3 Steps for Creating Meaningful Goals That Will Help You Make Progress as a Writer

3 Steps for Creating Meaningful Goals That Will Help You Make Progress as a Writer


Have you found yourself feeling rudderless with your writing?

Maybe you’re writing and even publishing regularly but don’t seem to be moving toward any specific destination. Or maybe you can’t even find the motivation to sit down at your desk for more than an hour.

There’s a good chance you feel this way for a specific reason: because you don’t have a clear goal for your writing career.

When you have an overarching goal you know:

+ Where to pitch

+ What to write about

+ What types of articles you want to write

+ Where you want to publish

+ Whether you want to write short or long form

So what’s the best way to create goals that will help you produce work you’re proud of?

Here are three steps that will help you create clear goals and accomplish the things that really matter.

Step 1: Identify your big picture

This goes beyond setting goals for individual projects and instead spans all parts of your writing life, from pitching to craft to the business side.

It also means identifying your WHYs. Are you writing to present yourself as an expert in a particular area? Do you want to support yourself through your fiction writing? Or maybe you plan on strategically guest posting to bring an audience to your website who will buy your books or other products?

Brainstorm all the things you’d love to see yourself accomplishing as a writer. Once you’ve got your ideas down on paper, streamline those thoughts by writing in one sentence that encompasses your overall objective for writing.

For example, here’s my overarching objective:

I want to build a writing and education business that empowers and inspires people to express themselves creatively while allowing me to work where I want.

Step 2: Outline the steps you must take to accomplish your objective

Each big picture requires a different set of tasks. And each short-term goal will flow naturally from your big picture goal.

In my case, if I want people to see me as someone who can help them write books, memoirs and short stories, I must show I know what I’m doing. So I regularly write, pitch and publish articles about how people can move forward at all stages of the writing process.

I also want to make sure my clients know that my writing expertise is hard won through personal experience. Thus, I continue to write my own books and fiction that I share with my clients and audience.

As for where and what I pitch, I focus on writing for an audience interested in the information I offer.

Step 3: Set benchmarks to create accountability and assess forward movement

Create specific dates by which you want to reach each short-term goal. It may initially feel strange and groundless to set deadlines when you’re unsure of how long things should take. Do it anyway. You can always go back and edit. In fact, you should regularly edit and tweak your goals as you gain expertise and knowledge. (Click to tweet this idea).

Also set specific monetary goals that you want to reach by certain deadlines. If you’re looking to make money via guest posting, decide how many articles you want to publish and how much you want to make over the next six months.

Remember, you can make money when paid directly for your writing, but don’t discount guest blogging as a form of marketing to sell products and services on your own website.

If you want another example, take a look at how I break down my objective into specific goals, tasks and benchmarks.

Making room for change

When it comes to setting and sticking to goals, remember: change is a normal part of this process. After all, you’re not going to be able to predict every possibility and option when you first sit down to create your goals.

You should regularly review your objectives and goals to make sure you haven’t outgrown them. If something no longer fits your plan, change it. It’s as simple as that.

The most important element is creating the structure and accountability that supports you and your writing and allows you to grow as a writer and entrepreneur.

Goals create structure

What are your goals for your writing? How have they helped you find direction and stay on track?

Filed Under: Craft


  • Mary says:

    “Goals create structure that allow you…”
    Not allows.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for that. This is a funny sentence. It all depends where the verb relates. To “goals” or to “structure.” Considering at least one other editor went through this piece before publishing, I’m thinking it could go either way, but it’s worth another look.

      • Ron Mahon says:

        I think this falls under the category of everyone makes mistakes. It is what makes us human unlovable.

        Great article thanks a lot.

      • Hi Mary and Leigh,

        You’re right, it is a bit of a funny sentence. My intention is that the verb relates to “structure,” as in, it’s the structure that allows us to grow. That’s why it’s “allows,” not “allow.”

        Thanks for your comment!

  • Elke Feuer says:

    Great post, Leigh! I love Step 1: Identify your big picture. That’s the one thing I haven’t done. I also like your process of listing the goals and then breaking out the steps needed to complete.

    One of my 2014 goals is to improve my editing process. It takes me longer to edit than write, so I’m going to read through all the editing books I purchased to find a process that works for me.

    Each year I review my business plan, update my goals, and create a calendar listing the main tasks to complete my goals by month. I use the calendar to create my daily task list and review it every two weeks to make sure I stay on track. It’s also easy to move tasks from one month to another if I need to.

    • Hi Elke!

      Thank you! And I don’t think you’re alone in that. I went along with a plan but without a goal for quite a while before one day someone ask me what I actually wanted… in one sentence. Many other writers I know and clients say exactly the same.

      Streamlining the editing process is a formidable goal. Editing for me has always been variable. Some pieces edit easily. Others are like waiting for frozen honey to pour. I’d love to hear what you decide to do and how it works for you.

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