Tuesday 12th November - Writing Goals: Yey or Nay!
I think the important thing when setting writing goals is not just to be realistic, it's also to be ready for the fact that – even when you're very realistic – things may not work out the way that you want them to.
The late great John Lennon says that “life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans”. Whatever plans you make for your writing are going to end up going slightly by the wayside because of other things that are happening to you in your life. For example, I am currently dictating this blog onto Microsoft Word whilst lounging with a cold compress over my eyes to get rid of the stress headache I've got from a day of teaching combined with an evening spent at school preparing for the HMI visit next week.
At the front of my school planning book there is a list of things I want to get done this year, and a lot of those are creative writing based: I want to get my book ready for publishing (I now have to get this done because Dance With Me is going out in October 2020); I want to enter more competitions; I want to be available to edit more; I want to read more…
But the fact is: it's not happening. The aims were realistic when I wrote them, but I could not have known what the direction that life is going to go in. How was I to know that we would have this inspection next week?!
The moral to this story is: be prepared for long-term writing goals to shift and shuffle.
Setting smaller writing goals is more doable, especially if you know you're on a good writing streak. I have found it’s a good idea to set yourself the task of writing so many words a day or so many words before you go for dinner. Just don't do what I sometimes do and aim for so many words before you go to the loo – otherwise you can end up wriggling quite uncomfortably if you hit a sudden bout of writer's block!
I tend to set a writing goals of 3000 words per chapter. There’s no real reason for this although, as a primary school teacher, I like the idea of a number easily divisible by three, to give you a beginning, middle and end. Perhaps that's why the manuscripts where I aim for 5000 words per chapter just don't seem to develop as successfully!
Things like NaNoWriMo are great for setting yourself medium-term writing goals and the fact is that we do need these goals to keep us on task. We just have to be aware of the fact that, however much we would like to, we usually can't ignore the rest of our lives in order to put pen to paper!
I think what I'm saying is that writing goals are very important, but they are not the only way to create. By all means: set yourself a writing goal; be realistic; be prepared to have life throw you off in another direction; and then be prepared to find the humour in the fact that nothing works out the way you want it to.
The rewarding – and ironic – thing is that these “life diversions” (as you could call them) are what give you the ingredients for making believable and interesting pieces of creative writing.