Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I’ve kept a regular writing journal since 1994, and there are even some entries dating to before that. After updating today’s file, I decided, on a whim, to take a gander at my journals for previous years. I discovered something that might be worth sharing.

My journal entries focus primarily on what I do each day in writing, what progress I’ve achieved on projects and what successes/failures I’ve had. I do mention major life events going on at the same time, and occasionally what books I’m reading at the moment. I almost always start each new year with a retrospective on the past year.

I began my journal primarily as a motivational tool. I’m a fellow who needs visual evidence of my progress as I work toward long-term goals. The journal provides that. I can see from my entries when projects were started and finished, and can get a feel for what was happening in my life to either distract or focus my thoughts. I can see when I have a series of days where I enter over and over again, “no writing today.” That upsets me. It makes me want to get back to work because I know I’ve been lazy. I know the effort isn’t there.

As I went through my older journals tonight, I also found that I used to begin each year with a list of goals that I hoped to accomplish. Though I never completed all those goals, I believe that putting them into my mind on January 1st helped me work toward them over the next twelve months. And usually I did make progress on them, enough so that I managed some writing each year that was important to me, enough so that these days I usually start the year with projects already underway and no longer need to put my goals into print.

I wonder, do any of you out there in blogland pick yearly writing goals for yourself? If so, do you find that it helps you? Hinders you? Or do you think it might help to give it a try? Would it help you to plan your year’s work more consciously? Looking back at my earlier years in writing, I find that it helped me.

The new year is coming up soon. That’s always a good time for a retrospective look at what you’ve been doing, and whether it has been successful. It’s also a time to look forward, and—just maybe—to plan, to goal, to give your desires life by putting them into words.

PS: Shauna has a great interview over on her blog with C. S. Harris, a writer of historical mysteries who more commonly goes by the name Candice Proctor. It’s well worth a look.


Lana Gramlich said...

Hey! What'd I tell you about saying "no" to some of these extra projects! Yet here you are, talking about "setting goals" for the coming year! Sheesh! Here, I'll "set your goals" for you;
1. Free up time to work on things I'm already involved with & to further enjoy relaxing on the deck.
There...Done. Relatively painless, no?

SzélsőFa said...

I have been making monthly and yearly plans not only for myself, but for the household we're leading with my husband. We have been doing this for 10 years now.
Sometimes it results in funny re-readings.
'See, we have been unable to fix that chair for a whole year' and such.
I am an organized person and I find schedules helpful.

I've also read (part of) the interview with C.S. Harris. It was one of the most interesting reads I've had in a time. Very useful, I'd say.
I had only one slight disappointment, though: the reference to Hitler. I don't get why he's the person who comes into people's mind when talking about a dictator and someone who did evil things. Why him? When, unfortunately, history is full of cruelty and unjust leaders.

virtual nexus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle's Spell said...


I totally agree with this idea! I find that when I set writing goals, I get a lot closer to being where I want. I'm spend a lot of time writing in my dayplanner -- finish story X, revise story Y, and so on. As for next year, I can't even believe it's almost here. Time goes so fast -- I hate that!

moonrat said...

i set goals for myself every year, too. i never manage to keep them. i have a perpetual aim-too-high complex.

i like my reading diary better, because it rewards me for each tiny piece of work i do. i like to do a retrospective reading list at the end of each year, too.

apparently i keep journals and make lists in order to avoid actually accomplishing anything. hmm.

Chris Eldin said...

This is an interesting post.
I have goals in mind for where I want to be, but I don't write them down and I give myself a lot of leeway. With two small children and traveling back and forth the way we do, life is very unpredictable.

I think people should be kind to themselves. You were calling yourself lazy. I disagree with that. You had other things in life that needed to be taken care of first. That's called prioritizing. If you were sipping tropical drinks and fanning yourself by the pool rather than working or writing, then THAT would be lazy. Otherwise, please don't use that term for yourself.

Shauna Roberts said...

I make writing goals for each year and post them in my office where I can see them. I don't think I've ever accomplished all of them by year's end, but some years I've come close.

I also post next to the goals a calendar of the year. For each day I write fiction, I reward myself with a cat sticker on the calendar. I can tell from across the room how well I'm doing—or not—by the density of cat stickers.

Bernita said...

Yes, it is a lovely interview.
I make lists but not goal schedules, my life is also too unpredictable.
And I agree w/Chris.

Lisa said...

On and off journaling, list making and goal setting have all been a part of my life for a long time. I think they are all useful. I think the key to goal setting is the revisit and periodic adjustment that's always, always necessary because things rarely go as planned. Great post.

virtual nexus said...

Think its important to distinguish between goal and process. eg.

I set out to keep a journal (though not on Jan1) but really see that as a means to an end. The goals behind my journal keeping were diffuse, such as improving writing style etc, and would certainly benefit from clarifying to cut out wasted time.

Thought provoking post, as always.

Steve Malley said...

I'm a very driven person. My goals practically set themselves.

Farrah Rochon said...

Love setting goals. The best thing about them is actually checking them off!

Anonymous said...

I tend to write down goals whenever I need to. One good goal for me would be to organize my goal writing.

Travis Cody said...

Obviously the things I've been doing aren't working, because I haven't finished any project of note. I'm doing "small" writing - little scenes and snippets of exercises that don't amount to much.

But now that work has slowed down I'll be making a commitment to get my project organized and become more focused on it. It's very big and I've been letting myself get overwhelmed by how big it is. So it's time to work on getting it into smaller chunks.

That's the goal anyway. We'll see how it pans out.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, that sounds like a good goal.

Szelsofa, planning is very effective in all aspects of a person's life. Or so I've found it.

Michelle, and it seems to speed up each year. Painfully.

moonrat, yes, I'm like that. I set the goals too high but at least I do make progress toward them.

Church lady, when I first started setting goals I would get angry with myself for falling short. I don't do that these days. I know things will happen and so my goals are broad and I allow for real world intrusions to short circuit some of them.

Shauna, that's a good idea about the calender. I never thought of that.

Bernita, I do the list thing too.

Lisa, revisiting and revising is important. As I mentioned to Church lady, I used to be mean to myself for not reaching a goal, but I've learned to be more flexible.

Julie, good point about the difference between goal and process. I suppose I use lists to help me some with the process.

Steve Malley, I've found that to be more and more the case as I've gotten older.

Farrah, yes, I enjoy checking off things accomplished. It's a good feeling.

Jack, a worthy goal in it's own right.

Travis, goals help me with the organization that you have to have to move forward on big projects. That's for sure.

the walking man said...

Charles I guess I am the odd writer out here. I don't do anything like plan or set goals or even think about it. Although my writing has fallen off of late I usually just write when I feel I have something to say. Be it 85k words or ten.

Since the accident in April I have done less writing than at anytime in the past seven years, mostly because it's harder to concentrate without being internally distracted, but I have never set lists or goals in front of me except when I was working as a mechanic, once I had a car in the air and the tires off it didn't matter what it needed many or few repairs it was done in a method to get the most amount of production out in the time alloted.

Since then it has just been for the love of putting words together and to ME to prioritize that would take some of the joy out of it.



Erik Donald France said...


How about a five year plan?

It seems that most are just muddling through until the end.

Happy TG, reaching goals, enjoying things along the way.

Danette Haworth said...

My long term goals are always the same: keep writing and have a happy family life. Aside from that there are the goals that I entertain on a cyclical basis, such as exercising.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, for me, planning is part of the fun, though not as much fun as the writing.

Erik, lol. A five year plan? I'd feel like a communist country. Somewhere behind the Ink Curtain.

Danette, I think most of my short term goals are in service to the long range goals of living happy.