I look through Facebook status updates at least once a day, mostly to see what other writers are achieving while I'm wasting time with social media. One writer in particular, whom I can't name, has a habit of posting the amount of words she's managed to get down on paper during the day. She does it every day, and sometimes the numbers sound positively staggering (four digits and above). And she's not alone; lots of writers offer similar updates, word counts and all. All of it got me to thinking, and now I'm wondering if I'm undisciplined. Should I be setting daily goals?
Daily Writing Goals
Discipline and motivation are mercurial mistresses, and they can be expensive to keep. Many, many indie authors have to split their time between a paying full-time job and their somewhat-paying writer alter ego. The process of writing itself is exhausting; it takes much longer to write a book than to read one. Editing and re-reading the book can be a tedious chore. Since many indies are also obliged to work at a day job, not to mention spend some time answering emails and promoting their work, it's a lot to do.
So why not set a goal for yourself that you feel like you've just got to meet, and pour on the pressure? Inspiration and creativity can be forced, right?
Okay...clearly I'm not a fan of setting daily writing goals -- but only up to a point. I keep a list of tasks that I follow to the letter every day, so in the control freak competition I feel like I'm definitely in the running to place. But assigning a certain amount of words to yourself on a daily basis is just wrong.
Don't do that to yourself. If you're going to set a goal, go by the clock and not by the count. Discipline is something that can be forced; you can make yourself sit in front of a computer screen for an hour or two hours every night. But you can't always force motivation, or creativity, or inspiration. So you might find yourself just...sitting there. I certainly have. If you're trying to force yourself to write 500 words, or 1000 words, or any words at all, you're putting enormous stress on yourself. That's not very inspiring, is it? Imagine pulling a gun out on a composer and screaming at him to write you an original song.
You may scoff at the comparison, but it's not far from wrong. We have a tendency to be harder on ourselves that others would ever be on us, and creative types in particular can be highly judgmental of their own talents and abilities. Add a daily goal on top of all that, and you're just borrowing trouble -- you're punishing yourself. What happens if you just can't meet that daily goal? Are you now a failure, a wastrel, a miserably poor author?
Daily goals can be dangerous, so if you play with fire learn to be careful. If you truly have trouble making time to write and getting motivated to do so, setting a goal of one to two hours a day (or more) may be a very helpful way to keep yourself on track. But if you know you're going to write for six hours on Saturday and another five on Sunday, why burden yourself with something else to do if you're just not feeling the writing itch during the week? Setting daily goals does work for some indies, but don't let that force your hand, and don't ever make writing a stressful chore or a habit that you're enslaved to. Always remember that you're supposed to love it.