You can be a pantser and set goals. I’m not talking here about plotting or planning a novel. I’m talking about thinking where you want to be in your life in one year, three years, five years, ten. As a pantser, (someone who essentially works on the fly, making it up as they go along, just like me) you can still set goals. In fact I’d say you still need signposts in your life, for these reasons:

Setting goals will encourage you when you’re feeling down, unsure of your ability, insecure, full of doubt, if you’ve had a bad review or zero royalties. You will have somewhere to aim for, like an arrow to a target. You will not feel directionless or lost.

Commitment to your art, in this case writing, can help you to feel good about yourself and your chosen field. You will have taken a stand, mentally if not physically, and you will know you are no longer an ‘aspiring’ writer, or a ‘wannabe’, but you are actually on your writing journey.

Goal setting gives you a way to measure your progress. You can see how much of your goal/goals you have attained–without getting depressed or feeling guilty about what has not been attained–you can celebrate what has been successfully reached, and you will feel spurred on to achieve more than you may have previously thought possible.

Got a big goal? Break it down into smaller, more easily managed steps. This is the key to all project management, take baby steps. Soon a lot of small steps will have become one big one. If you want to increase book sales, start with learning more about marketing. or learn about how readers choose books so you can reach people with the right kind of cover or blurb.

Re-evaluate your goals regularly. We change. All the time. What seems like an amazing goal now might have lost its allure in six months’ time. Or you might realise that actually you need to achieve other things first, so again, take a look at your goals and see if they are still powerful enough to spur you on. Don’t set something too easily attained, but at the same time, don’t give yourself an impossible dream to aim for. It’s a goal, not a wish-list.

Write your goals down. Start with something like, ‘In three years’ time, I want to…’ and make a little list of what you want to have accomplished or where you want to be in whatever future point you feel is suitable for you. You can do this for more than just writing, obviously you might include weight loss, fitness levels, relationships, education, home and environment, holidays…

Keep it somewhere safe, take a look at it every six months or so. Pat yourself on the back, thank your God, divine power, supreme being, cat, husband, wife, or writing pal. Or…pull yourself up by your bootstraps, remind yourself that it’s never too late to try again, and get on with it.

Good luck!


Is it possible to be too goal-oriented?


I remember years ago there was a song by Christian singer-songwriter Michael Card – I don’t remember much about it apart from one line in particular (maybe the title?) which went ‘there is a joy in the journey…’

It’s all about enjoying the process. The getting there.  I really believe that if we’re constantly fixated on arriving ‘somewhere’, we miss so much along the way. I’ve heard people say that they were so determined to press on to do something with their lives that they forgot to actually just – enjoy – their lives. If you are pushing forward and yearning for the next stage, that next signpost in your career, you will feel driven, and something will be lacking in your life. You.

As writers we don’t always take the time to savour the writing process and enjoy, even live the experience. We’re reaching towards the next deadline and don’t remember to sit back and enjoy the trip.

I can remember when I was a kid, the journey to the holiday destination was as exciting and as full of surprises, promise and possibilities, as the holiday itself. As soon as everything was packed into the car or onto the luggage rack in the train or plane, there was that wonderful sense of anticipation, that feeling of ‘we’re off – this is the beginning of it all’.

Don’t wait until you arrive to start enjoying yourself, otherwise you will never actually be happy right where you are – you will always be looking forward to the Next Thing.

So sit back, take a moment and think to yourself, ‘yes, this is where I am, chapter 17 (or wherever) – this is the journey – and I’m feeling good.’ (Put on Nina Simone at this point).