Scott D. Parker
Sometimes, you just need to set a goal. For lots of people who want to do something other than writing, goal setting is a bit more straightforward, even measurable. Now that we can see summer coming, you might want to get in shape. Your goal might be to lose five pounds. That's measurable. If you want to run a marathon (a bucket list thing for me), there are wonderful training regimes out there to follow and you can measure your progress. Even if you want to learn a new craft, woodturning, say, there are steps you can take to get there and measure your progress.
What about writing? In particular, what about professional writing? What kinds of goals do you set? How do you measure them?
These were the questions I asked myself yesterday while sitting outside on my deck eating breakfast and enjoying a nice spring morning. As is my wont, I had a 11 x 17 sheet of paper in front of me and I wrote the first thing that came to mind: write and sell fiction. I mean, that’s the most basic, fundamental thing, right? It's the reason why blogs like this one exist. It is the reason why there are tons of books about writing and how to write.
But how do you go about doing it? The very next thing I jotted down was “Hone the craft.” And, that, too, is pretty fundamental. Just get better, each time you write. Look, I know this is elementary, but, again, I ask: How do you measure that? If you learn how to turn wood, you can tell when you look at the final product that you at better. You can see your missteps and mistakes and learn from them.
How do you do the same thing with writing? Is sales a true barometer? Or can you just tell after you do it for awhile?
What are your thoughts?
P.S., I wrote other things on my list, but I’ll discuss them next week.
Maybe writing is actually more measurable (or at least just as) than other types of goals. Let's say goal one is to write 500 words every day. That's easy to measure-- you're either doing it or you're not. The next goal might be to finish a novel. There are many ways to do it but at the end of the process you have a finished manuscript, which is another measurement. From a quality standpoint, your writing will almost certainly have improved if you've written a complete novel and edited it, so in that way it's a measurement of quality as well. To me, selling one's work is also about the quality of it, but it's subjective too, so harder to use whether it sells or not as a measure of improvement (or honing the craft). Instead, selling your work is another kind of measurement, the fulfillment of another goal separate in some ways from quality but not entirely, of course. Basically though, the more you write, the better you will get and I think that yes, you'll know it as it happens.
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