Goals. We are all supposed to have them. We are supposed to be driven by them, inspired by them to peak productivity and massive achievement. But oh boy, working purely to goals can be dull.

Goals are like work. Proper work, where you are meant to show up on time and make progress and meet targets. Where the boss and sits you down once a year to go through a questionnaire to see if you have over- or under- performed, or performed at all.

Goals can make writing boring. Drudgery.

I both love and hate goals. I love them because they motivate me. A challenge – like this blogging one – lends structure, and prompts fresh ideas, fresh ways of working. I am still at the stage in my writing life where I am looking for new ways to succeed.

I also hate goals, because they can be purposeless.  Goals like, Complete a writing prompt every day, or, Finish ten writing exercises this week, fall into this second category. I mean, Ok, but why? What is the point?

The trouble I have with goals is that they can offer a false sense of progress. To be productive, a goal must have a clear outcome, and that outcome must be something you actually want. It sounds obvious but from various writers I’ve met in online communities, it seems that this last aspect of a goal is sometimes missrd. So a goal to write 500 words a day * van be utterly meaningless unless you understand its desired outcome –   creating a daily writing habit. Writing 500 words (any old words) in itself is not progress, but it’s the practice that’s the goal, not the quality of the words you write. Every time you write, you have achieved your goal – you are reinforcing the writing habit – but don’t get confused that this is achieving anything beyond that.

The other potential pitfall with a goal is that it can suck the passion from your creative life. I write for fun. I love writing. I have to be disciplined to post a blog every day, or my Write Practice novel chapter every week, bit I also want to leave time for goalless writing. That’s where I can write without thinking about selling or persuading or impressing. I generate ideas, I play, I write stuff just for me. (coughfanfictioncough) Without this freedom, writing can feel like a chore. If I’m only turning up because I set myself a goal to turn up, what is the point?

So my thoughts on goals are:

When you pick a goal, be clear about the outcome it promises. 500 words a day promises a writing habit. That habit will certainly help you write a book, bit if that’s your ultimate aim, then pick a goal which directly related to it.

Create your goals to match your dreams. Check the promised outcome against your ultimate aim.

Don’t get caught up in falsely productive goals that have nothing to do with your dream. They are a waste of time, and they can turn your creative passion into grudging duty.

How do you use goals? Have you ever set a goal a regretted it? Let me know in the comments!


I’ll be back Monday with H – Happy Endings