Updated: Jun 6
How I turned my dream of writing a book into an empowering goal
I had a dream of becoming a writer. This dream started in the autumn of 2017 when I felt the urge to write a love story. I was obsessed with it. Any chance I got during breaks or independent study, I'd spend writing. There were several times I'd even work on it while the teachers were lecturing. This went on for about a month before I abruptly stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved everything about that story, but I was done writing it for the time being and began focusing on other ideas.
However, four years passed and I didn’t complete a single story. In fact, only one of the dozens of ideas I had actually got to the writing phase, and that was because I had been egged on by my friend. Most of the time, I couldn’t progress the story past its main premise, and when I did, I couldn’t get past creating characters or some vague storyline. I had essentially wasted my time in high school, and was about to be pushed into adulthood unprepared. It was around this time that changes in my life were a frequent occurrence, and I decided to change my approach to writing. I started by questioning why I was unable to fulfill my dream.
Is it because I no longer have the same passion for writing? No, I still love the process of creating a world and its characters and the idea of that world coming to life. Is it because I don’t plan my stories well enough? Not planning the story was the main reason I stopped that first love story. Okay, I’ll plan everything before I start writing. Is it because I’m trying to condense the story into as few chapters as possible? Condensing the story makes it so much less interesting and doesn’t leave room for characters and worldbuilding to reach their highest potential. Okay, I’ll write as many chapters as I need. Is it because I keep getting distracted by other stories that I want to write? That seems like a pretty good reason. Okay, I’ll commit myself to only one story.
On top of these writing changes, I was moving out of my father’s house and had gotten a job. I was ready to start a new chapter of my life, no pun intended. But in all seriousness, I saw myself as finally being mature and becoming an adult. I wasn’t even scared about failing to make progress. In fact, I was fully confident. I read somewhere that working two jobs while writing kills creativity. With that criteria, it seemed like I should be fine. I was only working one job and I’m a very creative person. What I had failed to realize was that working a job for the first time in my life while trying to piece together a world with very little progress to begin with obliterated any drive I had to write. Every day, I would come home from work absolutely tired. I couldn’t work on my story effectively. The most I could do at any given moment was write down something extremely minor, and even then, that was a rare occurrence. The worst part of it all was that this had carried on for over a year. Now, I had wasted five years of my life. That’s almost a quarter of my lifespan.
At the time, however, I felt like I was making good progress. I at least knew where the story was going to go and who the main characters were. But compared to “planning everything before I start writing,” I was nowhere close, and didn’t know it nor cared. I was under the impression that I’d get to writing at some point in my life. I wasn’t worried when I should’ve been. So what was I to do? Carry on for another year, trapped in my own little world completely cut off from reality? It seemed like that was going to happen, and it would’ve if my father hadn’t reached out to me.
Standard Goal Setting
My father told me about his business where clients complete a variety of exercises with personal growth in mind. Now, I admit that I was skeptical at first, but as I completed more and more exercises, I began to see their value. My favorite types of exercises are the ones centered around setting and completing a goal. After all, they’re the reason why I’m still writing today. However, I did have my fair share of difficulties in the beginning.
The first goal I set was to write a book someday. When I told my father, he stated it was nothing more than a dream since it lacked a deadline. Looking back on my first attempts at goals, it’s easy to see how uncommitted I was. I knew I needed multiple installments, but I never thought about setting a goal for the entire series. I now know setting a grand goal like a novel series doesn’t work for me, but it’s strange that I didn’t consider it. The reason could be that an individual book is shorter, easier, and I wouldn’t be as disappointed if I didn’t complete it. Another reason could be I didn’t want to share my writing. When I talked with my father, he pointed out how secretive it felt, and I couldn't agree more. Even before I set any goals, I didn’t want anyone to read my work. And somewhere along the way, I must’ve concluded that there was no point in investing so much if no one else would see my hard work, making me fail before I even started. If I had stuck with this belief, I would have a meaningless, unfulfilling goal. Luckily, I didn’t, and wanted to become a novelist.
Now that I was willing to share my writing, I created the vision to write and publish the novel series, but I became concerned with how the world would receive them. Will my characters be intriguing enough? Is my world good enough? Am I a competent enough writer? This would be my first time in front of the world, so I had to make everything perfect. Then I thought of a potential solution: write an initial book before my novel series by the end of the year, become an established author, and gain a reputation. I thought the world would judge me more on my first publication, and have the initial book take all of the heat. At the time, it seemed like a good idea, but when I look back on this, I’m surprised by my thinking. In this “solution,” I had to plan and write a book in less than three months with an average of just over two pages a day and very little breathing room for mistakes. Seeing as how I couldn’t write a hundred pages over the span of five years, it’s not very likely I would’ve been able to do this. Luckily again, I didn’t try to because I realized I could just write the novel series instead. There’s no telling how well the initial book would be received and all the same fears should apply as well.
My 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework
I then talked with my father about my next and current goal, and he introduced me to an improved goal setting method called the 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework. He explained that the five W’s represent categories of questions that serve as the backbone of the exercise, and are centered around the question words what, where, when, who, and why. The capital S stands for the word specific, meaning I had to be precise with my dates, priorities, and numbers. And the word complete stands for a goal that builds upon an initial dream and takes it to a much higher level where all of the desired results are given. I told him I wanted to set a goal to write a novel series, but he stated it was more of a vision since there’s no way to properly track my progress since it was too vague and I wouldn’t know when I would finish. With this knowledge, I set a goal to write the first novel and answered the questions.
What do you want to do? I want to publish the first novel in my series and sell five hundred copies.
Where are you now? I have a very basic structure of the major events in my novel series that are open to change. I have created around half of the main characters. And I don’t know the process for self-publishing. Where would you like to be when you’re finished? I would like my novel to have illustrated scenes scattered throughout and a cover illustrated by the same artist. I would like to publish my novel after my family and friends have reviewed it and I’ve revised it. And I would like to sell a combined total of five hundred copies.
When do you need to start? When do you need to finish? I need to start by January 1, 2023 and finish by December 31, 2027.
Who can you model? Who is an expert? Who can help you? I can model myself after authors who write in a similar style or the same genre as me. Reading books in general can help me learn. I can search the internet for information and grammar. My family and friends can help. And I could talk to published authors and publishers.
Why is this goal important to you? I've spent the last five years amounting to nothing, and I want this passion for writing and English I’ve had since childhood to take me somewhere. Why is this important for others? I hope that my novels can bring people entertainment, new perspectives on life, inspiration, and hope. And I want to donate a portion of my earnings to charities. Why does it need to be done right now? There's no guarantee that my feelings about writing will stay with me in the future. If I don't write these novels now, when will I? I don’t want to have any regrets.
Why I Like the 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework
As you can see, it's pretty thorough and takes everything to the next level. Compared to the previous method where I used SMART Goals, this was a much needed change of pace since every part of the 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework provided something beneficial.
With the what question, I set a complete goal that was grander than anything before it. By setting a complete goal, I was able to keep myself from just writing a book and keeping it to myself. I also didn’t focus on whether or not this goal was possible for me, allowing me to be more honest with myself on what I wanted. If I had, I probably would’ve lost hope and stopped writing entirely. Going by the attainable A in SMART, writing isn’t something I can reasonably do and should give up on my passion.
With the where questions, I had a definition of done that gave me a checklist I could easily follow and helped me discover things I didn’t know I needed. Additionally, I could compare where I was to my definition of done and act accordingly, similar to a map. In SMART Goals, none of these are provided as it only focuses on setting the goal without any way to self-reflect.
With the when questions, I was able to start working because I had a beginning deadline. If I only had the end deadline, I’d most likely procrastinate and fail since I have problems when it comes to wanting to write that are basically a coin flip on motivation. On top of that, I’m a very go-with-the-flow person and needed a push which SMART Goals doesn’t provide.
With the who questions, I learned that I wasn’t alone in my endeavors, and how much easier my goal is when I can talk to a publishing company. I was also able to talk to someone who went through the process of self-publishing, and they were able to show me how to make my goal more realistic. Even just speaking with my father about my goals helped me realize that some of my deadlines were unrealistic and needed to change. If I had stuck with SMART Goals, I wouldn’t have gotten any help since there’s nothing in there that’s related to getting others involved. It feels like it assumes that you’re smart or qualified enough to figure things out on your own.
With the why questions, I was able to refresh my motivation. Before, I wrote solely because I had a passion, then I wanted to write because I thought that was all I could do, and now I write for a multitude of reasons. When I thought of how I could help others, I realized that my goal is beyond just me and I could make a difference. It’s astonishing how much this affected me and how many reasons I have to write, but it’s equally scary how I wouldn’t have any of this if I kept using SMART Goals.
The 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework is undoubtedly a great goal setting method in my eyes, but I have a couple of recommendations for users to make it more useful. The first recommendation is to think about how you’re going to complete a goal after answering the questions. I was fortunately given this advice. If I’d spent the time to think about how I’d actually plan, write, and publish a novel series, I’d think it’d be impossible and would’ve had different answers. Logically, there’d be no way for someone who has no actual experience in writing to be capable of creating a novel series with tens of installments. However, I’m still not going to change my goal. I don’t care how unrealistic my goal may seem or how illogical it may be, it’s now my job to figure out how I’m going to complete it and stay committed.
Another recommendation is setting a deadline and sticking to it unless absolutely necessary. As I’ve already mentioned, I had to change my deadlines a few times. Alternatively, the deadline doesn’t have to change; the workload or method can change. I like the idea of consistently checking whether or not something needs to change since new information can surface. Currently, the only time I’d change a deadline would be if I failed to make the deadline. I think it’s important to feel all of the emotions of failing a deadline, so it reduces the chances of me failing again.
The next recommendation is related to motivation. Now, motivation can come from anywhere, but it’s important that it truly resonates with you and comes from within. Motivation from someone else is different from motivation for someone else. If you ever need help finding some motivation, you can answer the third why question with how you’re going to impact others and why it’s important to you. I have plenty of reasons why I want to write besides personal ones: I want my novels to entertain readers and give them the motivation to change. I’ve experienced a few stories that changed me, made me want to work harder, and gave me the inspiration to make a story just like them. I wouldn’t have this level of motivation if someone told me to become a novelist instead of wanting to do it myself. I’d have no motivation besides pleasing the few people that asked.
The final recommendation I have is about actually completing a goal. Similar to SMART Goals, the 5 W’S Complete Goal Setting Framework doesn’t address how to complete the goal. To me it’s the gateway, the first step. You have to move through it before you can begin your path toward a brighter future. But in order to stay on the path, different help is required. The best exercise for completing a goal is called the Ridiculously Easy Goals which I’ll cover in a separate entry. It’s a simple yet powerful exercise that I love because what we do every day matters and opens the future.