What are your writing goals?

If you’ve ever worked with me, you’ve undoubtedly heard this question already. It’s the first thing I want to know when we meet.

I ask, because unless you know why you’re writing, your writing will be shapeless and misdirected. If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you possibly hope to reach a final destination?

When I began writing, I used the spaghetti method. Throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. So I’d write an article about domestic violence then one about yoga and maybe then take an editing job in the sciences. Sure, all these individual things interested me, but they didn’t fit into a bigger picture. That meant I wasn’t making the kind of progress I wanted to make.

When you have clear goals, you have a blueprint that guides you in deciding what to write, where to submit and what to pitch. You begin to establish yourself in a niche.

Won’t choosing a niche pen me into a corner?

No. It won’t. When you have a set of core writing topics, you help editors and clients understand who you are and what you do. Plus, you develop your expertise and trust. The niche is the starting point from which we continue writing and growing. The key is to do so strategically.

As an example, my goals are to find clients and also create an audience for the pregnancy and parenting book I’m writing. Thus, I write about parenting, pregnancy, location independence and writing how-tos from organization to technique. I pitch my articles to publication outlets that have an overlapping audience.

While I don’t want to write about only these topics, I can branch out from these areas as I find new audiences and potential markets. (A mind mapping tool is a great way to brainstorm for new but connected topics.)

In order to keep me on track, I build a simple business plan called an OGSM.

What’s this OGSM?

OGSM stands for Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures. It began in the 1950s as a business tool for car manufacturers but adapts beautifully for writers and other artists who want to create clear goals and then break down that plan into manageable steps.

How does it work?

First, you define your objective. How can you sum all your writing goals in one clear sentence? Then you break things down from there.

Here is my business OGSM :

Notice, I not only include the elements of what I’d like to achieve in my writing career but also the amount of money I’d like to make and by when. These are the benchmarks that keep me on target for my goals. My methods help me complete the strategies which in turn lead to filling my goals. When I reach my goals, I have achieved my objective. Done.

Ok, so it’s not quite that easy. Obviously, I have to do the day-to-day work first. I need to write, find and work with clients, publish articles and continue blogging. I also have social media. It’s a lot to do, which is exactly why I’m glad to have such a simple document that guides it all.

What happens when plans change?

If you’re anything like me, you tend to be distracted by shiny new things. You find a new creative endeavor and want to run with it. An OGSM reminds you that if something doesn’t serve your current goals, it goes on the back burner.

Of course, you don’t have to say no to every new thing that comes your way. It simply means you need to think twice before taking on something new. You want to make sure it fits into your overall plans. Sometimes, that requires you to tweak your objectives and goals a bit. If so, you go back to your OGSM and modify until it fits where you want to go.

I suggest checking your strategy at the beginning of every month to keep you on track and allow you to make room for new ventures and ideas.

I have a personal OGSM, too.

Why? Because it’s really easy to forget that life isn’t just about business. Just as I set clear boundaries around my work life, I do so for my personal life. Maybe that sounds overly structured, but I do it, because I can be overly focused on work. I need that little nudge to remind me it’s time to stop working and go for a walk, have a glass of wine and spend time with my family.