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Writing Goals: Milestones or Millstones?

December 22nd, 2011

Vanessa Couchman

I’m sorry everyone, but we had a hitch last week and, as you’ve probably realised, Vanessa’s blog didn’t appear as promised.  So here it is, with apologies to Vanessa. I’d just like to wish everyone a very happy and, above all,  peaceful Christmas. Put those mince pies to one side, refuse that extra glass of wine and get on with your writing.  On second thoughts, perhaps not!  Save that for your New Year resolutions.


It’s the time of year when the writing world grinds to a halt. January editions have been put to bed, there’s a lull in writing competitions and Christmas lunches are in full swing. What better time to look back on 2011 and plan your writing goals for 2012?

The first part of this exercise can be painful. This year my online writing group decided that members would each set writing goals for 2011. We plunged into it full of enthusiasm. After all, 12 months is a long time – isn’t it?

Over-ambitious writing goals

Beguiled by the seemingly endless expanse of time ahead, I set myself seven goals. That seemed a nice, achievable number. Looking at them I realise that I was a tad over-ambitious. I fully achieved only three of the seven, partially achieved one, abandoned one as impractical, deferred one until 2012 and dismally failed on the final one.

The dismal failure – and it’s a substantial one – was my intention to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. I started far too late. Although you have 30 days to complete the novel, you have to do the thinking and planning beforehand.

Procrastination – every writer’s enemy

I was a victim of the Demon Procrastination. Every time I was about to get started, cleaning the oven or disinfecting the waste bins seemed more appealing. Not to mention surfing the Internet – in the interests of research, naturally. We all know the road to a certain place is paved with good intentions. I was well on my way there this year.

Goals have to be challenging, otherwise there’s no point in setting them. But they also need to be realistic and attainable. Someone came up with a good acronym – SMART. This stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. Had I applied these criteria to my writing goals this year, I might have achieved more. It’s probably better to set only a couple of objectives and pull out the stops to attain them than to set a dozen and manage only three.

I already know my first goal for 2012: slay that Demon. Everything else will follow – in theory.

Happy writing in 2012. May all your goals be SMART.

Vanessa Couchman is a freelance writer living in southwest France. She provides writing services to organisations worldwide and writes for magazines and websites about French life and the craft of writing. Her short stories have been shortlisted or placed in various competitions, including first prize in a Writing Magazine competition in 2011. The novel is still only a gleam in her eye. http://vanessacouchmanwriter.wordpress.com

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