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 Are You Achieving Your Writing Goals? 
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Post Are You Achieving Your Writing Goals?
Title: Are You Achieving Your Writing Goals?

Author: Mridu Khullar


At the start of this new year, like at the start of every other
new year, I came across dozens of articles about the importance
of setting achievable goals, challenging myself to do new things
and fixing measurable standards and working towards them. But
what happens when you mess up the goals from last year? Where’s
the real advice about missed deadlines and lost goals that all
but kill the inspiration to come up with new ones? I didn’t
achieve three out of the ten goals I had set for myself last
year, even though I was obsessive-compulsive about looking at
them each day and measuring my performance regularly. I’m
tempted to say that life got in the way or blame the shift in
priorities that happened mid-year. But these are things that can
and will happen each year. Instead of putting your life on hold
the year when the strains and stresses get too much, plan your
goals accordingly right at the beginning.

If you didn’t meet some of your goals last year, here are some
questions that you need to answer honestly, so that you do this
time around.

Are you actively pursuing your targets? It doesn’t work just to
look at your goals each morning and then do nothing about them.
Sure, that’s a good start and it means you’re conscious of where
you are in your career, but if you want to move further, you
need to create an action plan. Instead of just making yearly
goals, make monthly, weekly, even daily ones and then try and
meet them. Also important is to work towards what you want to
achieve step by step. One of my goals last year was to get
published in Reader’s Digest. Guess how many query letters I
sent them? Two. You’re laughing, aren’t you? I’m cringing.
That’s because I know that two queries just doesn’t hack it if
you’re targeting such a high-level publication. Two queries
wasn’t even enough to get into my local newspaper; how’s it
going to land me a national assignment? If I had been serious
about getting into RD, I would have read every issue, sent a
query each month and built a personal relationship with the
editor. Yet, I did none of those things. Not surprisingly, my
goal remained unfinished at the end of the year. Are you being
honest with yourself? In my first year of freelancing, I earned
over a 100 published credits. That’s because my aim was to reach
this number, without caring about the money that came in. That
meant that I wrote for low-paying publications, publications
that paid in kind instead of cash, and on topics that I had
absolutely no interest in. The next year, I shifted my focus to
cracking the nationals and making a decent income from my work.
But here’s where I went wrong: I assumed that since I had
already proven that I could write a 100 articles in a year, I’d
be able to do a repeat performance. But national magazines
require much more research, very specialized queries, and a
great deal of more effort per article. So while my goals of
getting into national magazines and increasing my income were
met, my goal of getting another 100 credits wasn’t. Are the
goals really yours? I think almost all of us get sucked into
aping the tactics of someone we admire at one point or the
other. The thought process then works something like this: If
she could write two children’s books, pen twenty greeting cards,
author three non-fiction titles and syndicate a humor column in
her third year of freelancing, why can’t I? Never mind that I’m
not really that into children’s writing and I haven’t said
anything remotely funny since I was 10. I’m ashamed to admit
that I’ve been guilty of doing the above. It’s easy to look at
goals of other writers and think, “She’s got so many goals for
the year and I’ve got only five. Let me increase mine, too.” But
“she” doesn’t have your life, and you don’t have hers. So set
goals that are appropriate for your career and your ambitions,
not hers. What’s your life like? If you’re a new mom, don’t
expect to be able to work 80-hour weeks like you did before you
gave birth. If you have a full-time job, don’t try to take on
same-day deadline assignments. You need to set goals that are
suitable to your life, your speed and your talent, no matter
what anyone else may do or say. It’s also important to
incorporate life changes into your goal-setting. I lost two
grandparents this year, which not only forced me to take a
physical vacation from work, but an emotional one as well. I
needed to give myself time to heal in order to get back to work
refreshed and with new vigor. If you’re going through stressful
times, don’t expect yourself to be as productive as say, when
you’re having a great year. Cut down on your goal list a little
and be easy on yourself. Making yourself work too hard when
you’re not physically or emotionally ready to, will not help you
meet your goals; instead it’ll detract you from them. Are you
confusing your long-term and short-term goals? Writing a novel
is my long-term goal. A “someday.” But I’m not there yet. And I
know I’m not going to be able to work on my dream novel this
year, next year or maybe even the one after that. If I do, I’ll
be taking time away from the non-fiction work that pays the
bills and for the next couple of years, I can’t afford to do
that. Putting “write a novel” on my list of goals for the year
isn’t going to make me feel too good about myself, especially as
this goal gets carried forward year after year. Instead, I’m
putting it on my “to do before I’m 30” list. That way, it’s not
too near, and it’s not so far away that it becomes a distant
dream instead of reality. Once I’ve cracked a good number of
national magazines, finished and published a couple of
non-fiction books and can afford to take time away from
non-fiction, I can consider taking a risk with fiction. Are you
keeping track? The biggest problem I face right now is keeping
track of where all the time went. While to an outsider it may
seem like I’m working almost all the time, the truth is, I waste
a lot of time on e-mail, reading newsletters, networking with
fellow writers and well, checking e-mail. To counter this
problem, I started keeping a daily journal to keep track of
where my writing time was really going. My productivity’s almost
doubled since I started doing this. Keeping an hour-to-hour or
even a daily tab of what I’d achieved for that day kept me
accountable and ready to tackle the next important task on my
list, rather than checking e-mail one more time. And if an entry
for a particular day reads, “Revised article for Wedding
Dresses, conducted research on a new idea,” I’d immediately know
that I needed to increase my productivity, and by how much.
Sure, checking e-mail is work too, but it’s not bringing in any
money. So I make it secondary work and answer incoming mails
only once a day, unless they need urgent attention. Are your
priorities straight? Which brings me to my next point. Set your
priorities right and work top to bottom. A technique that works
for many people is to make a daily list of things that need to
be done. Then, in the order of priority, tackle them one by one,
striking them off the list. At the end of the day, even if you
have some work unattended to, it can easily be transferred to
the next day’s list, since it’ll be at the lowest priority. Do
you have a fixed schedule? I still struggle with this one, but
each time I’m able to set a schedule for myself, I find that I’m
happier, more energetic and much more productive. Getting up at
six in the morning one day, not sleeping for another two days
and then getting a whole lot of slumber on and off for the next
three days eats into your energy and taxes your brain much more
than it should. It also becomes a cause for unnecessary delays
and interruptions. Instead of surrendering to your muse whenever
it shows up, program your body to work for a fixed time each
day. Your brain will automatically recognize that as time to
work and get on the job. Make your routine consistent. When our
body gets used to doing something at a particular time, we’re
able to do with ease. So if you’ve decided to write five pages
each morning before the kids get up, make sure to do it. Answer
these questions honestly and get to work on these techniques.
You’ll find all your goals ticked off your list by the end of
this year.

About the author:
Mridu Khullar is a full-time freelance writer and the
editor-in-chief of Sign-up for her
*free* 12-day e-course "Write Query Letters That Sell" at .

This article was posted by permission.

Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:57 pm
 [ 1 post ] 

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