Why Setting Writing Goals for 2012 Isn’t Enough

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Woman lying on grass with laptop

I know, I know. I’m always talking about setting goals as being essential to writing.

It’s one of those topics that never gets stale because, as writers, we’re always setting goals, forgetting goals, giving up on old goals and creating new ones.

And, of course, the start of a new year always brings with it the desire to create fresh goals.

This year, I have a slightly different take on the topic.

For me, and probably for you, setting new writing goals for 2012 isn’t enough. It won’t be enough to get you where you want to go; it won’t be enough to push you to the finish line.

Why?

Writing Doesn’t Happen in Isolation

Unless you’re a hermit who lives in a cave, your writing doesn’t happen in complete isolation from the rest of your life.

Let’s imagine, for example, you’re a stay-at-home mom named Nancy with three young children to care for. Nancy decides that 2012 is her big year—the year she’s going to write that novel she’s always dreamed of. She writes down a goal of finishing the first draft by June 1st, a second draft by October 1st, and a complete revision by December 31st.

Now, I’m all for Nancy setting those goals. In fact, they definitely need to be in place to accomplish something as large as writing a novel in a year.

However, consider that Nancy’s writing doesn’t take place in isolation.

She doesn’t have the luxury of sitting in a quiet office from 9-to-5 each day, continuously plugging away at her writing goals. How much she writes, and the quality of what she writes, is affected by other things going on in her life—namely, caring for her family.

Does Nancy have goals for her children this year? Does she have overall goals for her family and the things they’d like to achieve as a unit? Has Nancy thought about goals she might share with her partner for 2012?

How will those other life goals affect her writing goals? Nancy may want to write a novel this year, but does that goal jive with—say—a goal of spending more quality time with her husband and children?

It could, but that depends on the specifics of the goals she sets for each of those areas of her life.

For me, setting writing goals for the year is only one part of the equation. I view writing as an integral part of my lifestyle, not something that just happens now and again.

Not having a clear picture of where I want my entire life to end up at the end of 2012, makes achieving my 2012 writing goals much more difficult.

To me, it’s like saying, “This year, I want my right leg to run a marathon.”

What Other Goals Do You Need to Set for 2012?

Let’s think for a minute about who you are and what your life looks like.

Are you a busy mom who loves to write whenever you get a free moment? A teacher who writes on weekends after you’re finished marking papers? An accountant who writes in the evening after a long day at the office?

Do you have young children to care for at home? Are you an active community volunteer? Are you retired and have plenty of time at your disposal?

How you answer the question of who you really are affects the type of goal-setting you’ll need to do this year. In my opinion, to be truly effective, our writing goals need to be set within the context of the rest of our lives.

Ask yourself:

  • Where do I want my writing to be at the end of 2012?
  • What do I want my marriage or relationship to look like?
  • How do I picture my children a year from now?
  • How will I develop spiritually this year?
  • What do I want for my career over the next 12 months?
  • What other personal goals, besides writing, are important for me to achieve?

I have plenty of goals for 2012. Some of them have to do with writing, but many do not. And that’s okay, because 2012 is the year I become a mother of four (in case you didn’t know, we’re expecting twins in about 9 weeks or less).

This year my life will change drastically, but I’ll be sure to set my writing goals in conjunction with the rest of my life.

What writing and personal goals are you setting this year? How will your life goals affect your writing goals? How will you find a happy balance?

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