Goals–announce or not?

NaNoWriMo_Crest“Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh”

– David Milch

Despite this fundamental truth, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. For those who aren’t familiar, here’s the description from the www.nanowrimo.org “About” page:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Studies have shown that announcing goals or resolutions isn’t always a good idea. Apparently, some people get warm fuzzies from just from announcing the goal, and that this becomes a substitute for actually doing the work.

There are those who sign up for NaNoWriMo and never post a word count.

However, the articles I read also say that if one treats the announcement of a goal as a commitment rather than an achievement in itself, the increased accountability can help. Here are links if you’d like to read more: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/psysociety/should-you-tell-facebook-about-your-resolutions/ and http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/announcing-plans-may-kill-motivation-productivity/

What these articles don’t address is a factor that I think is very important: how people in your circle react to your announcement. Part of the fun of NaNoWriMo is the generally supportive environment on the website and the message boards.

On the other hand, announcing that you’re planning to write your first book can backfire if clueless or negative people in your life will chivvy you about when your first bestseller is going to come out. The same thing can happen with setting goals of any sort—it’s good to share them with people who will be supportive and also won’t treat you as a failure if you don’t reach your goal.

In my case, I’m not worried about the support team issue. It’s been about 15 years since I started writing and by now I know who’s got my back. The others just don’t matter any more. I do NaNoWriMo because it’s fun and suits my writing process.

NaNoWriMo_ProgressSeveral times in the past I’ve made it past the 50,000 mark. This time, my personal goal is just to get back into the groove of writing again and continue to make progress on the novella I started during my recent writer’s retreat. I’m managing about half an hour to an hour every day and the progress is very slow but steady. I certainly won’t “win” in the sense of achieving 50,000 words, but if all goes well, I may finish the rough draft of the novella. With the original 6,000 words, I am about one third to one half done!

How about you? Do you like announcing goals and do you find it helps? Do you enjoy tracking progress and how?


About Elena Greene

Elena Greene grew up reading anything she could lay her hands on, including her mother's Georgette Heyer novels. She also enjoyed writing but decided to pursue a more practical career in software engineering. Fate intervened when she was sent on a three year international assignment to England, where she was inspired to start writing romances set in the Regency. Her books have won the National Readers' Choice Award, the Desert Rose Golden Quill and the Colorado Romance Writers' Award of Excellence. Her Super Regency, LADY DEARING'S MASQUERADE, won RT Book Club's award for Best Regency Romance of 2005 and made the Kindle Top 100 list in 2011. When not writing, Elena enjoys swimming, cooking, meditation, playing the piano, volunteer work and craft projects. She lives in upstate New York with her two daughters and more yarn, wire and beads than she would like to admit.
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6 Responses to Goals–announce or not?

  1. Susan_in_AZ says:

    Oh, Elena! May you have many happy hours of serenity, punctuated by a daily dose of “OMG! How brilliant THAT would be in the story!”

  2. Elena, I hope NaNoWriMo will go brilliantly for you! *cheering you on*

    I tried NaNo in 2013, and it was a complete disaster: After only a week, I was ready to break down and cry. Perhaps that shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise given that I haven’t dealt very well with deadlines in recent years. *rolls eyes at self* However, in order to get back into the writing groove, I started tracking my word count a couple of days ago, & I realized this is something that really helps me & that gives me some sense of achievement – even if I manage only 300 words a day. After all, that’s 300 more than no words at all.

    As to announcing goals or plans: Nope, I won’t do that again because whenever I do that, life hits me over the head and stomps my goals to dust. And then I feel even worse because I’ve already announced my great plans, but won’t be able to meet them. For me, that’s a truly excellent way to make myself feel like a complete loser.

    • Elena Greene says:

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Sandy!

      I have another friend who tried NaNoWriMo and quickly abandoned it. I know it doesn’t work well for some writers and that’s fine. We have to take care of our creativity. Sometimes I think about it as if I were the manager and had an extremely valuable, creative but sensitive employee, and then “manage” myself accordingly.

      I do love tracking wordcount. It may sound counter-intuitive, but quality happens for me only after I’ve produced some quantity.

  3. Huzzah, Elena ! Go get ’em!

    Na No is definitely a two-edged sword. I love the support and the encouragement, but when I don’t make my word count it can be a bit discouraging. I am working to write consistently every day and to add to my word count each day. And I prefer to keep my goals to myself and to a few whipcracking writing friends of mine.

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