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How To Turn Those Writing Dreams Into Goals & Action Plans

writing goalsOver at the 5 Buck Forum we’ve been kicking around what our dreams are for our writing.

With a couple of exceptions, the dreams aren’t too surprising.

Make a living at writing is probably top, followed by make a better living.

More than one person admitted to having a yen to writing novels and getting them sold.


A book of poetry showed up a couple of times.

Residual income was mentioned, as were ebooks, self-publishing and trade publishing.

Every one of these dreams is a worthy one. Unfortunately many of them will never be realize, for one of two reasons.

The dreams aren’t really important

In some cases they will go unrealized because they truly aren’t very important to the person dreaming. That’s totally okay, as long as you recognize and accept that.

It’s kind of like back in the day when I would tell people I planned to go back to college. At some point I realized I really didn’t want to complete a formal education; I was only saying I would because I thought I should. Recognizing I really wasn’t going to go back to college to get a degree actually freed me up to pursue all sorts of education in an informal manner that works for me.

Another example: several weeks ago I finally recognized that I don’t want to write a mystery novel, I want to have written one. That’s a huge and important distinction. I suspect it was accepting that I don’t want to write a mystery novel after all actually freed up energy to begin a book of Zen-type poetry called gathas.

The dreams aren’t backed up by goals and action plans

Many of our dreams go unrealized however because we never set up goals and action plans.


In my experience, if you don’t have goals and action plans you won’t get where you want to go.

Goals, including writing goals, can be thought of as a self-generated road map that helps us see where we want to go and let’s us measure our progress or lack of it along the way.

An action plan is simply our plan for getting there.

Note that plans change along the way – they should. We are resourceful and flexible creatures and when operating well, respond to our life in wonderfully creative ways.

How to turn a dream into a goal

Goal setting isn’t difficult really.  Take a single dream, like make a living writing,or write a novel

Define what you mean by it. If it’s making a living, how much do you actually want to earn; if it’s a novel, open a file and at least begin, then set a date you want it completed by, or describe the novel you want to write.

In other words, name the goal, define it and determine the date you want to accomplish it by.

Create an action plan

Obviously to get from here to accomplishing your goal lots of stuff has to happen. The place to map out all that stuff is your Action Plan.

An Action Plan is a listing of the steps you need, or think you need, to take to accomplish the goal.

I start such a plan with a list of items. For example, when Lori and I agreed to create the 5 Buck Forum the initial action list looked like this:

get a domain name
set up a blog
decide on a price
set up the membership plug in
set up the forum plug in
design a banner
start an interest list
develop a written agreement between us

You probably can’t tell, but this isn’t in the order it actually happened and in this example I’m not showing the dates. The Word file, and now shared Google Document files are a table with two or three columns. The first column is the task and the right most column is the date the task is accomplished.

Initially the list grew and grew and had several sub-goals within it. Gradually as we chipped away at it, sometimes with as little as 10 minutes a day, we got it done. Now we’ve got expansion plans and a whole new set of action plans.

Know your plan and even your goal will change

As important as it is to set goals and action plans to realize your dreams, it’s critical that as your work toward them your plan and maybe even your goals will change. The goal and the plan are meant to be useful tools, not tyrants you create for yourself. You’ll meet some of your deadlines and miss others, both of which will inform you about your process.

It’s been said by others that a rocket ship to the moon is off course something close to 99 percent of the time – it’s the constant correction that allows it to land on target. It’s the same with our dreams, goals and action plans.

Go easy with yourself; increase your odds by turning at least some of your writing dreams into goals.

What writing dream will you turn into a goal and an action plan?

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Thanks for your post Anne,

    I didn’t only want to write something (that I could sell online),
    to have written something,

    ‘I also actually already done it’

    Because I was just curious about if something like that was possible,
    and I was motivated by my curiousity.

    I was facinated by a possiblitity that people (other that family) would actually buy something I wrote. And it actually worked and I even got a little positive feedback by email from actual readers. While promoting this little eBook on a Blog and Blogging about it I discovered how with doing Affiliate Marketing you could also (pre) sell other peoples products. Currently the whole Blogging and writing (Book) Reviews became the thing I enjoy more than actually writing books.

    To have written a Mystery Novel (Sequel) isn’t the first thing on my mind although I do already have a file with some ideas for it, and you never know if I will ever develope an interest in working on such big long term projects.

    ‘I might do that when my Blogs
    start making enough money’ 🙂

    HP van Duuren recently posted..What Do You Think About My Book Review?My Profile

  • Great post, plus I got to learn something new, the definition of gatha. Back to the original topic, I think that getting clarity on what one really wants is huge–like you realizing you want to have written a novel rather than actually writing one. And clarity is exactly what you get when you write out your goals and plans.
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..Book Review: You Have No IdeaMy Profile

    • Isn’t it amazing how much writing helps clarity? At least it sure does for me.

  • Love the distinction between ‘writing’ and ‘having written’ a novel, Anne – that really spoke to me. It’s about being honest with yourself about what you really plan to do and setting out the mechanisms for making those plans reality.
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted..Outsourcing: Friend or Foe?My Profile

    • Yep. You’ve got it – and I’m not even a bit surprised. 😉

  • Hi Anne,

    Got here from the forum 😉

    Anyway, I just want to know….what is a gatha?

    Terri

  • This is fabulous, Anne! I especially like your distinction between actually writing a mystery novel versus having written one. 🙂 Like I always say, the great things about plans is you can always change them.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..3 Business Blog Tips Stolen From Your May GardenMy Profile

    • Cathy… I was surprised when I realized I didn’t really want to write a novel, just to have written one… was also relived… it’s a heck of a lot of work.

  • If ideas could be turned into books instantly, I’d have at least 4 written by now! LOL
    I’m slowly working on my first one, while spreading the word about it and trying to find relevant markets.
    I like the rocket ship simile — this is exactly how I feel about my plan of action. Flexibility is being alive.
    WritersWritingWords (Eleni) recently posted..Ultimate Blog Challenge: Bloggers & BlogsMy Profile

    • 😉 a book can actually be written in ten or fifteen minutes a day. “Flexibility is being alive.” sounds like a great slogan to me.

  • Good post, Anne. I have a friend who always says, ‘Should isn’t in my vocabulary.’ I always wanted to smack him for saying that (invariably after I’d say, ‘Y’know, I should…’). But now I see that he was right.

    I’m one of those ‘I’m gonna write a novel one o’these days’ people. I don’t know exactly what pretending I’m gonna do that does for me. Truth is that like your gathas, I found out that writing songs is ten times the writing kick that fiction is and who knows if I’ll ever get back into it. And who cares?

    This post is a nice, simple ‘how to’ for turning dreams into goals. Thanks!

    • Greg, I doubt your friend is right… you are, after all the expert on your own life… songs and gathas instead of novels sounds exactly right to me… and the next time my friend says ‘I’m waiting for your book’ maybe I’ll write a gatha for her about it.

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