Sunday, May 10, 2009

Avoid Burnout –Set Attainable Writing Goals

I’m a goal-setting kind of person. I love making lists and keeping notes. I like tracking my progress. And I like New Year’s resolutions.

But I always feel sad at the end of January each year. That’s when I realize that I have no trouble getting a treadmill at the YMCA…because all the people who made goals to lose weight or to get more fit have fallen off the bandwagon. I have to wonder what kinds of goals these folks made—was it something like ‘exercise 45 minutes every day’ or something more attainable like ‘exercise 20 minutes, 3 times a week?’ Did they say they wanted to lose 30 pounds, or did they make a more attainable goal of 5 –7 pounds in two weeks?

Writing is the same way. Many people tell me wistfully that they’d love to write a book if they had the time. But none of us have the time—we really don’t. The difference is that we’ve set workable objectives for ourselves and have applied a certain amount of discipline to the writing process.

When I was starting out, my goal was always a page a day. I knew that some days I’d be on a writing tear and would go far over a page. But that didn’t mean that the next day I didn’t have to write. I knew I needed to write every day, but only needed to produce a page by the end of it. An incremental goal, a daily goal, works well for me.

I’m writing more these days, but I’m still not setting myself up for a fall. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel each day. Instead of saying, “My goal is to finish this 215 page book",” it’s “My goal today is to finish chapter 8.” For me, anyway, workable objectives keep writing fun. The challenge is still there, but it doesn’t overwhelm me.