I interrupt my usual agenda of pep talks to bring you what is absolutely going to sound like a commercial, but I promise I haven’t been paid. It’s not an ad. It just looks like one. Here we go.
Several months ago, my friend Kelsey told me about Pacemaker, which calls itself a flexible goal planner for writers and students (but check it out even if you’re neither of those). I love goals and planning, but I’ve tried setting writing goals for myself at least a hundred times, and it never got me anywhere.
Pacemaker has been a real game changer for me as I work on the latest book, and I decided that it would just be flat-out wrong of me to keep it to myself. It is free and easy to use, and you can customize it to literally fit whatever type of project you have in mind.
First, you put in a start date and an end date. I chose to give myself four months to write my current book. After that, you decide what your goals will look like. I’m drafting a novel, so I’m measuring progress by word count. But you can also measure by pages, scenes, minutes, posts, and a whole slew of other options. Obviously, it’s perfect for writers, but could easily be set up for goals that are completely unrelated to writing. You just decide when you want to start and how you want to measure your progress.
Next, you decide what your week looks like. Personally, Wednesday and Thursday are supposed to be my heavy writing days, so I want to write more on those days and less on the others, and I don’t want to write on Sundays. I also looked at my calendar and designated certain days (like holidays and travel days) as “off” days, because I know I won’t be able to write on those days.
Lastly, you decide how you want the goal set up. Do you want to do the same amount of work each day? More at the beginning and less at the end? Start slow but finish strong? Or completely random? I chose to start slow and finish strong, because I think the further I get into the book the easier it will be to write a lot of words in one day. Right now, I’m drafting slowly while I get to know my characters and work out the plot.
So you set all of that up, and then Pacemaker gives you a plan. For me, that’s a calendar of word count goals for all the days I’ve committed to writing. Here’s what November looks like:
(The green days are the days I’ve written, with the word counts I wrote).
As you can see, the word counts are VERY small. That’s perfect for me, as I learn how to love writing again. They’re easily attainable, for one, and I always write more than the goal, which makes my overachiever heart happy.
But beyond that, there’s something really important about those tiny little goals that has made a huge difference for me: Before this, I would think there was no point in even sitting down at my computer if I didn’t have a good hour or two to devote to writing. “Why bother,” I’d tell myself, “if I’m not going to get 5 to 10 pages down?”
Here’s the thing. With this plan in my head, I know that as long as I stick to the given word count goals, I’m on track to finish this book on my goal date. So I can easily tell myself, “You only have to write for ten minutes, and you’ll reach today’s goal.” Rather than feeling like I never get enough words in, I have the reassurance that even if I wrote a small amount of words, that’s all I had to do to stay on my plan.
I usually end up writing for much longer than that, but it’s a great way to just take that very first step. Sometimes, the simple act of opening my laptop is the absolute hardest part about writing. Once I’ve crossed that hurdle, the actual writing isn’t nearly as painful as I expected. Without the pressure to spend every spare minute writing words, I’ve really started to enjoy writing again. I look forward to my writing time each day, and when I’m not actually writing, I’m thinking about what I’m going to write when I get to it.
Pacemaker has made it so much simpler to juggle being a mom, wife, daughter, full-time employee, and writer. Before this, writing was always the first thing to get dropped on the days when I felt like I had nothing left to give. Now, I look at my word count and I know I can at least do that much.
Ah crap. Here I am again at the end of a post with no idea how to end it.
Go try Pacemaker.
Tell me about it when you do.