Are Daily and Weekly Writing Goals Necessary?

I’d read early on about the importance of keeping a daily writing goal, and I have to say it’s probably one of the most useful bits of writing advice that I’ve ever followed.

You see, before I kept daily writing goals, I suffered from pretty frequent writer’s guilt. I would write, but even after a particularly successful writing stint, I would wonder if I’d written enough. Truth be told, no amount ever felt like enough — I always finished thinking I could write more.

Needless to say, it made writing unnecessarily difficult, as I was never sure if I’d made enough progress—and always felt bad about the extra progress I hadn’t made. It wasn’t until I started setting daily goals that I was truly able to appreciate my progress and feel accomplished after a successful writing sprint.

In addition to helping to eliminate writer’s guilt, maintaining a daily writing goal accomplished something else as well — it encouraged me to write every day and make consistent progress on my manuscript.

Now I’ve pretty near perfected a daily writing goal that works for me, and in the past I’ve kept two goals — daily and weekly writing goals. Allow me to explain.

Using Scrivener (although a calculator would work just as well), I know that in order to finish a 70,000-word first draft in 45 days (which is roughly my average, when I’m not pushing myself to finish in a month), I need to write 1,555 words every day, or 10,889 words a week. Because I’m an overachiever and I’ve gotten used to more, I aim for about 2,000 words a day, or 14,000 words per week, which gives me a little extra wiggle room in case the project turns out to be longer than I anticipated—or I need days off, which nowadays I like to do weekly to prevent burn out.

The benefit of maintaining a weekly writing goal was again to fight writer’s guilt. If I missed a day, or even two, I knew I had the rest of the week to make up the difference, which usually equated to a couple hundred extra words a day. Nothing to sweat over.

The main idea behind daily and weekly writing goals is to train you to write as consistently as you can realistically manage. In order to use these writing goals most efficiently, there are two rules to follow:

  1. Set realistic goals. Look, I’m more than well aware that not everyone can expect to churn out 2,000 words a day, and that’s totally okay. Everyone has different circumstances, and if yours make it difficult to meet more than 1,000 or even 500 words a day, then don’t set your goal for any more than that. There are few things more discouraging than setting a goal that’s impossible to meet, so instead start with a goal you know you can handle. Start small, and if you find you can easily meet the goal, then try bumping it up a little. Everyone has a different golden number — the key is finding yours.
  2. Don’t guilt yourself over not meeting goals. Life happens. Inevitably, you’re going to eventually miss a day, or several days. You may find that you can’t meet your weekly goal one week, or you may discover halfway through the month that you’re behind schedule. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up over what you haven’t accomplished — instead, look at the progress you’ve made. Even small progress is progress — twenty words added to your WIP are twenty words you didn’t have yesterday.

If you find you’re consistently missing your goal, then don’t sweat it — it’s probably a sign that you might want to reevaluate your goal. Set the quota a little lower and keep pushing forward. You’ll make it as long as you keep writing.

Do you keep a daily or weekly writing goal? Why or why not?

This article was originally posted on Ava Jae’s blog, Writability.

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