Speedwriting Success: Goal Setting and Other Secrets

Goal Setting

· Eliminate Obstacles

· Making Time for Writing

· Making, Keeping, and Tracking Your Appointments

· Write First!

Note: All the reasons people give for not writing are almost always excuses to procrastinate. Writer's block, lack of time, resistance, etc. are all excuses to avoid writing.

Very few people will look at themselves in the mirror and say, "I'm not going to write today because I just don't feel like it."

Instead they look at themselves very earnestly and say, "I'm going to really try to get some writing done today, but my job…the kids…unexpected company…dirty laundry…might keep me from getting it done, but I really will try!"


That's the number one rule to getting your writing done, but we'll talk about more techniques to help get you there.

Eliminate Obstacles

Make a list, as long as you like, of all the obstacles that are keeping you from writing. And for anyone who has a life outside of their writing, this should sound familiar.

  1. _______________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________
  5. _______________________________________________________
  6. _______________________________________________________
  7. _______________________________________________________
  8. _______________________________________________________
  9. _______________________________________________________
  10. _______________________________________________________
  11. _______________________________________________________
  12. _______________________________________________________
  13. _______________________________________________________
  14. _______________________________________________________
  15. _______________________________________________________
  16. _______________________________________________________
  17. _______________________________________________________
  18. _______________________________________________________
  19. _______________________________________________________
  20. _______________________________________________________

Every one of these reasons stands between you and you getting your writing done. Your job now is to figure out a way to fit in writing time despite these obstacles.

People are subject to all types of interference and obstacles, some of which they had some choice about, others over which they have absolutely no control.

Take a look at your list and evaluate the things that are within your control and separate them from "acts of God" or catastrophic problems, like a computer hard drive crash (you do back up, in two ways and often, right?)

Do not waste time worrying or agonizing about things over which you have absolutely no control.

Do identify the obstacles that are within your control and set about finding ways to handle them.

Here are a few examples of writing obstacles often heard:

  • The kids take up all my extra time. Solution: hire someone to watch/entertain your kids on a regular basis.
  • My aging parent needs care. Solution: hire someone to provide care on a regular basis, once or twice a week and use that time to write.
  • My husband/wife has been transferred, we're moving. Solution: More difficult, but consider 15 minutes a day first thing in the morning or evening sacred. You find time to eat and sleep, find time to write.
  • I've been chosen to be the PTA president this year. Solution: Learn to say, "No." There is a time and place for everything and you do not have to accept every position, honorable or not, offered to you.
  • Work/school is demanding and sapping every ounce of my time and energy. Solution: 15 minutes a day must be reserved for writing, even when you're working many extra hours. If writing is a priority, then make sure it stays that way.
  • My family/friends don't support my writing dream. Solution: You've never gone against your family and friends before? Why start now? You are the only one who can decide what is important, therefore necessary for you to do. Will they be there when you grieve the loss of having not written?

Writing, for some people, is as necessary as breathing. For those people, finding time to write is usually not a problem. For the rest of the world, writing can become a chore, and finding time to write competes with the time you might have to relax, read a novel, watch a movie with friends, or spend time with family.

As with all chores, your writing still needs to be done. You don't let your house become such a pigsty that you can't have people over, even when you're terribly busy, right? You still get yourself to work every day, more or less on time, even when you'd really rather sleep in. You manage to attend class and get your assignments completed more or less on time. If you can do these things, you can find time to write.

The key is that writing must be established as a priority, therefore deserving of your time. Schedule it into your life!

Making Time for Writing

Have you ever made a New Year's Resolution, only to fall off the wagon within about two weeks?

  • Lose weight.
  • Get fit.
  • Save money
  • Fill in the blank ________

But once you've made the resolution, about all you do to reach your goal is to perhaps tack your resolution up on the wall or the refrigerator or the mirror so that you see it every day.

But what happens, pretty soon, you simply stop "seeing" that paper because something came up, you don't have time to exercise today, or you can't diet because you don't have "diet" food in the house.

Before you start really getting down on yourself, you need to understand the problem with most goals:

Most people never plan HOW they will reach their goals.

It's that simple.

Simply by writing a goal down, you improve the odds of actually reaching that goal, but until you actually put together a plan on how you will reach your goals, you will rarely, if ever, get there.

Let's start by looking closely at the first step:

Written goal, starting with the word "To", with specific limits or time frames.

For most people making a goal or resolution, they usually only say things like, "Lose weight", "Get fit", "Save more money".

The problem with these goals is that there is no measurable limit or time frame. Rather than saying, "Lose weight," change the goal to say:

"To lose 15 pounds over the next three months."

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Immediately your brain starts to figure out how to reach that goal. Hmmm…lose 15 pounds, three months, that's losing five pounds a month, that's about a pound and a quarter a week, that means I have to eliminate about 4500 calories a week, or 650 calories a day, so how can I do that?

Wow! What a difference! With the first goal of "Lose weight", the brain looks at it, cannot identify specific milestones, therefore rejects it even before you've started!

The second goal got your brain into "problem solving mode" and you now know how many calories you either have to eliminate from your diet or to exercise off on a daily basis in order to lose those 15 pounds over the next three months.

This is a powerful tool.

In order to reach your writing goal, you need to do exactly the same thing. Make sure your goal is measurable and specific. It could be: "To write 3000 words a week on my book/dissertation."

It's Your Turn:

Now, write a goal for your writing:

To ________________________________________________________________

Check your goal. Is it measurable? Is there a specific time frame? Can you achieve it? (Avoid setting impossible goals such as, "To complete my dissertation in one week." Unless you're at the very last point of writing your dissertation, this is an impossible goal.

The second step is the exercise we did at the beginning of the lesson:

You listed up to 20 reasons as to why you aren't getting your writing done. These are the obstacles preventing you from reaching your goal.

Which are your five biggest obstacles that are preventing you from reaching your writing goals? List them here:

  1. _______________________________________________________
  2. _______________________________________________________
  3. _______________________________________________________
  4. _______________________________________________________
  5. _______________________________________________________

Which brings us to the third step:

For each obstacle that you identified, write one or two ways to overcome that obstacle. For example:

Obstacle: "My kids take up all my free time."

· Solution1: Hire a babysitter every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 3 – 5 so that I can write for a couple hours.

· Solution 2: Allow them to watch a movie twice a week that will keep them occupied during my writing time.

· Solution 3: Have my husband/wife be responsible for the kids for four hours on Saturday afternoon so that I can get my writing goal for the week accomplished.

Now it's your turn:

Obstacle: ________________________________________________________

  • Solution 1: _________________________________________________
  • Solution 2: _________________________________________________
  • Solution 3: _________________________________________________

Managing, Keeping, and Tracking Your Appointments

This is the accountability part of your goal setting. When you have identified times that you can get some writing done, mark them on your appointment calendar as actual appointments.

This next portion is crucial…never, ever break your writing appointments!

You don't break them for anyone or anything. A rare emergency might qualify, especially if your appendix is about to burst, but for anything other than a true emergency, do not break that appointment.

Would you break an appointment with a medical specialist, especially if it took months to arrange? You would not.

Do not break an appointment with yourself. As soon as you see these appointments as optional, so will everyone else.

By making these appointments you can reply with candor, "I'm sorry, I can't (join you for coffee, become PTA president, watch your children, be the den mother) I have an appointment that I simply cannot break at that time.

Unless you make your writing a priority, you will never get it done. Once you make it a priority, make sure to hold yourself accountable to it, review your writing goals and appointments and see how you're doing.



Secrets to Speedwriting Success

Secrets to Speedwriting Success

· Researching

· Editing

· Peer Review

· When is a Project Done?

Researching We've already touched on the topic of researching for your writing. In many cases you really do have to research, extensively and ahead of time.

However, just because you've gotten in the habit of researching extensively before you start writing doesn't mean you must do it this way every time.

Try this the next time you have a writing assignment. Brainstorm and write as much as you can about your assignment before doing any research at all. When you get to a point in your draft that you know you have to research material do not stop writing! Simply put a note in the draft, "Research the migration of Polynesians to Hawaii" and keep on writing.

You see, one of the keys to Speedwriting is to keep your momentum going. People who exercise can attest to this. The hardest part about an exercise routine is getting started. Once you've started, as long as you keep going, you're more likely to complete the entire routine.

Once you allow yourself to stop, for whatever reason, you have to begin again! And that means you have to do the hardest part all over again in the same session. The more times you make yourself begin again, the greater your resistance will be the next time you sit down to write.

When you research, do nothing but research and take notes (remember to use keywords). Don't try to mix researching and writing. You will become completely overwhelmed, your brain will begin to resist because it thinks it is too difficult, and in truth, it is.

It has been proven that the human brain cannot multi-task the way we'd like to think we can. What really ends up happening is that we can give only a portion of our attention to one task and a portion of our attention another task, but without giving each task our undivided attention, we are doing a half-baked job of both.

When you are researching…research!

When you are writing…WRITE!


Before you edit, be sure that you are done with a draft. There are people who actually call their first draft their "zero draft".

By calling it a zero draft they take all pressure of themselves to try to make it perfect. A zero draft can even be just all your research notes and freewriting pages all piled together. The idea is to get your material written, as quickly as you can, and the only way to do that is to write when you are writing.

After you have something written, it is time to EDIT.

The beauty of editing is that it means the pressure to create material is over! You've written all you have to say about your topic, and now you need to make sure it makes sense, answers all your readers' questions, and handles any objections or arguments they may make.

As an editor, your job is quite different from that of a writer. Here are some suggestions to use when you are editing your work:

  • Work on one section at a time. Don't sit down to edit the entire book, dissertation, paper at one time.
  • Check your work against your outline. It may have changed as you wrote. It's fine if it did. You still have to make sure it still makes sense.
  • For sections that are unclear, write a brief outline of the section and check for clarity in the outline. If it is unclear in the outline, it will be unclear to your reader.
  • Read your work out loud. When we edit our own work, our brains like to insert words where none exist because we know the material so well. By bringing in another sense, that of "hearing", we evaluate our work in a different way. You will hear garbage, you will hear when you use too many adverbs or adjectives, and you will hear when you are uncertain.
  • Read a completed and edited chapter or section as many times as it takes to find all your errors.
  • Put your work away for a day or two before returning to edit. A short holiday helps you to see errors more clearly.
  • Don't be afraid to rewrite. Some of the best writers in the world rewrite their opening and closing lines multiple times.
  • Remember to write your introductions and conclusions after you have written the body of your work.

This brings us to the next stage of editing. Opening yourself up to the critique and criticism of another person.

Peer Review

In order to give your work a final polish, you need to have another set of eyes on your work. In fact, you may want to have several people read your work. Tell them exactly what you want. If you only want praise, they'll give it to you. However, if you're looking to publish, you want a good and honest critique.

Have them support their critique. If it is "unclear" ask them where it is unclear. If it rambles, have them show you where.

They're probably right. You need to don your armor because this phase can be painful, but it is a lot less painful than having your work rejected from a larger audience for the very same problems. Read review of books on Amazon. There are some very harsh critics on there, and they are often correct. By keeping the problems with your draft or manuscript contained in a more private setting allows you to address the problems before the general public gets a chance at it.

When is a Project Done?

We can write for the next twenty years and still never have our work reach the stage of perfection. At a point, it has to be deemed "good enough" and you have to move on.

It would seem that there is a bit of a perfectionist inside each one of us, and that perfectionist will hold your manuscript/dissertation hostage forever if you allow it. Remember, the best manuscript is one that is finished.

If you have to, set a goal for "completing" your book/dissertation. Far too many people get within sight of the finish line and for some reason just stop. Perhaps they are afraid of failure. More likely, they're afraid of success. Or, they can't imagine a life without their "baby", their writing project that has been a constant companion for such an extended period of time.

No one but you can determine when your project is done. The idea behind Speedwriting, however, is to get a project done as quickly as possible so that you can move on, perhaps to another writing project, or move on back to the life you left when you decided to start your project.

Find a way to finish it, get it published or submitted and then move on. Life continues, so should you.

Good luck with your Speedwriting project!