Friday, March 27, 2009

Setting Goals...Achieving Success!

Every January, we hear about people setting goals for themselves– resolutions to live better, work harder, lose weight, quit procrastinating. The list goes on and on. A key factor in whether a person will be successful in their New Year's endeavors is how that person approaches the benchmark they've set. So now, as the first quarter of the year is drawing to a close, let's look at a few things you can do to help you reach those writing goals you set back in January.
1) Be realistic. If you've never been able to write more than 3 pages a day because of your day job, your health issues, or your family responsibilities, don't set yourself up to fail by setting an unattainable goal of writing 10 pages a day. While you want to stretch yourself, setting the bar too high can quickly lead to frustration and make it too easy to give up.
2) Define your goals in terms of what is within your control. Too often I hear writers say their goal is to sell a book by a certain date or to reach a certain level on a bestsellers list. But as writers, we have no control over the editor who is determining what she wants to buy, nor do we have a say in what readers purchase. If we did, a lot more of us would be best-selling published authors! Instead, resolve to carefully edit your manuscript before sending it out to be sure it is your best writing. Set a goal of sending your work out to a certain number of agents or publishers where your book might fit. These goals are within your control.
3) Set smaller, stepping-stone goals. A huge goal can loom ominously and seem too great to achieve, until you break it down into sub-goals. Does the idea of finishing two full manuscripts in a year strike terror in your heart? What if you considered the idea of writing just 2 pages a day, every day? By the end of the year you'd have over 700 manuscript pages written! That's two books in many markets. Break your overall goal into manageable smaller goals then celebrate (see # 5) as you reach each milestone toward success.
4) Prioritize. If a goal is really important to you, more important than other things that are taking up your time, streamline your life so that you devote time to those tasks that mean the most. Is writing more important to you than knitting? Is reading more important than TV? Is saving for a conference more important than buying your coffee from Starbucks? Look at how you might reorganize your life to give higher priority tasks the time they're due.
5) Reward yourself! I'm a big believer in celebrating every accomplishment. You deserve a pat on the back for every small step along the path to your goal. Celebrations and rewards keep you positive, keep you energized and excited about moving toward that goal. Finish a chapter today? Take a hot soak in a bubble bath to reward yourself. Finally send that manuscript off (and before your deadline too!)? Treat yourself to a frozen mocha or a new pair of earrings. You've earned it!
Whatever it is you want to achieve, goals help give you focus, help keep you motivated and can be measuring marks of your success. So dream big, set your goals high and– as Churchill said– never, never, never give up!
Beth Cornelison


  1. great topic - I just ran into a little Goal Revision when GH submissions were due.

    I had to revise my goal, because I knew the piece wasn't ready. it still stung when I didn't meet the goal, but it was the right thing to do.

  2. Goals? You should see my calendar. I keep looking for that mythical month that has nothing written in the little boxes. Haven't found it yet...

  3. Great words of wisdom, Beth! I think these goals/ideas can be applied to other aspects of life as well. And I totally agree with you about the celebrating each one part :)

  4. Ack, got to get a post together for Mar 30, and have a deadline for Apr 20...yep, goals are most important for keeping on track.

  5. Always good advice, Beth! And timely.

    We see lots of ariticles like yours in January, but in my experience goals, to be useful, must be reworked as time and circumstances change.

    Revisting goals at the end of the quarter is a good idea.

  6. Beth, I had several goals, we won't talk about the losing weight one. My first goal was to send out query letters to agents. I've done that very slowly. I research each one and then bite my nails for weeks before I press the send button. There are plenty of goals, some I had forgotten about until now. Thank you for reminding me.


  7. Very true, Beth and you can't beat yourself up if you don't reach your goal. You just focus on reaching the next one.

    Goals keep me on the right track.


  8. For me it kind of falls in 2 categories:

    There are the appointments/deadline things that have to be accomplished by a particular time. Those things are on the calendar and constantly in the back of my organized brain. Not sure I have ever thought of those as 'goals' exactly as that name implies achieving something monumental - but that is semantics.

    Then there is my writing, which I try not to ever think of in terms of getting X amount of pages or words by a certain date. I hope I never have to look at it that way because, for me, it would stifle my creativity. I want the actual writing to be fun. Otherwise it would just be a job that overwhelms, and I never want it to be like that for me.

  9. I've never set writing goals. With a full-time job and kids, the writing HAS to be fun. If it's too regimented, it's not fun for me. I live in constant fear of losing interest, so keeping the writing fun is critical to me.

  10. If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
    Works on mobile.