By Alissa Johnson
Maybe it's a remnant of my academic days, but the fall has always felt like more of a "new year" than January 1. The summer and all of its fun is winding down, and with fewer daylight hours and colder temps on the horizon, it feels like a natural time to take stock: What have I accomplished so far and what do I want to accomplish in the months ahead?
I see a similar pattern in my writing clients. They reassess what they've been writing and what they'd like to accomplish in the coming months. It's nice to know I'm in good company.
Yet when it comes to setting goals, I see another pattern too: As writers, we have very high expectations for ourselves, and that leads to goals that are hard to achieve. And not meeting them leaves a nagging sense of disappointment. Take this photo from my garden:
They fell off the vine prematurely, and I think of them as the world's tiniest acorn squash (take note of the quarter). My better half and I built a small covered garden this spring, and the result is our first foray into gardening at 9,000 feet above sea level.
I never proclaimed we would have a big harvest. But on some subconscious level, I hoped for more than what we've gotten. Never mind those hopes were a bit rosy given our soil, our late-season start, and the fact that the growing season is short in this part of the Rockies.
So often, whether we set goals or not, we hope for outcomes (buckets of acorn squash to feed us through the winter) that don't take into account the full picture (starting the garden late, never having grown at altitude).
Meeting goals starts with setting goals you can actually achieve.
Instead, I (and many of the writers I know) set unrealistic goals and then feel bad because we can't meet them. Sound familiar?
There is another way. What if you set goals based on what you can realistically achieve? Instead of expecting yourself to finish that novel by the end of the year, acknowledge that you might need more time and set your sights on reaching the half-way point. Set a goal to complete a full draft of a short story rather than trying to finish it.
That might sound disappointing—like you're going to accomplish less. But when you set goals you can achieve, there's less pressure and less overwhelm. You're more likely to do the work, see the results of that work and feel better than ever about your writing.
Here's an easy place to start that I shared with writers in the Inspired Writers Studio:
--I always think I'll meet my goals because...
--I struggle to meet them because...
--It would be much easier to...
If you're winding down from summer, getting back into a routine, and figuring out how writing fits into the picture, give them a try!