I don’t know who needs to hear this, but if you wrote even a word today, you did a good job!
A lot of people get really hung up on writing goals. A certain number of words, a certain amount of pages, or time spent, or ideas or scenes or something. There’s always a goal to be met. It’s not surprising. I think we are just programmed that way.
There’s always a goal to meet, no matter where we are or what we are doing: weight goals, sales goals, grades, steps, budgets, everything. We are always grasping for some number that we have quantified in our head as the goal. I don’t mean to sound like I am above such practices. In the last year alone, my writing goals have included the following:
- Write one hour per day.
- Write seven hours total per week (to be distributed however I could manage).
- Write 1,000 words per day.
- Write 1,600 words per day.
- Write an entire manuscript over winter break.
I’ve had other goals that I’ve set for myself throughout my writing career, but you get the idea. I’m a goal-oriented person. I’ve set myself at 1,600 words per day, thanks in large part to NaNoWriMo, but I try to beat that whenever I can.
What I’ve learned, though, and what I want to share with you all, is that not meeting your goal is okay. For a long time, I was of the mindset that if I did not write what I had deemed the appropriate amount of words/pages/chapters/letters/whatever per day, then I was a complete failure and would never amount to anything in life. Might as well just throw away the manuscript and call it a day.
This mindset helped me get through several drafts of projects. Several… completely SHITTY drafts. I didn’t care that the scene that I was writing was most definitely going to be cut from later drafts; it didn’t matter that this character was already being completely revamped in my head and would never say or do the things I had them doing. I had to get it written. Can’t stop. Got to keep going.
That, folks, is a waste of time.
I once wrote an entire draft of a book (about 400 pages) in first person, knowing fully-well that the narrator was being cut from the story. My mindset was “Well maybe if I keep writing, some of the ideas and scenes will help in the next draft where all this is cut.”
Spoiler Alert: It didn’t.
Goals are important. It’s good to set a pace for yourself, and it feels really good to look back at the end of a day or week and say “Man, I did a good job this week.” And when you finish a draft ahead of time because you stuck to and even beat your goals? Even better.
But you know what is also a good feeling? Knowing that you tried. Today I wrote 2,119 words on a goal of 1,600. That’s amazing (I think) and I honestly had more to say, but things got in the way. (Stupid work and chores. Being an adult sucks.) Tomorrow, I might go over again, or I might end up under. I’ve learned that it’s okay to write 1,000 words on a goal of 1,600. Or to write 500. Or to say “Hey, ya know what? I’ve got a lot of shit going on today. I just don’t have the time.”
That doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a writer. I vow and swear. It means life caught up to you, as it is want to do. Take the time today to get things done that you need to get done, and tomorrow you’ll find that you have a little more time to write.
How do you guys handle writing goals? What do you do to celebrate meeting those goals? And more importantly, how do you cope with NOT meeting the goal?
Let me know below, and let me know if there’s any other writing wisdoms you want to see!