writing Goals?

Are goals really necessary?

Experts talk a lot about goals. In the personal development and even the creative space, you pretty much have to have a goal for everything you want to do, or it probably won’t happen.

I know that can get tiring after awhile. And I understand that, after months and months of setting goals — most of which you might not have achieved, even if you came close — you might feel like it’s time to enter a new year without setting even a single writing goal.

What’s the point, if you aren’t going to make it to your goal?

Why can’t you just promise yourself you’re going to write, and leave it at that?

It’s quite possible that you’re not someone motivated by goal-setting. That’s OK. No one can force you to work toward something.

But it’s also possible the reason goal-setting hasn’t worked for you in the past is because you’re not setting the right goals — or going about the goal-setting process in a way that works for you.

Maybe you’re setting goals you personally can’t reach in the amount of time you’re giving yourself. If a goal isn’t achievable based on your skill level or the amount of time you have, of course you’re not going to do it. Aiming high isn’t always the right way to go.

Maybe you’re trying to do too many things at once. I’m guilty of this. I set wayyyy too many goals this year, and haven’t accomplished most of them — not because I didn’t work hard, but because I just tried stretching myself in too many different directions all at once. Narrow it down. Pick a few to start with and see what happens from there. You can have one goal at a time, and not set a new one until you finish the first one.

Maybe you don’t actually want to accomplish the thing you keep saying you want to accomplish. It happens. Be honest with yourself. If it’s not actually something you’re interested in doing — either at the time or later on — it’s OK to just let it go and focus on something you actually do care about.

And those goals you have that aren’t completely in your control — e.g., finishing school, even if you’d rather not; financial goals you’re not sure are going to pan out the way you want — write them down, at least. Even if you don’t have an action plan right now. You can always come back to them later, when you’re ready to tackle them. Having them on a list is a really good place to start, though.

Setting a goal is a commitment. But don’t avoid it just because you’re afraid you won’t accomplish it. You’re much more likely to do it if it’s a tangible finish line you want to reach, rather than a barely spoken idea you never return to at a later date.

Is it scary, sometimes? Yep. Welcome to creativity, where most things aren’t certain and every new thing you come across is basically terrifying beyond reason.

If you want to set writing goals you’ll actually achieve, start here.

And if you’re not interested in setting writing goals at all — well, that’s up to you. Having at least one goal will make your life a lot easier. Don’t be like me and set 25 goals in one year, because you probably won’t accomplish most of them, and that might make you sad.

Just one. That’s all. Will you do it?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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