G – Goals and how dreary they can be – and how to fix that

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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


Hello 2017 and welcome, without goals

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Classic 746 Phone albeit not a proper dialling one. Owning one of these has long been one of my goals.
I cannot make this into a metaphor for goals, writing or other productivity. I just like this phone.

Today is busy with New Year’s articles and blog posts, so I’ll be brief. This is not a list of my goals for 2017, or what I think your goals might be. This is a list of things I’m looking forward to next year. Goals are good, but for a lot of people they are a negative force, creating pressure of the unhealthy kind rather than the motivational kind. Looking forward to outcomes is a gentler way to approach writing 17 instead of 16 on every cheque.*

  1. My friendversary with my bestie. We live far apart and see each other rarely, but because it celebrates a big number of years of friendship, we wanted to make this year’s meetup special  We’re talking tea at the Savoy special.
  2. Seeing my current project in the Amazon Kinde shop.
  3. Getting a dog. I’ve wanted a dog for years and maybe, maybe, this is the year.
  4. Using my new classic telephone. It’s my day job phone, in my home office, and replaces the 15-year-old ugly and crackly one I was using. I treated myself to it last week, and now love it very much. If ever I don’t need the day job, that phone is coming with me.
  5. Making more resources for my blog. I discovered Canva a couple of months ago and am now addicted.
  6. Travelling. I have some work travel lined up for January, but am also thinking about some Easter sunshine and where to go in some summer, too. I think everyone in the UK today is dreaming about sunshine and how soon they can get on a plane to go and find some.
  7. Reading new authors and new stuff from my existing favourites. I do the 50 Book Pledge every year, but the last couple of years it’s been filled with a lot of writing craft books and research reading. I want to read more fiction, specifically, fiction in my genres – light fantasy, historic and anything with a strong thread of romance. I don’t read romance but love romance and I have such trouble finding romantic books which are about more than person meets person, or more usually these days, paranormal being meets chosen one. Actually that’s it – I’m going to compile a list of books which are tremendously romantic and seek out others like them.
  8. Whoops that was a goal and I promised no goals or deadlines.
  9. Never mind, fresh start tomorrow.
  10. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.

*Cheques. I thought I was done with writing cheques, what with this being the 21st century and all, but then I sent a small child to school. Now I write cheques like it’s 1989.