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.


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?

  • http://jubileewriter.wordpress.com Cindy Huff

    I appreciate your thoughts on goal setting. I find as a list maker my goals become unrealistic. One goal leads to another and so on. This year I want to trim that list a lot. Long list are unachievable.
    I want to get paid for more writing this year. That means more queries- goal 1 write queries every week.
    I need to edit preexisting pieces again so I can get paid.-goal 2 rewrite and edit each week.
    I team write with my husband on a few projects-goal 3 mark out time each week to this.
    And always the goal of write something everyday.
    I will fit these goals around my part-time job, elderly parents needs, adult children, writer’s group responsibilities, and church responsibilities. Alas, as you say we don’t live in a cave.
    Discovering my most creative times of the day and the hours not dedicated to to the needs of others helps me see realistically what days and hours I can dedicate to achieving these goals. There are other t hings that will come up that I would normally add to my goal list. This year I think I will just let them unfold as they will and keep these four goals as priorities.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Sounds like you’re well on the way to setting some achievable goals for 2012, Cindy! All the best with querying and building your writing portfolio :)

  • Janelle

    I was never any good at goals. One goal was always contingent on another goal, just like cleaning one room was contingent on having a place for the stuff in another (uncleaned) room. I now am trying a set of monthly goals, based on what I know I have to get accomplished at some point, and letting myself accept that each month there will be unmet goals to be pushed to the next month. It’s the acceptance that life will always come crashing in and destroy those careful plans – and that it’s okay to move them down the road a bit – that finally allowed me to actually accomplish something. In other words, if I don’t make all my goals, the world is not going to end, and thus I can push on to the next instead of tossing it all in despair.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      That’s a great idea to focus only on monthly goals, Janelle. If you have a ‘big’ goal, you can always break it up into achievable monthly installments, anyway. Best of luck!

  • http://www.yourmuseiscalling.com Sue Mitchell

    I love how you’ve emphasized putting writing goals in the context of our bigger life. Also that you recognize that where are children will be a year from now is not where they are today. Conditions are constantly changing in a household with children! What works now as far as creative practice might not work a month from now, and vice versa.

    My writing goals this year include more journal writing and being more uninhibited about publishing on my blog. I don’t often make goals for myself more specific than that because of the constantly changing landscape mentioned above. :) For me, the key is having a regular time to write. From there, I accept whatever comes of it.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Thanks for sharing your goals for this year, Sue! With children around, things are always interesting, right? :)

  • http://www.karenbristow.com Karen

    Those are some great questions to ask yourself. I’m notorious (in my own mind anyway) for overwhelming myself with goals at the beginning of the year and then not meeting any of them. This year I made the decision to set only six. Those six goals all work towards helping me create a more fulfilling life for my family and myself. And they all seem attainable.

    Thank you for sharing and congratulations on the expansion of your family!

    Happy New Year!


    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Karen, thank you for your congratulations! This year, due to the baby situation, I’m sort of forced to set only achievable goals. That’s a good thing, though. Looking forward to it!

  • http://carldagostino.wprdpress.com Carl D’Agostino

    Wish the Miami Dolphins had more “goals”. Finished 6-10.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Good one :)

  • http://thewriternubbin.wordpress.com Jeannie Leflar

    Suzannah, thank you for this article. It is EXACTLY what I needed to hear as I’m busy making my plans for the new year. Congratulations on the coming babies–what an adventure awaits! Happy New Year to you!!

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Thanks, Jeannie! All the best with your own plans for 2012!

  • http://laterbloomer.com Debra Eve | Later Bloomer

    Suzannah, I’ve purposely put off making goals, just for the reasons you mentioned. I really need to ponder how my writing and life goals fit together. I plan to go to a park or some quiet place at the end of the week and just free write about it, see what comes out, and go from there. Thanks for this, and again, congrats! You’re an amazing role model.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Wow, thanks, Debra! If you come up with any interesting insights in that quiet place, please let us know :)

  • http://granbee.wordpress.com Rose Byrd

    This is your second most helpful article I have read since I started following you in September, 2011. Wonderful. Balancing our writing goals with our entire life’s goals is the only sensible way to go. I am finding that as I reach personal goals, my writing flows even better. Not surprising, huh? Thank you for a wonderful post. Wishing you a totally awesome 2012.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      You’re very welcome, Rose, and all the best with your goals this year!

  • http://tashaseegmiller.blogspot.com Tasha Seegmiller

    I love the encouragement to have a well-balanced life. This was perfectly written and I couldn’t agree more.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Thanks, Tash! Good luck in 2012 :)

  • http://readinnwritin.blogspot.com PatriciaW

    Suzannah, you hit the nail on the head. Because writing goals are only one part of a writer’s life is the reason I had no energy for setting writing goals this year. It would force me to think about other parts of my life wherein I’m not positioned or ready to set the accompanying goals.

    Hard to explain all that so shrugging off the whole writer’s resolution thing comes across as avoidance, but it’s not that. Just not the right timing. January isn’t the right time for everyone. I feel as though I’m working through previously set goals and this is not the right stopping place for reassessment and new goals. They will come later.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Hi Patricia,

      I think you’re quite right in saying that January isn’t always the right time for everyone to set new yearly goals. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • http://www.bridgettebooth.com Bridgette Booth

    Oh I couldn’t agree more about setting writing goals built into life goals. Each year I create goals for many “buckets” – school, relationships, faith – it puts the writing goals into perspective for how it will all get accomplished. (Or, if it is possible to accomplish it.) Just making goals that I can focus on motivates me. Otherwise I wander.

    Congrats on your upcoming additions. 2012 will be a full year!

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Thanks, Bridgette! Yes, 2012 will be a full year for us, and hopefully for you, too! Wishing you all my best.

  • http://sagoyism.com Josh Sarz

    Where do I want my writing to be at the end of 2012?
    – I want to actually start getting more work aside from my current writing job, and getting my writing blog established.

    What do I want my marriage or relationship to look like?
    – I want to get married to my girlfriend this year or the next. Depends on the budget. hah Love is going strong as always, and I hope it will stay that way until we’re dead. Hopefully even after that.

    How do I picture my children a year from now?
    – No children yet. Heh

    What do I want for my career over the next 12 months?
    – I want to earn twice what I’m earning now. Maybe more, but I want to be realistic.

    What other personal goals, besides writing, are important for me to achieve?
    – Aside from writing, relationships, family and work? I want to get a new German Shepherd Dog and a Siberian Husky, and start a restaurant with my loving partner.

    Thanks for the inspirational post, Suzannah. May you have a blessed year this 2012.

    • http://writeitsideways.com Suzannah

      Certainly sounds like you have everything worked out, Josh. Best wishes for the upcoming year, and for your professional and personal goals!

      • http://sagoyism.com Josh Sarz

        It hasn’t really worked out… yet. hah That’s what I’m hoping for in the years to come.

  • http://www.krissybrady.com Krissy Brady, Writer

    What a great post! Thanks so much for this, as I am terrible when it comes to only planning my writing goals, and then later realizing there are so many other aspects of my life I need to keep in mind in order to create writing goals I can actually keep. You’ve just given me my project for the weekend. :)

  • http://www.bringingalongocd.blogspot.com Tina Barbour

    This is such a great post. I just discovered your blog and am glad I did.
    You as so right about not just focusing on the writing goals. I’m trying to think about what my values and goals are overall. Writing is an integral part of my life, too, but I have priorities for my life as a whole, and I need to honor all of them when I think about what I want to accomplish.
    Some of my goals include giving more time to my own writing (I write for a living as a newspaper reporter); cherishing and appreciating my husband; giving a good, safe and loving home to our cats; and meditating more (and better).
    Congratulations on the coming little ones, and I hope things go well. I’ll be reading more and looking forward to it!

  • http://selenasilcox.blogspot.com Selena Silcox

    Great post Suzannah. This time last year, I made a vague promise to myself that I would prioritise my writing and take it more seriously. While I managed to do that, the results weren’t as tangible as I’d hoped.
    This year, I’ll be lucky enough to be taking time off from my “real job” to focus on writing for a few months, so a better plan of action was called for. I’ve colour-coded my weekly planner for all my writing tasks and commitments, as well as my personal ones, and review it every Sunday with my partner so we can factor in date-nights and time off with friends and family.
    It’s made me realise how much time I actually have to write, and also that if I factor in my friends and family, I no longer feel guilty for locking myself away in my writing room for hours on end. On top of that, they can all see when my writing time is, so there’s no more confusion, crossed wires, and guilt-trips.
    I’ve already seen a lift in my productivity, and it can only get better from here on in.

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