I learned a valuable lesson in goal setting last month; it is best to set achievable goals. After reading the highly motivational ‘Maximum Willpower’ I set myself the challenge of writing a 30,000 word kids book in 21 days.
The first week I went great guns, I managed to write every day, only missing my daily word target (slightly) twice, but hitting my weekly target due to extra writing on other days to give me 10,000 words. I’ve only ever managed to do that on writing retreats before!
The next week a few unforeseen things came up and I got a pretty bad cold that put me in bed for two days. I still managed to write on five days and came in at the end of the week on just shy of 7,000 words.
On the third week I felt the weight of the outstanding 13,000 words pressing down on me (I could actually tell you exactly how many I had outstanding because I had the spreadsheet set up to track every word). That week I missed four days of writing, and only two of those had anything even approaching a valid excuse. I ended the week on a little over 3,000 words.
I had missed my target by 10,000 words! I felt like I had let myself down and felt totally disheartened by the whole experience. It was only on the following Monday night when I was able to realise the true success of the experiment. 8pm rolled around (my usual writing time for the three weeks) and I felt a strong urge to turn everything off and start writing. So that’s exactly what I did.
So my “failed” experiment not only netted me 20,000 words, which was more than I had written in the previous six months, but it also got me into the habit of writing on a school night! One of my better failures if I do say so myself.
Maybe for me the key to goal setting should not be so much about the word goals, but time goals? Write for one or two hours every day, or every second day and just see where I end up. So that’s what I’m going to trial now.
Just as an aside, the 30,000 word kids novel is only about a quarter of the way through the story at the 20,000 word mark, so maybe I should also give up on predicting story lengths as well?