SMART goals and writing. Update time

I thought my writing goal was pretty SMART. But, was I deliberately leaving myself some wriggle-room?

In August 2013, I signed up for Misha’s 5 year project. My goal was to finish writing a novel and to get it published. Today, I realised there is only one year and a few months left until my self-imposed deadline expires.

Now, I thought my goal was pretty SMART when I set it. (If you want to know the difference between a SMART goal and a not-SMART goal, I talk about this in the second half of this post. Scroll down.)

But, perhaps my goal wasn’t so SMART after all? Perhaps I was deliberately leaving myself some wriggle-room? Because, you see I didn’t define:

  1. Exactly which novel I would get published.
  2. Or how I would publish it.

As I see it, I have two options.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerThe Reluctant Scribe, my first novel, is still being considered by a handful of agents, but I received another rejection last week. After all this time I’m not hopeful of finding someone willing to take it on. I could, however, pay for professional editing and self publish the book. I think that’s a better option than leaving it languishing on my hard drive.

In the meantime, I have found another writer willing to read through the manuscript and give me some feedback.

Ruth Livingstone, writer, author and bloggerOrbital Contract, my second novel is a sci-fi adventure story for young adults, and has far more commercial potential. I’ve completed the third round of edits and the story is finished.

Of course, I’m never quite sure when you can tell if a book is actually finished, but I’m now just playing around with commas!

Now something really exciting has happened. After the Writing East Midlands conference in Nottingham last weekend, an agent has expressed an interest and is currently considering the full manuscript. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high,

Thinking kid, The Reluctant ScribeBeing SMART about goals.

Now, the thing about goals is that they can be SMART or not-SMART. Here’s the difference.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific, which means you set out exactly what it is you hope to accomplish.
  • Measurable, so that you can tell you’re on track and know when you reach the end.
  • Achievable, because reaching the goal is under your own control and not too reliant on other people’s goodwill, and certainly not reliant on magic, or on luck.
  • Realistic or Relevant to your life, so that you feel there’s some point to pursuing your goals despite competing priorities.
  • Time limited, by setting yourself firm milestones and deadlines.

Here are some examples of SMART goals:

  • I will earn more money, by volunteering for overtime every week this month and will apply for a promotion before the end of  the year.
  • I will improve my relationship with my mother, by phoning her twice a week.
  • I will become a better writer, by entering a short story contest every month until I win.

DreamsNot-SMART goals are:

Huge and beautiful. They’re your favourite dreams. Your secret wishes.

Not-smart goals are often ambitious and enticing, but lack detail. They’re fuzzy. Why? Because you know you want your life to be better, but it’s actually quite hard to pin down exactly what you hope to achieve and when you hope to achieve it.

Not-smart goals often rely on extraordinary good luck arriving, and may be far removed from your everyday life and ordinary experience.  In fact, they could represent some wonderful and heavenly vision you have for the future.

Here are some examples of not-SMART goals:

  • I will win the lottery and become a multi-millionaire.

Great, but how likely is this to really happen? Do you know what the odds are? Can you influence them? Do you actually buy any lottery tickets?

  • I will try harder to be a nicer person.

That’s nice, but what do you mean by ‘try harder’ and what do you mean by ‘nicer’? You could substitute ‘healthier’ or ‘fitter’ in place of nicer, but you still need to decide where to start and how you measure your progress.

  • I will become the best writer in the world.

Wonderful. Great ambition. But how will you start improving as a writer, and how will you know when you’re really better than everyone else?

DreamingLet me make it clear, there is nothing wrong with not-SMART goals.

They are often the best and most hopeful thoughts of our lives, the things we dream about, the passions that get out of bed in the morning. And there is nothing wrong with having hopes, dreams and passions.

In fact, many of my fellow authors on the Five Year Project have non-SMART goals with great aspirations. They’re shooting for the stars, flying high, and that’s great.

I just prefer something a bit more concrete under my own feet.

Yes. I’ll hang onto my crazy dreams and wild ambitions. But I must make sure to give myself some sensible goals too, and I know I’m more likely to succeed if I keep them SMART.


Writers Conference 2014, Writing East Midlands, Opening Session

Not only did I enjoy myself immensely at the Conference, but I met loads of interesting people and learnt a tremendous amount. So I decided to do a mini-series of blog posts this week, picking out tidbits and sharing memorable quotes.

Portland Building, University of NottinghamI didn’t realise how lucky I was when I managed to get a place on the Writing Conference 2014. The conference was fully booked within a few weeks of being advertised.

Hosted by Writing East Midlands, this was a fantastic event, held in the gleaming Portland Building set in the University of Nottingham’s beautiful campus on a gloriously sunny day. Continue reading “Writers Conference 2014, Writing East Midlands, Opening Session”

7 Habits of Successful Writers

I procrastinate. I work endlessly on the same paragraph, again and again and again. I abandon work. Sometimes I wake up and decide I’m being completely delusional and I must give it all up immediately and do something else instead. Does this sound familiar to you?

7 Habits of a Successful Writer - by Ruth LivingstoneI want to become a successful writer. And by success, I mean I want to be published by a reputable publisher. (Yes, I know there are other measures of success, but this one is mine.)

But I am my own worst enemy. I procrastinate. I criticise my efforts. I denigrate my meagre achievements. I work endlessly on the same paragraph, again and again and again. I abandon work. Sometimes I wake up and decide I’m being completely delusional and I must give it all up immediately and do something else instead. Does this sound familiar to you? Continue reading “7 Habits of Successful Writers”

Letter published: BMA News Review

Two weeks ago I opened the BMA News Review* and read an anguished opinion piece written by a doctor. She had just discovered nits in the hair of her young children and she did what many busy working-mums do: she blamed herself.

Corner of Ruth Livingstone letterSometimes we do something on the spur of the moment and it has unexpected consequences.

I won a prize!

Last week I opened and e-mail and discovered I had won £50 of books.

Included in the e-mail was a list of titles, all Random House publications, from which I could make a selection. I wasn’t too upset that the majority of the books seemed to be about cookery. It was an unexpected and wonderful surprise!

What had I done to deserve Continue reading “Letter published: BMA News Review”

Why all writers should be bloggers.

The world is full of terrible blogs – written by people who can’t write and can barely read. The Web needs proper writers. The Web needs YOU! Here are 5 excellent reasons why all writers should be bloggers.

Blogging at a desk - Why all writers should have blogs, Ruth LivingstoneI am going to propose five excellent reasons why every writer should be a blogger. But first, I have some questions for you.

Are you a new writer?

And are you still wondering whether you should start blogging? Perhaps everybody is telling you that every writer must have a blog, but you remain unconvinced.

Let me ask you one really important question.

Do you want to be a published writer?
If the answer to that is ‘yes’, great – you should read on. Continue reading “Why all writers should be bloggers.”