Welcome to another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post!
At the start of September I participated in the 14 Days to a Solid Writing Habit course from Writers’ HQ, and boy was it an eye opener.
I learned a lot, but the lesson that stood out the most was how unrealistic my goals are: I must write so many words, and draw, and read, and research, and exercise, and where’s the time to stop and just be in that list? Being on the go all the time is stressful, and my high expectations hit my writing hard, so this month I thought I’d cover how to set realistic writing goals!
1) Prioritise Writing.
Write a list of your daily commitments, including hobbies and things you do to pass the time. Cross off everything that’s not as important as writing. It could be watching TV at the end of the day, checking social media, whatever.
My big three were gaming, Netflix, and google news: I’ve disabled news on my phone and reduced my gaming and Netflix time. Re-direct your attention away from scrolling social media and write instead, don’t over-commit to things that are lower priority than writing, and focus on what’s important. Too tired to write at the end of the day? See point number 2!
Claw back every second you can to devote to writing. The extra time will make achieving your goals much easier! If writing isn’t a priority for you right now that’s okay: Take a break. Recharge. Don’t push yourself to burnout. (Just don’t forget to go back to writing someday!).
2) Re-define ‘Writing.’
What is writing anyway? Sitting down and churning out words, right?
Writing isn’t just about getting words on the page. It’s about planning, daydreaming, thinking about your stories, reading your notes or scenes, researching, profiling characters, and trying to dig yourself out of the plot hole you fell into in chapter 7.
When you set your goals allow time for more than words: My 3000 words in 3 hours goal was reasonable considering how much I can write if I know where I’m going with my plot, but if I don’t, 9/10 I fail my goal. I failed so often I gave up completely for a while.
The Writers’ HQ course changed my perspective and reminded me that writing is a process. It involves so much more than words, and I no longer stress myself out if I take a few minutes, or longer, to stare into space and daydream about my plot. Don’t just force yourself to write words without direction: Remember that background tasks count as writing too!
3) Always Overestimate.
Don’t underestimate how long writing takes. If you set word count goals consider the above aspects of writing and allow time for them too. Do 15 minute word sprints. Figure out how many words you write in an hour, at your best when you know what you’re writing, then quarter it.
Yup. Quarter it. My new goal for 3 hours is 750 words. I feel relaxed when I’m writing now, instead of overwhelmed: My goal is manageable, and I look forward to writing because the extra time to slow down and think about my plot means I’m (finally!) making progress. It may take me longer to write a book, but I’m confident I’ll end up with a complete draft this time. For someone who continually stalls halfway through drafts that’s an exciting thought!
Some days I may write more than 750 words, or even reach my old goal, but it’ll be a pleasant surprise instead of what I expected of myself anyway. Only commit to what you can realistically achieve, consider your other commitments, set sensible goals, and always overestimate.
4) Allow for Downtime.
Downtime is essential for writers. Sarah at Writers’ HQ summed it up best: You think of the best ideas when you’re doing something else. This is totally true, so I’m going to spend more time out and about: I’ll walk along the beach, have coffee with friends, play D&D games, and enter Yu-Gi-Oh Tournaments because I’m a huge geek.
Also, instead of expecting myself to stay at my desk for a solid three hours, I’ll consider how I used to work in my day job. I’d break up my day by sorting the stock room, printing and collating reports, making tea, chatting to colleagues, and switching up my tasks to keep it interesting.
I didn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t glued to my desk: So why should I when writing at home? Instead of punishing myself with extra minutes of work for the time it takes to make a cup of tea, chat to my partner, or cuddle the cat, I’ll let it slide. I’ll be kinder to myself about these small breaks: Chances are stopping to chat could help break my writer’s block anyway!
5) Write Regularly.
Regularly doesn’t have to mean daily. That advice sucks, and it doesn’t work for everyone. Some of us have lives and families, and we’d rather be living than writing daily. Do what works best for you: I’ve not read Stephen King’s On Writing (don’t tell my tutors, it’s on our reading list), and I don’t care what works for famous authors. I’d rather focus on what works for me.
Write out your weekly schedule. See where you can fit writing in, remembering point number 1. Commit to regular writing sessions each week, at the same time, and use your time wisely. Daydream about plot problems on the commute. Carry a notebook everywhere, to scribble ideas in when you’re stuck waiting around, and don’t overstretch yourself!
That’s it from me. Set reasonable goals, daydream, prioritise writing, and you’ll be fine.
Thanks for Reading!
Writers’ HQ have a bunch of free articles on their website: I feel like I learned more in 14 days on their free course than I did in an entire year of my Masters degree, and I’m feeling more positive about my projects than I have in months. I’ve signed up to the next free course in October, the Short Fiction Mini Masterclass, which I hope will be equally as good 🙂
Have you come across Writers’ HQ? Do you set unrealistic goals, only to be disappointed when you don’t meet them? What do you count as ‘writing’?
Chat in the comments!
This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, hosted by Raimey Gallant. To read more posts from the hop, click here, or on the image below:
Next week I’m either taking a break or writing a spontaneous off topic post, in the spirit of putting less pressure on myself!