Today is the first Wednesday of the last month of the latest year of my life. So of course that means it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group (ISWG) post!
For this edition, how about some thoughts on writing goals and the concern that I might not be writing "enough:"
When I first dabbled with "becoming a writer" I was very focused on output. I think that in a lot of ways, that can be a good thing. A writer writes, and just making it through the process of getting words onto the page is much of the battle. But, of course, being the geeky engineering type, I naturally created a spreadsheet to track my output in words per day.
I'd read many places that the goal for many "professional" writers is 1,000 words a day. But I've also got the day-job and a house and a family and other commitments and while those blessed few who could support themselves with their writing might be able to crank that out in a day, I knew I was too pressed for time to try and live up to that daily 4-digit dream level of production. So I settled on 250 as a goal, preloaded several months worth of my tracking spreadsheet with that daily amount, and set to writing and tracking my actual output versus the goal.
At first, for quite a long while, I was doing well. Even with an erratic schedule and days where I accomplished no writing at all, I was still averaging closer to 350-400 words per day. Then life interrupted, my schedule got disrupted, more and more days slipped by with little or no writing, and my actual-versus-goal cumulative total slid into the negative and kept going that way.
It was excruciating to watch that artificial goal I had set for myself slip further and further away from my grasp. Soon it became overwhelming. I'd reached a point where even if I spent days writing at thousands of words a day, it would take seemingly forever to catch back up to where I'd decided I was "supposed" to be.
So I quit.
The fact that I hadn't been "successful" in getting anything published also added to me throwing up my hands and walking away from it, but that oppressive thought that I wasn't even writing "enough" to be a "real writer" was a key factor.
My writing stopped and my blogging stopped -- why blog about something you weren't doing? I mean, if any of my blog readers could see that huge deficit of my actual writing output versus my target, they'd realize I was really a big phoney. What the heck kind of writer was I???
But slowly, thankfully, without an artificial and arbitrary target anymore, and away from the blogosphere, I came to my senses. With the "goal" long surrendered, I eventually started writing again. Simply because I like it and felt like it. 250 words or 2 words -- it didn't matter. I just like to write.
And that's kind of where I still am. I'm writing, but I really couldn't tell you "how much" off the top of my head. The spreadsheet's been retired. And I think I'm better for it.
But I sometimes still feel those nagging thoughts start to creep in -- am I really writing "enough?" Maybe I should set a goal and start tracking it again.
So what do you think? Do you set a writing goal? How rigid is it? If it's flexible and likely not to be met, is it really a "goal?" How much do you beat yourself up if you fall short of your goal?
How do you set a goal and use it as positive motivation without it becoming a burden and a oppressive drag?