goals and whatnot


I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. All too often, this time of year leads us to set goals that are simply too lofty, setting ourselves up for failure before the new year has even started. It’s a horrible cycle. Plus, the idea of a New Year’s resolution has become a joke. We expect everyone–ourselves and others–to crack, breaking these pie-in-the-sky goals before February 1.

It’s kind of messed up.

That said, I am a huge fan of goals. I believe you should have goals for various parts of your life all the time, not just once a year for a few weeks. You should always know what you hope to achieve and how you will assess success. Otherwise, you’re just blindly charging forward. It’s better to have a map than to wander through life hoping you magically find the thing that will make you happy and fulfilled.

Where writing is concerned, goals are particularly important. According to his book, On Writing, Stephen King’s daily goal is 2,000 words. It doesn’t sound like much until you try to do it yourself. Then you quickly learn that 2,000 words is a lot. My personal goal is 3,000 words per day, including any freelance work I do. I miss that goal a fair amount of the time, but it almost always makes me stretch, trying to write as much as I can during the time given. Besides, what’s the point of a goal if it doesn’t make you push for it?

How do I know if I’ve hit my goal or not? I keep a spreadsheet. (Yes, a mother-fucking spreadsheet.) I can tell you for every day in the last year how close I came to my goal. I even use a simply formula to award myself a grade for each month. Sometimes I make an A, and sometimes I fail. It sounds silly and anal-retentive, but the simple fact of the matter is I write more when I track my progress and assess my level of success than when I go all free-spirited and “let inspiration guide me”.

Inspiration is fickle. If I’m going to get anywhere with my fiction, I have to find ways to hold my feet to the fire, and I know no way of doing that apart from setting goals and tracking my progress.

The only person who sees my spreadsheet is me. I don’t share it with others, so there’s no embarrassment or praise associated with it. It’s just a tool I use to know how I’m doing.

I encourage anyone who’s serious about writing to set goals. They don’t have to be word-count goals, though I think word-count is a pretty easy, straight-forward way to gage productivity. Maybe you decide you’re going to write one polished story a month. Or x number of blog posts per week. Or submit so many stories for publication in the nexr year. Whatever your goal, make it something you can easily track. It sounds enthusiastic to say you’re going to start writing as much as you can, but how the hell do you know if you’ve managed that? Instead, pick a target you can give yourself a pass/fail grade on.

And one more thing. If your goals are worth anything, they’ll be challenging, which means sometimes you won’t meet them. Don’t sweat it when that happens. Just make note of it, reflect on what kept you from meeting your goal, and make any needed changes to your writing process.

I hope you have a wonderful, happy, productive and fulfilling new year.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

2 Responses to goals and whatnot

  1. 3000 (mother-fucking) words? LOL! That is a lot. And I’m not even going to tell you my word for spreadsheets!

    I wish I was more technologically advanced. Truth be told, I am very lucky to be able to post a blog with a photo in it. Sigh.

    Anyway – I think what you’re doing is awesome and I agree…being accountable to yourself and having a guideline is a huge motivator.

    “Inspiration exists…but it must find you working.” Good for you, Dex!


    • dex says:

      Well, 3K is the goal. I didn’t say how often I fall short! 😉

      And, in a former life I did spreadsheets (more or less) for a living, so I know far more about them than I’d care to admit. That said, my goals spreadsheet started as a simple thing that has grown. It now gives me all kinds of useful info, and it’s a tool I refer to every day. (I’ve even considered the fact that others might find it useful. Maybe I should develop it into an app…)


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