“I ask again, ‘What are your Writing Goals?’ Now sit down and write them out and put them where you can see them every day,” (Lynette Hall Hampton, Writer to Writer, pp. 9)
In the sum of the writing resources I’ve read, the importance of setting writing goals is a common theme. Advice for would-be authors often includes a call to set your goals, make a plan to achieve them, and to stick with that plan. But what do we do with the plans we don’t stick to? How do we deal with the goals we’ve neglected so often that they’ve fallen to the wayside and shattered? What do we do with our broken writing goals?
My Problem Child
After reading the third chapter of Writer to Writer, I sat down to make my list of goals, like I’ve done so many times in the past few years. As is my habit, I started to write, “Finish editing Clouded Skies,” and I stopped before the pen hit the paper. In that moment, I knew this list would be meaningless for me.
You see, I finished writing my first book, Clouded Skies, five years ago. Then I went to college, and my goal of editing the book ended up on the shelf. It sat there, collecting dust, despite the many, many to-do lists with “edit Clouded Skies” written across the top. Finishing my first book was scribbled on every set of New Year’s resolutions and every list of plans for the summer. I set myself multiple deadlines of when I’d have it done, all of which passed without notice. Until recently, I never got past editing chapter four.
And because the book sat on the shelf for so long, the goal of finishing it came to feel less and less achievable.
I realized this week that our goals are promises we make to ourselves, and when we break those promises, we break our own trust. In neglecting my goals, I began to doubt my abilities and commitment as a writer because I’d created a pattern of ignoring what I claimed was important.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one. When life’s busy seasons hit full-force, it can become easy to believe that our goals belong on the back-burner. If we give into that temptation, we chip away at our confidence in our calling. Broken writing goals can damage our relationship with our writing voice, and like in any relationship, that damaged trust has to be rebuilt little by little.
So how do we restore our broken writing goals?
1. Put down the list—
If you’re like me and you’re dealing with goals you’ve neglected, stop writing them down. Stop talking about them. Even stop picturing them as goals. As counter-intuitive as it seems, I found that talking about my neglected project made it feel like an item on my bucket list. Finishing my book became a nebulous idea rather than a goal of substance–an idea trapped in the realm of “someday”.
So rather than viewing your project as a goal, view it as a priority. Let it become a normalized part of your life, like cooking dinner or doing laundry. Stop talking about your goal as a dream; instead, treat it as a reality.
2. Embrace imperfection—
Another issue that kept me procrastinating was my belief that my book had to be perfect. The fear that my book would never be as good as I believed it could be was crippling . . . until I made the decision that it’s worth the risk.
In writing, just like in life, sometimes being present is far more important than being perfect. Showing up, shaping the words, and sending them out guarantees growth if nothing else. So allow yourself room to make mistakes and go get started.
3. Take action—
Start small. Maybe it’s setting an appointment with yourself to write five minutes a day. Perhaps it’s entering one contest. Even if you aren’t ready to start marching toward that one big goal, take small steps to complete other goals that lead up to it. Making progress on other writing-related activities proves to yourself that you are serious about this dream. It shouts that you are ready to commit and be proactive.
Bonus Tip: Make a Plan. Stick to it–
When we’ve neglected a goal for a while, it might take some time to get back into a good rhythm. We might need to shift our approach to get the ball rolling again, but there’s no magic formula for keeping momentum once we’ve started. At the end of the day, we still have to decide to persevere. We still have to persistently move forward, choosing daily, weekly, monthly to keep striving toward the goals we feel called to reach.
But here’s the good news: a broken goal isn’t beyond repair. Even if you’re doubting yourself, the fact that the goal remains on your list is proof that you haven’t given up. You haven’t let it go.
And if you are truly called to write, then I believe that God won’t let you give up. I believe He’ll keep tugging at your heart, nudging you to follow the path He’s set before you.
What’s one way you’re striving to meet your goals today?
Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.