Are Your Reading and Writing Goals Holding You Back?

Are you setting new reading and writing goals for the new year? As January pushes forward, it can seem like the pressure is on to achieve new things. After all, there are only 357 (leap year, yeah!) days left in the year and there is so much to accomplish.

Planning goals for the next 12 month can be a great practice. When you’re a writer and an avid reader, thoughts turn to goals in those areas. It’s a great time to think about what writing projects you want to tackle and how many books you want to try to read (or what kind). But are those goals encouraging or restraining?

I’m all for goals. I have plans to finish my book, continue to improve my blog, and read at least 60 books. I’ve broken down those large goals into smaller chunks, as experts recommend, and am using my planner to set smaller tasks that should lead to the accomplishment of the finished mystery novel, successful blog, and pored-over pile of books. But breaking big dreams down into small tasks can sometimes make the days ahead feel like a slog toward some big, disembodied dream. Yes, it’s important to narrow dreams into tasks so that you can accomplish big things. But I have to wonder, does having a goal of finishing two books a week take all the joy out of reading? Does it start to feel like a relentless march that leads to something that is abstract to the point of being nonsensical?

I’m not arguing against goals and planning and chunks and tasks. They have their place. But I thinks it’s important to not lose the forest for the trees. We as writers can focus so much on putting out pages that we lose the big picture and end up with a collection of words that don’t pull together into a cohesive work. As readers, it’s easy to become attached to a list of the types of books you want to read or the quantity of books you want to finish. There is validity to this type of goal-setting, but not at the expense of the joy of losing yourself in a novel for hours. The weight of constant tasks can be overwhelming for some, as much as they are encouraging for others.

I thinks it’s all about balance. This year I’m trying a new approach. I’m setting goals (finish that novel!) and breaking them down into smaller tasks.(Pages make chapters, chapters make books) But I’m also trying to take joy in each task, keeping in mind how they fit in with my bigger dreams. I picture the potential cover for my published mystery while working out the suspects who appear in each chapter. I read books that fit some general criteria (upcoming books to review, some mysteries, a little non-fiction, Christian fiction, and some romance novels for flavor), while staying open to other books that show up on my radar. Being excited about what you’re doing is as important to productivity as churning out chapters (written or read).

How do you view annual goals? Are they encouraging or confining? Does breaking down a dream into small tasks feel helpful or like drudgery? Comment below and share your thoughts.

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