Friday, December 2, 2022

Goal-Setting for Authors and Why It Matters

by A.C. Williams @ACW_Author

Authors have all sorts of goals. Have you noticed that? We want to write an impossible number of books and articles. We want to reach massive numbers of people with our social media and email platforms. We want to achieve great success in our speaking and teaching. And we want to have healthy families, healthy minds and bodies, and still have enough energy left to decorate our homes, prepare beautiful meals, travel the world, and spend extra moments in coffee shops sipping lattes.

Let’s be honest now. Do you know anyone (author or not) who accomplished all of that in 2022? I don’t.

Setting realistic goals has always been a challenge for me. I’m usually too optimistic about how many projects I can actually accomplish in a given time span. I used to think that goal setting was something you could just sit down and do. Decide what you want to accomplish in a year and do it. But as I’ve gotten older and busier, there’s more to do and it seems like less time to get it done, and before you know it, you’ve got a goal list that’s longer than you are and no chance of getting it all done in the time you allotted.

I’ve come to believe that setting realistic goals is a process, and it’s different for everyone. We each have to learn where our boundaries are, and that’s not just something you grab out of thin air. It takes trial and error and grace. So much grace, not just for the people around you but for yourself as well. 

It’s different from year to year too. You aren’t the same person in December that you were in January. Your boundaries aren’t the same either. So you’ve got to adjust before the next year arrives, otherwise you’ll be doomed to repeat the same mistakes you made this year. We need to learn from our choices, whether they had good results or bad ones. 

In the process of learning how to set goals, I’ve learned the best yearly plans have little to do with a task list and everything to do with my personal resilience. 

Before you set any goals, you must look back at your year and ask what worked and what didn’t. And be honest about it. Because not everything worked. Some of the things you thought were essential weren’t essential at all. Some of the things you thought didn’t matter became your priority. How did you handle that mindset shift? Because if there’s one thing that stays the same in goal setting from year to year, it’s that nothing you expect will happen exactly the way you expect it. 

Having a plan is great, but it’s more important to be able to bounce back and stay on target when life doesn’t go to plan.

Can you bounce back from the unexpected? Have you planned margin and extra space into your life to accommodate the unexpected? It’s one thing to make a detailed plan for your week; it’s something else to still be able to accomplish your important goals after your week spontaneously combusts.

So how do you plan for unexpected things? How do you plan for your plans to go wrong? How can you adjust your life to accommodate for illness or inflation or soaring gas and grocery prices? If you’re on deadline, how do you maintain your pace and take care of a sick family member? If you have to move houses suddenly, how do you protect your creative energy?

None of those questions have easy answers, and none of those answers are the same. But they do share one common concept, and that is individual mental and emotional health. 

You’ve got to know your boundaries. You’ve got to know where your lines are drawn, and you’ve got to choose to protect those parts of your life. If your mental or emotional health is suffering, you can’t make wise decisions. You can’t bounce back. And you’ll focus on accomplishing things that don’t really matter.

So before you sit down to set your goals for next year, think about this year. Think about what went wrong, and think about how you handled it. That’s not to make yourself feel guilt or shame over how poorly you did. This needs to be an honest assessment of your soul, your mind, your choices, and your results.

Do you want to repeat this year? Or are there some things you want to change? Decide now, because those elements won’t change just because you want them to. Change takes effort. 

If you need an outside perspective, sit down with a friend and go over your year together. It often helps to have another pair of eyes that can keep you honest. 

Yes, make smart goals. Yes, invest in a planning system that works for you. But more than anything, beyond what you want to accomplish next year, understand why it matters and be ready to adjust your plans when they don’t go the way you expect. 

In the end, the plan isn’t the point.


Award-winning author, A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at

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