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On Setting and Sharing Writing Goals

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A couple of days ago, over at my super-fun writers' group, we talked about goals. The discussion quickly derailed into ways of sharing your goals, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless. One thing I want to talk about today is about setting writing goals.

We talked at the group about goals such as publishing a book, and I've seen people do that. In my academic years as well, I heard people saying things like "I'd like to publish three papers this year," or "I want to get my novel published by the end of the year". For me, traditional publishing and public awareness of your writing more generally (e.g., blog/FB/Twitter/Instagram followers) involve so many factors that are outside of the writer's control that setting these kinds of goals is like saying, "my goal for 2019 is at least 50mm of rain every month". You may get it, you may not, but either way, it's not something you control. For me, that's not a great goal.

What are better goals to set, then? Something that's within your control. Something that's ambitious enough to motivate you but not so out-of-your-reach that you would become demoralised. Something specific enough to give you a plan but not so specific that you feel rigid or stuck or stressed because creativity and stress come from two different systems.

The best goals—especially yearly goals—come with a specific plan of execution. "Eating healthier" is a lofty goal, but unless you have a specific plan (5 salads a week, meal planning, three veggies a day, whatever), you won't be able to take steps towards meeting this goal. You need to know what "eating healthier" looks like. Having a specific goal also helps you measure your progress (last week I only had three salads, but this week I already had four, and it's Wednesday, so I'm good for the rest of the week 😉). In the same way, "finish writing my novel" is a great goal, but what does that look like? Writing every day? Going on a three-day retreat? What does "finish" mean? First draft only or ready for publication? What happens if you hit a roadblock or you come to a point where you need to take a break from your novel? What do you do?

At our meeting, we also talked about sharing our goals. Some people find sharing their goals helpful, and some find it too stressful. As you know, I share my goals publicly (here), and I often talk about meeting and (especially) not accomplishing my goals. So, as is my tradition, here are my 2019 goals, along with—briefly—an execution plan. I have goals in several areas of my life.


1. Edit Labour Pains and polish it until it is ready to be shared with my writers' group or (potentially) an agent. I'm starting a 6-weeks course next week that's titled "How to edit your manuscript" which should be helpful with that.

2. Finish the first draft of my second book. I think writing an average of 750 words a week on that is a good goal for me. If I keep it up, I should be done with it towards the end of the year. There will be weeks I write more and weeks I write less, but the plan is to aim for 750 every week.


1. Meal planning for healthier eating. We've had a significant change in our eating habits about a year ago when I became a vegetarian. Since then I haven't been excellent at meal planning, and we've been eating less healthy. I'm planning to take time every Sunday to make a meal plan for the week which will include using all the veggies we get in our fantastic veggie box and at least three healthy plant-based protein-rich meals a week. Don't worry, this blog will not become a recipe blog, there are plenty of those around.

2. More activities. I want all of us as a family to be doing more activities and exploring more. I'm aiming for at least one show/exhibit/adventure a month. For January we have tickets for Cirque de Soleil (yay!) who are in town with the new show. Last year's Cirque was a massive success with the kids, so we're all looking forward to this one.


1. Explore the city. I'm aiming, while I take a course (in the city) to go on one exhibit/show a month in addition to going in for the class. For January I have tickets next week to see Romeo and Juliet with a good friend who knows the entire thing by heart. It'll be fun.

2. Stay healthy. I'm definitely keeping my yoga practice (1.5-hour class every week + 5-10 minutes every morning), and I'm working on scheduling at least two biking sessions every week, so I don't embarrass myself cycling uphill. The healthy eating is pretty much taken care of by the family goals.


1. Keep volunteering. I've been volunteering with Home-Start which is a great place to do that. I visit a family every week, and I feel like I'm making a real impact in real people's lives. It's so worth it.

2. Getting more involved with the local writing community. Ah. An exciting announcement has been made this week on my writers' group, where I've been formally introduced as a co-runner of the group. Having met with The Force behind the group, I'm excited about getting more involved, running some of the sessions myself, and generally being a part of this wonderful community. More details will follow on the group's website and possibly here :)

That's it for me. Here's to a happy, productive, and calm 2019.


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