Why Creating Specific Goals Is Essential to Your Writing Success

Thursday, May 09, 2024

When it comes to my freelance work, setting goals comes easily to me. I wanted to become a commerce writer. I took specific, actionable steps, from creating my sample to pitching editors. And voila! It happened. I have other goals, too, such as mastering the cold pitch and expanding into other niches. 

Yet, creatively, I lack in creating the same type of reachable and actionable goals. However, over the weekend, I was thinking about my usual approach and knowing the vague goal isn't working. 

You see, what has motivated me with freelance work is knowing exactly what I wanted to achieve. With creative writing, not so much. 

At first, I blamed being a short story writer, and then I read this article about George Saunders, a prolific short story writer who has published numerous collections. Reading that article helped me realize there's nothing wrong with being in that lane. Not everyone's a novelist or needs to be to achieve success.

And I realized...what did I want from my short story writing? Sure, being in anthologies and having numerous collections published (that people actually want to read) would be ideal. But much like my freelance dreams, I want tangible next-step goals that feel possible to me now. 

Thus, the journey has begun. What does success look like to me? You know that question they ask you in job interviews, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" I have always despised that question because I fight the urge to sarcastically say, "Being alive, I guess." Yet knowing the answer to that can help. What are my tangible next steps to success? What does that even look like to me now? 

I've realized that my lack of actionable goals and stages of success is hindering my motivation. If you struggle with motivation, it may be time to ask yourself: what does success look like to you?  

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Voices Project, The Ocotillo Review, and Gold Man Review. A poem of hers was also featured in the anthology DEAR LEADERS TALES. Her short story, “The Mannequin of Lot 18,” was nominated for Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2024. Since she’s not active on social media very much, stay in touch by following her writing blog at World of My Imagination.


Angela Mackintosh said...

I personally admire short story writers so much! The writing is tighter than novels. I listened to George Saunders' book A Swim in the Pond in the Rain where he explores short stories and writing craft, and he's a great teacher. I agree that you don't have to write a novel to be successful. The publishing industry is terribly slow and writing short stories/submitting/publishing in journals is often more gratifying.

My habit building experiment didn't take off as planned, so I'm also back to figuring out my goals. I struggle with finding time to create, and whether to spend it writing or painting. Lately, it's been painting. You've given me some great questions to think about! I'm curious how you answered yours.

Nicole Pyles said...

I am completely in the same boat on habit-building this year! I totally thought that would work for me and that I'd readily embrace it. It's more fits and starts, and I can't quite grasp my creative momentum. I've actually started down the road of looking up fellow short story writers and googling them and just seeing where they are at. Seeing what possibilities are out there. It hasn't given me gratifying results that I can use to set goals for myself, but...it sure has been interesting!

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