the thing about goals


When I worked in corporate America, I came to loath the time of year when we set individual annual goals. Not because I’m opposed to goals. I’m all for ’em. But because the process felt thoroughly contrived.

Years ago, someone made the observation that successful companies/business people have goals. Now, everyone has to have them, and there are rules for what makes a ‘good goal’. Really, that’s not a bad thing, either. However, even if an employee meets every goal fully, management is supposed to find some ‘area for growth’, lest the employee think he/she has nothing more to work on. What does that look like? Often, a less-than-perfect evaluation of those very goals. Yes, the same ones said employee knocked out the the park.


But, rant concluded. That’s been my experience. Perhaps you’ve encountered the same, or maybe your boss has a healthier, more productive approach. Why bring it up at all?

Because your writing should include goals. Not arbitrary goals. Not someone else’s goals. Your goals. And there are no rules for these, save this one: they should mean something to you in a way that motivates you. Period.

I know, I know. Goals are supposed to be S.M.A.R.T.–that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Whatever.

Goals have one purpose. One function. To prompt you to action. To help you get shit done. Whatever rules you use for determining goals on the job, at the gym or in school, chunk them when it comes to writing. The only thing that matters here is that your goals get you in front of your keyboard and typing. That’s it.

If having someone hold you accountable works, do that. If it’s a daily word-count target, use that. If it’s an elaborate system housed in a spreadsheet that cross-checks time spent writing with words produced and quantifies it all in terms of how long it will take you to produce a target-length novel, knock yourself out.

It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you write.

Goals are good. You should have some. You should check in with them often. But the process of establishing goals shouldn’t be worrisome or overbearing. Just ask yourself, “What motivates me? How can I know that I’m writing at a level I’m comfortable with?”

Whatever the answer, let your goals flow out of that.


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.

6 Responses to the thing about goals

  1. P. C. Zick says:

    It’s true. Especially when we’re working in isolation which writing requires. It’s necessary for me to reach for something.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I really need to set some word count goals for every day. It’s not February yet. I can still start this year off great! Right? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • dex says:

      Absolutely! My goals are high, but I write full-time. I try to hit 2K words every day, which is a tall order. (Sure, there are days when that’s easy to meet because things are flowing. When things aren’t flowing it can be tough.)

      I’m a strong believer that word count is the thing to track, though. That’s the best gauge of how productive you actually are. Tracking time is, in my opinion, a poor measure. It’s easy to justify a lot of things as “writing related” without actually producing anything!


  3. Word count is definitely much more tangible. I can spend three hours writing 5 sentences. :-/

    Liked by 1 person

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