The Hidden Power of Goal-Setting for Authors

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Author Denis Waitley said, “The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.”

The ability to set goals is an important skill for writing success. Once you have a goal, you can establish the intermediate steps (sub-goals) required to achieve it. Goals have a way of bringing order and purpose to your writing life. There is hidden power in setting and achieving goals.

Why do some writers avoid creating goals? Let’s examine some causes and cures.

Some writers don’t understand the importance of goals

They think they’ll be able to complete their writing project by waiting for the “muse” to motivate them. I personally think this is a form of superstition. Writing is an enterprise that requires thought, planning and focus, and the notion that it is the result of capriciousness is not helpful.

How does an unconvinced writer gain an understanding of the importance of goal-setting? If you’re one of them, I suggest you test the concept by setting a small writing goal for yourself. For example, make up your mind that you are going to write a 750 word article on “The Glory of Versailles” to be completed no later than 7 p.m. five days from today. This topic may not excite you, but if you don’t have a better idea, go ahead with this one.

Set some sub-goals. Don’t spend more than one hour per day completing the sub-goals.

  • Day 1, do some Internet research on Versailles.
  • Day 2, write an outline for your article.
  • Day 3, write a first draft based on your outline.
  • Day 4,, revise your draft adding new information if you wish.
  • Day 5, you’ll polish (sharpen or refine) what you have written, and then you will have reached your goal.

Some writers don’t know how to set goals

The process is simple, and I’ve already provided the steps in the previous exercise. Let me summarize:

Have something definite to write about. Many writers are confused about their topic, and that keeps them from achieving their writing goal. If your topic is unclear in your mind, then you won’t be able to move on to Step 2.

And what is Step 2? Research. Give yourself just one hour to learn everything you can about Versailles. Don’t get side-tracked, keep to your sub-goal of learning as much as you can in just one hour, no more.

Based on what you learned, complete your next sub-goal by writing an outline. Make the first point in your outline introductory, then after that make each point relate to a paragraph that highlights one of the glories of Versailles.

Your next sub-goal is to write a draft based on your research and your outline. Don’t rush this—save it for Day 3.  Write for up to one hour on Day 3, but no more.

On Day 4 you can revise your 750 word draft. You may want to improve it by doing some more research, but don’t spend more than an hour altogether on further research and revision.

If you’ve followed this “divide and conquer” approach to goal-setting, you’re going to reach your intended goal on Day 5. Just polish what you have already written and you’re done.

Don’t forget to write down your goals in the beginning. Even simple goals need to be put posted on your bulletin board.

Some writers have a fear of goal-setting

They don’t set goals because they fear they won’t be able to reach them, and missing the mark becomes a crushing defeat for them. Such thinking only perpetuates defeat.

Would these same people go on a long car trip without consulting a map? Would they fail to mark the route because they feared they might have an accident along the way? Would they just drive aimlessly, hoping they might fortuitously arrive on time at the place they wanted to go? Of course not. As the old sayings says, “No wind is favorable to a ship without a port.”

What are the characteristics of good goals? They are achievable, believable, desirable, measurable, workable and flexible. But the most important thing about a good goal is that you set them in the beginning of your writing project, and place a high priority seeing them come to pass as scheduled. Not following the path to your goal is exactly the same as having no goal at all. But when you set goals and achieve them, you’ll find the process addictive. There is hidden power in setting and achieving goals.

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