Friday, January 25, 2013

5 Reasons Why We Fail at Our Writing Goals

by Jean Oram

Blah, blah, blah New year's Resolutions, blah, blah, blah. You've already broken some, haven't you? A study out of University of Scranton (I know! Scranton really actually exists beyond The Office!) says that by this time in January approximately a THIRD of us have FAILED at our resolutions. One third. That's within the 2-4 week period after New Year's. And only 8% of resolution makers are successful in achieving their resolution.

Okay, before you go shove your mouth full of cake and give up on your publishing quest and writing resolutions… listen to this:

People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. Source

In other words, keep making resolutions and keep making GOALS as you are more likely to succeed.

But why do we fail and what can we do about it?

I'm so glad you asked.

5 Reasons We Need to Set Goals in Order to Succeed as Writers

1. We can be likely to take the path of least resistance (i.e. a tad lazy).

People who make goals (not talking resolutions now, just goals because goals are a PLAN, not a HOPE or a WISH) are 80% more likely to succeed. Goals are plans with timelines, and a specific end goal. When you make a goal you tell yourself some interesting things--and one of them is to get up and get moving. (A powerful way to achieve your goal is to remind yourself of that goal as soon as you get up in the morning--even before a cup of joe.)

How to succeed: Make a goal. Don't talk yourself out of it. Find a way to make it happen.

2. We get vague.

Written goals lead to conscious and an intentional working towards them. Why? Because we've had to write them down and in doing so we can see exactly what we need to get to and then automatically begin breaking down what we need in order to get there. It engages a part of our brain that says, "How do I…?" and "Why do I…?" and "What do I…". We get specific.

How to succeed: Write down your goals and be specific about what you want to accomplish at what level and by what date.

3. We get distracted.

Goals are plans. They are a way to stay on track by giving us something specific to work towards--especially if we check in on them regularly. Writing down our goals helps us focus on the steps to get to our goal.

How to succeed: check in with your goals on a regular basis to see how you are doing.

4. We shrug off our ideas and 'stuff.'

Goals can help us stay personally accountable as well as stay motivated in reaching our 'plan.' But it is easy to shrug it off when faced with diversions, failures, and roadblocks unless we make ourselves accountable on a larger (ego-smashing) level. In other words, find a goal buddy. Find someone to check in with--ideally someone who can be both encouraging as well as willing to give you a swift kick in the denim.

How to succeed: Social pressure. Make yourself socially accountable.

5. We fail to see how far we've come.

One of the coolest things about setting goals is watching your own progress. I used to write down HUGE goals and then only check in once a year. Oh, wow. Look all that failure in a three-ring binder. Ouch. Now, I have a notebook where I write down what I want to accomplish that week or day and I check off all the things I've done as well as keep stats on my platform growth. Looking in that book is the proof that I am actually getting somewhere. I can also feel the success (daily if I want). And that, in turn, spurs me towards more achievements. You could even say it is empowering and provides resilience.

How to succeed: Be kind, rewind. I mean, be kind to yourself if you fall down. Enjoy your successes.

Now that you've looked at goal setting from the write angle, what are your goals for 2013? What stands in your way? How do you plan to leap that hurdle? Share in the comment section.

(And by the way, how are those resolutions going?)

Jean Oram has set more goals than she has time to accomplish, but she is still happily blogging away about writing at as well as tweeting as @jeanoram. She has a post-apocalyptic chick lit short story, Crumbs, in The Fall: Tales From the Apocalypse.


E.B. Black said...

I'm actually really good at achieving my writing goals. I didn't make any resolutions at the beginning of the year, but that's because I'm usually making goals for my writing constantly. For instance, I decided yesterday that I have a goal of trying to get 20,000 twitter followers by the end of the year. LOL. And I'm already working hard to do it.

I just wish I was as good at achieving my weight loss goals as I am at striving towards my writer's goals.

Matt Sinclair said...

Yes, I totally agree with this, Jean. I know some of us don't make goals or resolutions, but they work for me. And the specificity matters a lot, in my opinion. For instance: I will finish the first draft of work in progress by 6/30/13 or something like that. Good stuff!

Jean Oram said...

That is awesome that you meet your goals, EB. Fantastic! And 20K followers! WoW! What's your strategy?

BTW, she's @writerblack on Twitter and is currently at 7,506 followers. Help her out, folks!

Matt, good luck in reaching your goal! (Things always take me longer than I plan.)

Jolie du Pre said...

I happen to be on track. I'm pretty good with goals.

Precious Monsters

Jolie du Pre said...

Also, I think I'll add the Twitter followers goal to my list. I have close to 8,000 followers. I, too, would love to get to 20,000. (Thanks for the idea, E.B. Black!)

Jemi Fraser said...

I do set goals for myself too - generally short term, next step type goals. Big ones scare me!!

Melissa said...

Great article! I've set short-term goals for myself and already achieved one. Yay me! I really like the idea of a goal buddy keeping you on the right path.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Excellent way to approach this! I was never one for writing goals or resolutions down. I think of them constantly and speak of them, but never actually put pen to paper.

GREAT suggestions. I plan to write them down this weekend.

It's tough when life is so unpredictable. The stress of living day-to-day takes its toll on many of us. Focus is the key. Stay focused and we can achieve our goals eventually.

Thanks for the tips... Have a great weekend.

E.B. Black said...

Thanks, Jean! I hope it's okay, but I'm linking to a blog post I made on how to get more twitter followers because it explains it better than I could in your comments:

I also have been following people who help you get followers and retweeting their tweets in order to get followers as well. It all helps a lot!

Jean Oram said...

You guys rock! Keep meeting those goals. EB, that's fine to link here.

Melissa and Michael, I hope the tips help you out!

JeffO said...

I'll comment that I think the biggest impediments to resolutions are #2 (too vague) and one you didn't mention, which is not understanding what needs to be done to achieve the goal or keep the resolution.

As for writing goals for me? Hmm. Keep writing and improving. Polish and query my WiP; figure out why the MS I'm querying now isn't getting any bites (bad query? bad sample pages?) and adjust accordingly; finish the New WiP.

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