As I coaxed the Gerbera on my windowsill into bloom for a second time, I thought I should apply some of the same magic to my writing, and the New Year seemed a good time to think about setting some objectives for 2016. I don’t make resolutions that require any sort of denial – they’d be doomed to failure from the start, so Yes, I will still be eating the chocolate and drinking the wine – I’d much rather give myself goals that will enrich my writing life. Early in 2013 I wrote about using the SMART acronym for personal development. It fits well with this aspirational time of year, so I’ll roll it out again.
SMART: Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Realistic and Targeted.
I’m not usually a lover of this type of strait jacket approach to growth or creativity, but when it comes to goal setting, it’s quite a neat and useful summary of where we should be headed.
Specific: Rather than say, ‘I will get something published’, or ‘I will write a novel’, say, ‘I will get an profile published in Places and Faces magazine’ or ‘I will complete the first three chapters of my novel’.
Measurable: For goals to work there have to be markers against which we can measure our progress. Don’t say, ‘I will increase my productivity’, say, ‘I will send out one story a month’.
Achievable: We’ve all fallen into the wishful thinking trap, but if you’ve only got an hour to spare between looking after the kids, the house, work and your spouse, there’s no point in expecting to write a novel in six months. It’s not going to happen. Better to give yourself a more attainable target such as using the half hour spent watching your favourite soap to make some notes on a difficult character, draft the next chapter, or plan your next story.
Realistic: Aim high, but not so high you’ll be disappointed in yourself if you fail. Aspire to something that is definitely within your grasp, like finishing the first draft of your novel by the end of the year. Or plan to enter NaNoWriMo next November.
Targeted: We’d all like to think we could write that best-selling novel that tops the charts, but we’re more likely to be shortlisted in a competition or win the ‘Star Letter’ slot in a favourite magazine, so set targets for sending out submissions, or decide on a daily word count. Even 250 words a day will add up to over 90,000 words this time next year.
Everyone says it’s the things you don’t do that you regret, not the things you do, so now’s the time to plan your writing year, kick over the traces, and GET ON WITH IT. Set realistic goals, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and if at first you don’t succeed, try again.