You have tons of ideas for articles and blog posts.
Or maybe that next bestselling novel.
But you can’t figure out how to make time to write. Or what the perfect format would be. Or whether your writing is even good enough to keep going.
You want to set goals to manage your time and improve your content. But goals seem too practical and stuffy.
Won’t they box you in and squelch your creativity?
As a writer and a creative you need goals that challenge you, enlighten you, encourage you, and help you improve the overall quality of your content.
Goals also establish a starting point and an ultimate destination to reach.
Here are seven goals that will help you improve as a writer so that your creativity has a place to go and flow!
- Improve those writing skills
- Set SMART Goals
- Set deadlines
- Use to-do lists
- Imitate from the right places
- Increase motivation
Let’s get started!
Improve Those Writing Skills
As with any skill, there’s always room for improvement.
But where to begin?
A Structure for Success
Phillip Yancey has summarized the important writing skills into these “phases”,
- active verbs,
- then sentence structure,
- then paragraphs and
- article structure.
As you begin to improve your writing, start with active verbs. Once your verbs are dynamic and engaging, you’re ready to move onto sentence structure, etc.
There are also great tools out there to help you improve!
Two Writing Resources
Here are two fantastic tools that help you learn about your mistakes, point out your passive vs. active voice usage, and improve your overall writing process and quality.
- ProWritingAid.com. This platform is a digital writing tool (Yes, it is better than Grammarly) and terminology management system that checks your grammar, improves style, and shows when you are using passive voice. And they have a free plan here!
- The Elements of Style. Fourth edition. Written by William Strunk, JR., and E.B. White. (Rights reserved).
Writing daily is another way to improve. You can’t improve a skill you don’t practice!
So what are some ways to create that daily habit and improve your writing skills?
Let’s look at the next goal…
Set SMART Writing Goals
This goal is sort of an umbrella to tuck other goals under. It’s a guideline to help you create SMART goals.
What is a SMART goal?
Let’s break it down:
- Specific: Effective planning can only happen with specific, narrow goals. The more specific the goal, the more you will understand the steps you need to take to make them happen. Defined goals are achievable.
- Measurable: The progress you make towards your goal should have evidence and be trackable, giving you room to reevaluate when right.
- Attainable: Every goal should be appropriately achievable within a specific period.
- Relevant: Goals should support your values and continuing objectives.
- Time-based: To prioritize tasks and motivate yourself, set a realistic, yet ambitious end-date to achieve your goal.
Attainable and time-based go hand and hand. To achieve these parameters, think about how long each goal will go on. Will it be lifetime, a project, yearly, monthly, weekly, or daily?
Choosing which time-based category your goal falls under will help you determine how long it will take and what the deadline should be.
The other writing goals listed below are not SMART.
At least not yet!
It is your job as the writer to make them SMART.
Only you can make each writing goal specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
Break Down Your Goals
When looking at writing goals, it is understandable you may feel overwhelmed, even intimidated. You may want to give up on writing altogether. But you take away the pressure if you break them down into baby steps.
How to Break Down Your Goals
To set up baby steps, some writers start at the end goal and work backward while others start at the beginning of the goal-achieving process. Look at the big picture and break the goal down into baby steps by week, then by day.
That way, you progress towards your goal one step at a time.
If one of your aims is to write a book within a year, how many words per day should you write?
While word count and the number of pages you write are not as important as the quality, having a set, specific goal will give you focus and determination.
If you want to write one blog post per week:
- Decide which day and at what time you will write your first draft.
- What day will you do any necessary research?
- And what day will you post each week?
Having these baby steps set and planned out will help you stay on track and free you from the pressure of constantly wondering when you’ll have time to write.
It’s in your planner… that’s when you write!
Your friend wants to get coffee? You’ll have to plan around your writing time!
Even if you do not have any required writing deadlines, set them anyway. Deadlines motivate you to finish something—anything—and the challenge will push you to get something done instead of procrastinating.
Your deadlines should be short term and long term.
As mentioned above, set a deadline for each day to write so many words. This smaller baby deadline will help you reach your greater deadline of writing a whole book… if that is your goal.
Use an Editorial Calendar or a Planner
Use an editorial calendar or a writing planner to jot your deadlines down on paper.
With it written down, it is an official deadline that tricks your mind into taking it more seriously.
Check this out!
By using a calendar or a planner, you can break your writing goals down into weekly and daily goals. Prioritize them per day as needed, and remember to keep your writing goals and deadlines SMART.
Use To-Do Lists
Wait. Isn’t this pretty much the same thing as setting baby step goals?
Nope! Totally different!
To-do lists help with productivity and completing daily tasks.
To-do lists also give you a sense of rewarding and satisfying accomplishment when you cross off a completed task.
The first task you can give yourself is set goals. Then you can cross it off once you know the goal setting is complete.
Free Up Head Space
This is another great way to free your mind up too so you can focus on writing. If you have household tasks rolling around in your head, it’s hard to really lean into your writing.
Writing those random tasks down on your to-do list for the day helps release them from your mind. It’s on paper, so you won’t forget to do it later! You won’t keep trying to subconsciously remember other things you have to do.
Here’s an example…
Your writing to-do list might look something like this at first:
- Get yogurt
- Start laundry
- Call vet – appt for Daisy
- Write for two hours
- Research top articles for “How to…” for comparison
- Pick up kids from school
Once you draft all the things you need to do for that day (or sometime that week), place them in a specific time slot.
STICK TO IT!
If you feel the need… leave some space open for spontaneity… or in case you need to take a nap!
You have flexibility. It’s YOUR list!
Just make sure that having time to write is a high priority on that list!
Imitate from the Right Places
Are you a writer who hopes to one day publish a novel? Or a professional blogger who strives to produce engaging blog posts and articles? Or perhaps you’re an academic or professional who wants to learn how to write with a more formal, authoritative tone.
Whatever the case is (and please pardon the cliché), readers make the best writers.
As writers, you imitate through your writing.
That’s why it’s important to filter what you will and will not allow yourself to read. If you read the right text, you will feel inspired to imitate it in your writing. If you read the wrong text, you will struggle to connect with your readers through your writing.
Obviously that doesn’t mean you can’t ever read your favorite novels if you’re only writing blog posts. But it is helpful to read from the genre you’re getting ready to write in right before you start writing. And on a regular basis too.
This is a good time to go back over the SMART goals.
- Make a plan for how many books or articles you will read in your genre.
- Will you do this weekly?
Make a specific plan and goal that is achievable.
Another great place for imitation is real life. Regardless of what you write!
Therefore, it’s essential to…
Be curious and aware. Pay attention to people, conversations, situations.
Make note of anything that sparks something in your mind. You never know when it will be the perfect tidbit to add to your story or article or email down the road.
Use an organizer such as WorkFlowy or Evernote to keep your thoughts organized and safe. (Sometimes those random scraps of paper and sticky notes run away!)
And ask tons of questions. (Not necessarily out loud. That might be weird!)
Ask questions that you don’t know how to answer.
If you’re a fiction author, you might ask yourself a question about your characters. (“If my main character went to another setting in another time, how would they react?”)
Questions motivate you to ponder, research, and brainstorm. By asking new questions, you set your mind free to see and explore an uncharted territory or setting.
Asking questions will help you think of new, original content to write.
Committing to a long term or short term writing plan will help you achieve your ultimate goals. Setting deadlines and making to-do lists will help you stay on track and finish your book or articles.
But how do you stay motivated to commit to a writing plan?
Here are steps to keep you inspired and focused on your writing goals.
- Visualize yourself reaching your goal.
- Say positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror.
- Write habitually. (Daily is really best!)
- Eliminate distractions.
- Hold yourself accountable.
Setting goals does not have to frustrate you. If you are stuck, always focus on this question:
What steps do I need to take every day to get me closer to my writing goal?
It’s also important to think of your writing as a job.
Because it is!
So you must set hours for yourself just as you would if you had a boss giving you a project. It has to be a priority or it won’t happen!
One of your positive affirmations should be, “I am a writer and this is my job.” Or something like that…
The point is to help your brain and heart understand that this is important and necessary. It’s not a side gig or something fluffy you do for fun. It’s real! And it’s important! And it’s necessary!
What’s the best way to stay motivated over the long haul?
Learn how to celebrate.
Celebrate Achieved Goals
Achieving a goal—no matter how big or small— is not always an easy feat. As a writer you might feel overwhelmed or even intimidated by a goal. Sometimes taking the first step is the hardest part.
Therefore, it is essential to reward yourself for your progress towards a goal, especially when you achieve it.
Ways to Reward Yourself
To start, you can reward yourself for goal setting in general! Especially if this task doesn’t come naturally to you.
You can set up milestones with attached rewards for each step of the journey. Then have a big ole amazing reward when you accomplish a goal completely!
Here are some ideas for how you can reward yourself for achieving a goal:
- entertainment (take yourself and a friend to a movie)
- food (indulge in your favorite dessert or your favorite kind of pizza)
- self-care (get a professional massage)
- shop (buy that larger item you eyeballed recently)
- travel/enjoy the outdoors (go on a road trip for an extended time or go on a hike)
Obviously the reward needs to match the goal. Don’t go on a trip to celebrate making a to-do list for the day! You’ll probably save that one for when you finish the first draft of your book. Or when you reach your 100th article on your blog.
But make sure you reward yourself for the little accomplishments too! Give yourself 10 minutes to read a juicy novel after you’ve written for an hour for example.
It’s OK to congratulate yourself and to be proud of your accomplishments: large and small!
Whether you are a professional writer or editor, a blogger with a large following, or a business professional who wants to accomplish great writing endeavors, the goals above can help you make that happen.
Just always remember to make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
These goals will help you stay focused, inspired, and determined to finish your projects and become the writer you’ve always wanted to be.