Goal Setting: Am I My Own Worst Enemy?

For some people, the process of setting goals inspires them, motivates them, helps them strive to be better people. For me, goals are intimidating, creepy-crawly things that I run away from as soon as they’ve settled into their scabrous bodies.

This is not to be confused with my daily to-do lists, which I seem to manage okay.

I’m talking about long-term goals. I may be able to “Write 500 words on a short story” for a day, but if I try to section bits and pieces of a larger project to complete, I freeze up. For instance, I’ve been meaning to edit a novel for the past couple of months. I’ve only made it a few chapters in. What the hell? I want to finish this book because I want to start querying it. I have another novel idea brewing that I’d like to get words down for at some point before I pop a human out of me.

So what’s stopping me? It seems there’s always something else I need to be doing. Finishing a short story, doing critiques, writing blog posts, reading slush. There’s always something else that has a due date of right now.

I would set a hard due date for myself on the novel revisions, but I know they’re self-imposed. Am I rambling or does this make sense to anyone else? All I know is it’s a continuous struggle and I’m getting tired of not moving forward because of a million other commitments and priorities.

Normally, I try to offer a word of advice on this here blog, but today, I’m frustrated with myself. How do you do it? How do you enforce a novel deadline on yourself? I know it’s as simple as picking a manageable date and sticking to a schedule. But I want to know, how do you do it?

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10 thoughts on “Goal Setting: Am I My Own Worst Enemy?

  1. Last time I wrote a novel–which turned out to be crap–I used a reward to make myself finish. I said wouldn’t treat myself to WoW:Cataclysm if I didn’t finish. So I finished. Then the Angry Robot open door submission came around, and it motivated me to polish it–before I realized I was just polishing crap. But the important thing is that I did it, haha.

    So if there’s something you really like, use it as a reward for yourself when you finally meet your goals.

    Oh, and cheers on W1S1! 😛

    • I like reward systems! I’ll have to think of something really good to get me in gear here haha Ah, Cataclysm. That was fun 🙂 Thank you for the W1S1 cheering!

  2. Congratulations on making your W1S1 goals. Reading your post is a bit like talking to myself. I have found the deadline of W1S1 to really help me get something done. And NaNo has made me do 50,000 words in one month but I don’t follow up on it. When you figure it out let me know 😉

    From Ken Atchity – Discipline is the key to all that follows, the bedrock of productive writing. Talent is not a rare commodity. Discipline is.

    And of course, following that advice.

    • Thank you! Yes, W1S1 is definitely helpful for finishing shorts and NaNo was great for cranking out a lot of words. But making those words presentable is the real issue right now. And yes, discipline. Oh, it’d be nice to have some of that lol

  3. It’s a daily struggle for me — balancing new ideas/goals with revisions and resubmissions. I have novel-length manuscripts in dire need of major edits that have been neglected for over a year. I keep telling myself that I’ll get to them this summer, and I hope I do. But on another note, well done on reaching your April Write1Sub1 goals!

    • Thanks for the congrats! It seems like this is a struggle for many of us in the W1S1 community. We have a lot on our plates already. Squeezing in novel revisions can feel impossible. At least there’s a helpful group of people to offer such wonderful support. Thanks again 🙂

  4. I’m getting this to a bit late…

    IMO, setting and meeting short-term goals is a lot easier than long-term goals. I’ve experienced this not just with writing but even at my day job.

    Obviously, I haven’t had any better luck with “Adrift” (my NaNo project from last year) than you’ve had with your novel. Less, in fact, as I’ve never gotten back to it in any substantive way at all.

    Here’s the best I can come up with…
    Try to figure out why you’re stuck. Do you have this same difficulty with other big projects? If so, then it may just be that it’s a tool in your toolbox which isn’t that strong/sharp. In that case, I guess you’d want to try to figure out whether you want to accept that and work with other tools or find some way to strengthen it. If you do NOT have the same difficulty with other big projects, is there something giving you difficulty with this one in particular? Maybe it’s something you’ve lost confidence in or that you’re not as passionate about as other things you’re working on?

    Assuming that you go through that and you determine that it’s “just” a matter that you are having trouble tackling a big project, all I can think of is to try to break it down into units of work where you would feel some satisfaction from completing that unit of work. That might help replicate the “boost” you get from finishing/subbing a short story. Then set a deadline for the first unit of work and — yeah, here’s the hard part — do your best to make it happen. [That feels like the old Far Side with the scientists standing around the board saying “And here the magic happens…”] Once that’s done, set the next deadline and so on.

    I feel your pain on this one. Good luck with it.

  5. I feel your pain. I have two incomplete novels and several stories that need various amounts of revising/rewriting before I can send them out. And then there are all the new ideas. W1S1 keeps me honest and cranking out the new stories but it’s harder to work on the long term stuff, perhaps out of fear. Glad to hear you met your W1S1 goals for April.

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