Write From The Heart

How to Set and Keep Writing Goals: Part One

An image of an open notebook with lots of writing on its pages. It's sitting on a wooden surface with a pen and a white mug nearby in front of a dark background.
Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

Whether you’re attending classes, working a full-time job, or parenting small people, it can be difficult to find time for anything outside of your responsibilities. By the time the school day ends, you’re probably ready to fall into bed and binge an entire season of your favorite Netflix show.

However, if you’re someone who loves to write and has big dreams of becoming a published author, you know that watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls for the third time in a month isn’t going to get you closer to those goals. So you turn off the TV, grab your laptop or notebook, and get to work.

Two hours later, you find yourself restarting Gilmore Girls.

What happened?

All writers, regardless of their experience level, can agree on one thing: writing is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have a plan. There’s nothing scarier than staring at a blank page.

Instead of giving into the fear, take some time to flesh out your personal writing goals and make a plan for how to accomplish them. This will give you the vision and direction you need to take those first steps toward fulfilling your dream.

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Make a Plan

First, figure out what your ultimate writing goal is.

Are you trying to finish the first draft of a novel?

Start a personal blog?

Submit short stories or articles to your favorite literary magazine?

Whatever it is, give yourself a reasonable timeline for when you’d like to achieve this goal.

The next step is to decide when and where you’re going to write. Spend time doing a little self-reflection.

Does your creativity strike first thing in the morning, or right before bed?

Is it possible for you to find time to write every day, or will you designate weekends as your writing time?

Where in your home do you feel most inspired? (Preferably not your bed or anywhere else you might be tempted to nap!)

Finally, set a word count or a certain amount of time you’d like to write on those days. If you’re writing blog posts, try to write at least 200 words at a time. If you’re working on a novel, set a timer for 15 minutes and just crank out as much of the story as you can before the alarm goes off.

Challenge yourself, but also be realistic and remember that it’s okay to make adjustments!

An image of a young woman wearing a ball cap, sitting on a rock and writing in a notebook while surrounded by nature
Photo by Ashlyn Ciara on Unsplash

Create an Incentive

Some people are motivated most by the promise of a reward on the other side of their efforts. For others, the fear of punishment is what prompts them to do their best work.

Figure out which one works for you, then create an incentive based on your personal form of motivation. 

If you’re a rewards-based person, promise yourself a mug of hot chocolate or an episode of your favorite show after you’ve reached your word count for the day. If that seems like too much, break it down even smaller. Choose your favorite candy, then reward yourself with a piece of that candy for every sentence you write!

If punishments are what drive you to succeed, choose a consequence for not meeting your goals that strikes fear into your heart. Maybe it’s grounding yourself from your favorite show or social media app for the night, or saying no to any social invitations until you’ve finished that first draft.

Remember not to be too hard on yourself (don’t become a hermit and ignore your loved ones just to meet a goal!), but give yourself enough of an incentive that you’ll be sure to see it through.

And of course, you can always mix and match the rewards and punishments to keep things interesting!

Put Your Phone Away

Ah, the smartphone. A blessing and a curse to writers everywhere. While our phones certainly have the potential to be sources of inspiration and creativity (such as Write from the Heart’s Instagram!), unfortunately more often than not they end up distracting us from the things we really want to do.

Even if you love to write, there will still be times when finding the words feels difficult. It’s tempting to turn to Instagram or YouTube to procrastinate.

The best way to avoid this temptation is to remove it completely. There are lots of free apps out there designed to discourage you from using your phone for a designated amount of time.

If you really want to ensure that you won’t give in to the temptation, shut your phone off and put it in another room or give it to someone in your family to keep it safe until you’re ready to use it.

You can even use phone time as a reward — for every twenty minutes you spend writing, give yourself five minutes to scroll.

(Just make sure to set an alarm and actually stick to that time limit!)

An image of a window with the words "WHAT IS YOUR STORY?" written in Neon
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

So what do you think, writers? Do you already do any of these things? Is there at least one new step you’d like to incorporate into your writing habits? Let us know in the comments and stay tuned for the next part of this blog post, when we share three more tips on setting and keeping writing goals!

Know a middle or high school student looking to grow in their writing skills? Check out our online workshops for teens!

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