Jul 17 2019

Writers, set micro goals for major progress

I want to finally write my memoir.

I want to finish my novel.

I want to learn how to write poetry.

I have this great idea for a children’s book…

It’s good to have goals. As writers, we often focus on the big picture, but let’s face it: the big picture can sometimes feel too big to achieve.

So what if we made smaller goals—not giving up on the bigger ones, but breaking them down into more manageable steps? Rather than tricking yourself into believing you’ve been more productive than you have, setting what we think of as “micro goals” can actually lead you to major milestones in your writing process. Think about it:

A micro goal is easier to achieve and surpass.

If you wake up and say, “Today I will write 2,000 words,” maybe you will and maybe you won’t. IF you do, chances are, you’ll stop at 2,000 and feel content (and good for you!). But if you wake up and say, “Today I will write 200 words,” I bet you will—and then some. The goal is clearly more manageable. Two hundred words isn’t much at all; it’s about half a page. But maybe you’ll be more thoughtful about your 200 words than you would be about your 2,000 words. Maybe you’ll write right past 200 and hit 2,000 without even trying. Or maybe you’ll write 200 words and just feel good about reaching that goal.

A micro-goals plan will increase your motivation and confidence.

If you’re regularly achieving and surpassing your goals, you’re going to feel more confident as a writer. Finding time to sit down and write isn’t going to feel like a difficult challenge, but an exciting one. You’ll be more likely to return to your writing practice because you’ll feel like you’re making gains (and you will be!). And what happens when you do something on a regular basis?

Micro goals build strong habits.

If you can make yourself sit down to write for even five minutes a day (but often end up writing for 20, 30, 45 minutes instead), and you feel good about it, you’re going to stick with it. Micro goals help you make a habit out of writing, instead of writing feeling like an impossible task when you were nagging yourself everyday to finish that novel. Focus on that novel chapter title, instead. Focus on fixing that one ill-fitting paragraph, that one bit of dialogue that just doesn’t track with your character’s personality. And just like that, you’re writing on a regular basis and probably thinking more deeply about what you’re creating.

Micro goals can help you reevaluate a work-in-progress.

If your goal every day is to Write That Book Already, then you’re focused on the end game instead of the process. But setting micro goals for the book’s development keeps you immersed in the story as it’s unfolding. That fixed attention is much more likely to yield important insights about your narrative, including problems and your own emotions about the project. See that gaping plot hole? You probably will if you’re focused on one small part of your book at a time. And what if this memoir is actually a book of standalone essays, which you realize while working on your micro goal of writing a good transition between one supposed “chapter” and the next? Feeling frustrated by your novel’s ending? Maybe you need to change something in the middle to set your character(s) on a different path. Micro goals can help you reevaluate, rather than stubbornly adhere to, your priorities for a given writing project.

Have you or will you practice setting micro goals to establish and maintain a regular writing practice? Share with us in the comments!

 Related reading: Respect the process to achieve your writing goals

Make the absolute most of your writing time

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Comments on ... Writers, set micro goals for major progress

  1. Alice says:

    I’ve been using micro goals for my first chapter book. I love this process. I only “see” one chapter at a time, while I’m revising it.
    Once again a valuable tip coming from Stacia and her crew of great teachers.