How do you become an excellent writer?

You become an excellent writer the same way you become a top-athlete. Start with a vision of becoming the person (writer, student, gold medal figure skater, etc) you want to be.  Believe in yourself, set SMART writing goals that will help you reach your vision. Persist with the actions that will make you achieve your goals and make your dreams happen.

Setting writing goals is crucial to your success.  They inspire you to do the writing you must do to be a successful writer or high-achieving student.  They motivate you to write more and learn more about the craft of writing. However, to succeed at writing, you need the right types of goals: goals for completing writing projects and goals for advancing your talent.

How do you create those writing goals?  You write specific, measurable, achievable +, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals in 2 areas: writing projects and writing talents.  When you set goals in both areas (and act upon them) you’ll transform your writing. 


How to Create Super SMART Writing Goals


Step 1: Start with a Vision

Imagine who you will be in 5 years.  What do you dream of being? Do you want to be a professor, teacher, best-selling author, journalist, entrepreneur, blogger, or any other professional?  Where do you want to live?  Who do you want in your life? Next, imagine where you want to be, who you want to be, and what you want to be doing a year from now.

Write your  5-year vision and place it somewhere you will see it.  Then add your vision for where you will be a year from now.  Read these every day.   Don’t skip writing your vision/or dream because it is how you will determine the goals you must achieve to make it a reality. 

Next, create 2 types of writing goals: 1) Writing Project Goals and 2) Advancing Your Talent Goals 


Step 2:  Create SMART Writing Project Goals for the Year


Writing Project Goals focus on something you need to complete so that you can reach your vision.  When coming up with these goals focus on your 1-year vision.


Take that vision and select writing projects that will help you realize it.  A project could be something you write such as a book, thesis, blog, or collection of poems.  It can also be a deadline for something you need to do such as take an exam like the SAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, etc.


Your writing goals should be SMART? No, I don’t mean “A +” smart. SMART is an acronym for the 5 characteristics all good goals should have: they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.


S = Specific –Effective goals have a narrow focus. They are specific and describe what you want to achieve.  They are not vague or general.  For example, “I will write a non-fiction book” as opposed to “I will write more


M=Measurable—This aspect of a SMART goal provides a way to assess/evaluate how much of your goal you achieved. Usually, you will have a goal with a specific number of something. “I will write a non-fiction book.” Here you will see that I need to write one non-fiction book. I can tell if I’ve met my goal, exceeded it, or missed it.


A=Achievable/ Achievable +—A goal is achievable if you can see yourself reaching it in a certain amount of time. However, I recommend writing goals above what you think you can achieve (Achievable +).  Bigger goals motivate you more and make you work harder.  Take what seems within your reach and double it.  Instead of “I will write a 5-page essay by the end of the month,” say, “I will write two 5-page essays by the end of the month.”


R=Relevant— A goal needs to be related to the overall purpose of what you want to achieve for your life. Go back to the self-vision you wrote.  What goals will help you make your vision for the future a reality?  If your vision is to become a straight-A student, and you know you need to be a better writer, the goal, “I will write two 5-7 page papers by the end of the month” will help you reach your vision. If your vision is to be a best-selling non-fiction author, the goal: I will write and publish a book, will make that dream happen.


T=Time-bound—This aspect of a goal is where you include a deadline.  It’s nice to have a goal of writing a book—but when will you reach it? In three months, six months, or by the end of the year? To make a goal time-bound, write a deadline (Month, Day, and Year).   For example,   “I will write and publish a non-fiction book by September 31st, 2021.”


Here are 2 examples of SMART  Writing Project Goals

Goal #1 I will write a scholarship essay for The Delete Cyberbullying Scholarship Award by June 1st, 2021. As you can see this is a SMART Goal because it’s specific (name of the scholarship essay), measurable (write one essay) achievable (actually this is achievable + because you are writing it several days before the scholarship deadline), relevant (if you want to afford college) and time-bound ( the deadline is June 1st).


Goal #2 I will write one 20-page research paper that earns an A for my history class by April 30th, 2021. Again, this goal is specific (what the paper is for and the name of the class), measurable (it’s a 20-page research paper), achievable + (the paper will earn an A grade), relevant (if you want to be a high-achieving student) and time-bound (the deadline is April 3Oth). 


Write your SMART writing project goals for the year on a piece of paper, in a planner, on a computer, or any other place that is visible. Make sure you can read your goals regularly. 


Step 3:  Create Advancing Talent Goals for the Year

An Advancing Talent Goal is where you focus on an area of writing you feel needs improvement.  For example, I have a draft of a mystery novel I wrote, but my action scenes are boring.  So, the skill or area I want to advance is writing action scenes.  Assess your talents or skills. Brainstorm what you think you need to advance in your writing to achieve your writing vision. 


How do you find writing skills you want to improve? Look at the types of comments and feedback you receive from others.  Review your own work.  Are there parts of writing you get stuck on?  These are all things you can select to advance your talents goals. Another way to find a weakness is to analyze the mistakes Grammarly or other grammar checker finds. The most common things Grammarly spots in my writing are “comma” mistakes and hard to read wordy sentences.  In my blog post,  I identify some of the common mistakes in academic writing.  Check it out for more ideas about the aspects of writing you need to improve. 


List 4 things you want to improve and choose 1 you want to focus on for the next 90 days. Again, write this as a SMART Goal.  Here’s an example: If the skill you want to improve is paraphrasing research, your goal could be: I will study and practice paraphrasing so that I can use it correctly in my history research paper due April 15th, 2021.  This advancing talent skill is SMART because it is specific (the skill of paraphrasing) measurable, (use it correctly in a research paper), achievable + (it’s a challenging skill for many students), relevant (it’s an important skill for academic writing), and time-bound (the deadline is April 15th, 2021). 


The key to advancing any writing area is not only practicing that skill but having someone else read your writing and assess it.   I recommend someone knowledgeable, a teacher, tutor, peer writer, or professor. These people can coach you to write better. 


Writing Goals and Persistent Action

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso 


Writing goals are a crucial part of what it takes to become an excellent writer in any field.  You need to know what you’re striving for and what you want to accomplish.  However, success in writing requires more than finishing a book, thesis, dissertation, etc.—it requires practice and dedication to the craft. 


Creating Writing Project Goals and Advancing Writing Talent Goals is half of the equation. If you want to realize and live your vision, you must take action and focus on SMART writing goals consistently.


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