Though I never really intended to have a whole series of posts on goals, it appears that’s what is happening. The reason why I’m so focused on this is because as writers, many of us tend to get swept away on a whole bunch of different tangents doing other things. Our right brain goes nuts while our left brain is left neglected. The writing life takes discipline as much as creativity and a part of that discipline is setting goals to get books written.

As I said before in my last post in this series, writers need to focus on micro-goals. The problem with many aspiring writers is threefold:

  1. They focus on the wrong goals and get frustrated and quit only to pick it up later to do the same thing all over again. It’s a vicious and insane cycle.
  2. They don’t have the discipline to write like they should (this is another issue entirely that I will post about at a later date).
  3. They set goals that are unrealistic and out of reach with the same results as the first faux pas.

I want to focus on this last one because it will cause a lot of headache and I want to make life easier for my fellow scribes. I will write on each of these points later.

Setting realistic goals is more important than we realize. If we set realistic goals, the likelihood goes up that we’ll constantly be in a state of enthusiasm about our writing. George Orwell is quoted as saying about the process of writing:

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”


To an extent, Orwell was right. It can be an exhausting endeavor to write a novel, hence purpose of setting micro-goals to ease the pain of it. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed. But setting realistic, micro-goals helps. Tremendously. But it requires working on that left brain.

When I say realistic, I mean realistic for you. There is no “one-size-fits-all”. You may want to simply write five hundred words a day. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote Lord of the Rings in eleven years. It was about 677,000 words. That translates to about 245 words a day or a little less than one page. Someone else may write a thousand. I personally know a writer who has set a goal of four thousand. Pick your poison but make sure that it is something that is within reach. You’ll know that it’s an unrealistic goal when it becomes a burden to reach the goal and you hardly ever do. At that point, it’s time to readjust the goals to where you can accomplish the goal without stress. 

The only universal rule for all writers concerning this particularly is that you write. The old adage is still the same: writers write. Writing daily I would say is a must (wrote a post on this already).

Realistic goals work within the parameters of your life. It doesn’t seek to displace it. It may displace activities that tend to be time wasters (watching television, video games, Facebook discussions) which would be a good thing. That means we’re being productive. T.S. Eliot used to work full time in a bank. He’d wake up two hours ahead of time to get in his own personal writing. So, no television for him.

When you set realistic, micro-goals, your enthusiasm is constantly being fueled. Something is always being accomplished and this is a boost for you mentally and emotionally. You must be focused only on accomplishing the micro-goal, no the macro-goal, which I explained in my last post. It may be slow going depending on how much you write or how often, but staying the course is more important than the goals themselves. Without discipline, goals are useless. I’ll save that for my next post. 

Now, go write.

5 Thoughts to “Setting Realistic Goals”

  1. I agree with it to an extent. It most definitely can be an excruciating endeavor. But I’ve found that focusing on the small picture makes it so much more bearable. I believe part of our toil through writing is brought on by ourselves. We are too anxious to get it done. But the fact of the matter is, when it’s done, it’s done. Not a day sooner. So may as well enjoy the ride while we do it. :o)

  2. That’s true Frank but it must be realistic within that timeframe. Specifically, I’m speaking of micro-goals in this post. It’s not realistic to want to write half of my novel in a day. It’s not gonna happen. The goal must be realistic within the timeframe which defines the category of goal it is. You can’t put a mini-goal in a micro-goal context.

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