Obviously you’ve got goals for your writing - right?
Not just the goal of penning a best-seller and being able to retire on the profits, which is a perfectly understandable and common aim - that’s part of it, but only part. I mean goals as a writer: actual intentions to affect readers in particular ways.
A surprising number of writers don’t have these. Of course, everyone wants to write a best-seller and making money generally is a common goal for writers - but a piece of fiction’s power can be magnified hugely if the area of goal-setting is properly and thoroughly addressed. Fail to address this properly and it’s no surprise that a work doesn’t get off the ground.
That’s because setting goals is key to developing core motivation.
Setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life, but if it’s done properly, it can create the motivation which act as an engine for the whole enterprise. This Goals Analysis can be incredibly motivating, and as you get into the habit of setting and achieving goals, you'll find that a kind of power builds up which can drive your fiction like electricity. There’s nothing mystical about this. You have probably felt at some stage in your life the energy associated when you have a correct motivation; the trick is understanding what happened and how to harness that energy properly and constructively.
The normal approach to goal-setting is to create a 'big picture' of what you want to do with your life, with large-scale goals that you want to achieve. Then many of the guides and gurus that there are out there will tell you to break the Big Goal down into smaller and smaller targets, each of which can then be planned out and timetabled. That’s all very well and is obviously valuable - but it sounds a lot like New Year’s resolutions - and we know what usually happens to them.
The truth about the power of goals is a little different:
A clear, heart-felt, embracive goal, large or small, is more powerful and effective than any number of planned targets and timetables.
Why is that?
Because getting your goals clear and meaningful creates strong, defined gaps or holes which act as vacuums. And vacuums create motion.
This can be done simply by answering the following questions. Each one looks at a separate part or aspect of your life, not just your writing, for reasons which will become clear.
Try to condense your goal statement into just a few words. This will help you to capture the central or really meaningful part of the goal, rather than obscuring it with too many words. Make sure that these goals are truly goals that you want to achieve, not those of others in your environment.
If it helps, start with a long term goal first and work backwards to a short term one. This is because this is what is normally done and might be of some use to you. But in actual fact, the length of time associated with accomplishing a goal is less important than whether it is a significant or important goal for you or your writing.
What level do you want to reach in your writing career?
How much do you want to earn as a writer?
How do you see your fiction evolving?
Are you writing only one book or several?
What sort of education will help you achieve your writing goals?
What kind of attitude do you need to develop to succeed as a writer?
How do you see your artistic life developing?
Do you want to branch out into other types of fiction or art, or concentrate on one aspect, genre or field?
Now take each goal and work out what are the three major blocks or missing things between you and it. There might not be three blocks to each and every goal you’ve listed, but have a good look and see what you come up with. Particularly look for what is missing between you and the goal.
What does that mean?
Let’s say you have a goal of earning £1 million as a writer in ten years’ time. What are some missing things between you and that goal? Possibly your writing life completely lacks the infrastructure to bring about that goal; perhaps you are starting from scratch and don’t even have a piece of writing worked out yet. Another missing thing might be that, though perhaps you are producing and making money as a writer, you lack enough technical expertise or time to make the move to higher levels of output and therefore income. Be as specific and concise as you can be.
Another example: you might have wanted to learn to extend your writing into song-lyrics and plan to do so within five years. Missing things could include: musical knowledge; a qualified and available teacher; or the time to practice in your busy schedule.
List these things out.
Now take the same goals and add in priorities and deadlines. Set realistic deadlines but make them precise. A deadline can actually act to 'energise' a goal which might otherwise be put aside or even forgotten. Adding in a consequence if the goal isn’t achieved can also help.
Now take a look at goals that have been set for you by others. These aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, but you’ll need to be clear about whether you want to cooperate or disassociate yourself from them. Do they contribute to achieving your own goals? Or are they distracting?
Revisit your own goals above and audit them to make sure that they are specific and heart-felt enough. This is your opportunity to settle some issues you may have had within yourself about a few things. What’s really important to you? What should take priority? Are you being precise enough about what you want to achieve?
Your Goals Analysis may have opened your eyes to things that need to occur in your writing life, and you will have seen various weak points as well as strengths in what you have already. What you might not have seen is the true power of goals.
Choose the five most important or significant goals from all the above.
What generates power here is
a) the heart-felt significance of the goal
b) the gap between where you are now and your goal.
A truly important goal creates its own ‘pull' by prompting motivation into existence. The vacuum is what generates energy. It is what drives action and what drives writers and readers.
Apart from anything else, you should start making connections between what is going on in your writing and what you would like to go on in your writing.