Most authors, like myself, have had grand ambitions about their writing. Let me see if I can guess yours correctly.
You’ve always had long-term ambitions of being published by well-respected publications around the globe, getting your name “out there,” and nailing down some highly valued clients in the process.
Did I guess right?
While I’ve personally milestoned many of these ambitions to date by working for some high-profile search engine optimization (SEO) companies, agencies, and publications in the past and present, I am in no way satisfied by just sitting on my hands or sleeping on a win—I want them all on my resume.
Now who said being ambitious was a crime, eh?
In the famous words of Bill Shankly, ‘’Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.’’
In other words, set your ambitions as high as you can make them. Even if you fail to reach your mark, you’re still bound to succeed.
Having said that, it’s imperative to set short-term goals in order to reach these long-term ones. You can’t run before you walk, so starting off slow and taking small but significant strides toward bigger triumphs should be your main focus.
I prefer to break things down with short-term challenges that could potentially lead to bigger and better opportunities in my writing career.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your writing career. Hard work and patience is key, and short-term goals help you keep track of how close you are to achieving your main objective.
If you have sometimes felt overwhelmed or even disappointed by the lack of progress in your long-term ambitions, you might want to consider my three short-term challenges for writing success. The results might surprise you.
Are you ready?
Let’s nail this together. Come on. I double dare you.
We all like cash don’t we? Moolah. Coin. Bucks. Benjamins. OK, you get the idea!
Your standard of work is extremely important for your income and reputation as a writer. After all, it’s basically a personal advertisement to any clients who may want to hire you.
Never fall behind with deadlines. You don’t want to be leaving a draft until the last hoorah.
You’ll spend more time panicking and looking at the clock rather than focusing on the job at hand, and the quality of your work will suffer. Your reputation will suffer, as will your bank balance—if you make a habit of it.
So give yourself enough time to do the required research for your draft, blog post, product description; whatever it is you’re working on to do the best work you know you’re capable of.
Make absolutely certain your work is of the highest quality before sending it over to any respected clients, publications, agencies, etc.
Do this by proofreading your work. Read it over, and over, and over again until you’re 100% satisfied with what you’ve thrown together.
If you’ve got someone else nearby (or a mentor) who will be all too kind to take a second look at it, ask them to give it a read over to check for any silly grammar errors or to advise you on any other additional suggestions or edits. You could just hire a proofreader, however.
Make sure you put in the effort as well. This is key (being extra careful with your work) in terms of how your short-term challenge will transform into better results in the future. Bigger goals.
To get closer to your long-term targets, you need to produce a good standard of writing … every day (short-term).
If your work is rushed and—well, let’s just say it, not very good—chances are, you’re not going to get published by the big boy publications any time soon.
Stay on track with your deadlines and hotfoot to the finish line, and you’re guaranteed to get better results in no time.
A writing marathon, about the only marathon I could finish, so to speak. Last time I ran an actual marathon, I almost stopped to phone a cab a quarter of the way through. Ha! So, let’s not get muddled up here—this is a writing marathon, obviously.
The 3,000-word (minimum) marathon, to be precise.
Challenge yourself to write at least 3,000 words a week. This way, you will get a significant amount of content out there before your weekend festivities begin. Plus, you’ll continue to evolve as a writer as you become more and more consistent with this practice.
I work mostly with writing SEO content, blog posts, normal web content, and resumes, which take up most or all of my word count, per week.
If I’m short of my 3,000-word target, I tend to make up the extra numbers by updating my blog or website.
Let’s say you’ve managed to churn out 2,200 words. Why not write a blog post to make up the extra 800 words?
Perhaps you’re writing a novel in your spare time? Write out a page or two. Now, you’re a day closer than before to becoming a published best-selling author.
Hell, you could even just make up the numbers by writing out an agenda for your next week’s timetable, coming up with objectives, or firing out a few more pitches. That works, too!
Whatever you do, just make sure to execute your game plan, like clockwork. 3,000 words.
Once you have this solid routine set in stone, you will begin to improve vastly as a writer.
Your grammar will improve; your “writing voice” will become more articulate; clients will begin to beat down your door and greater opportunities will present themselves.
You’ll also become a more disciplined writer by being on top of your assignments and potentially even ahead of your writing schedule. A true professional.
Once you feel the challenge isn’t much of a grind anymore, then well done. You’re making lots of ground, and no doubt improving as a writer. Now you can up your game to 4,000 words, and so on.
Keep challenging yourself. Never plateau. Never stagnate. Keep progressing.
My work schedule is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days per week, Monday to Friday. It’s dinner time and I’m on a roll, but … my workday is over.
“Argh! I’m writing like a madman, possessed. Should I continue to write on?” I’d anxiously ask myself as I fight the urge to continue.
But, let me tell you why you shouldn’t continue to bang out another 500 words right then and there and neglect your work schedule:
You may start to ramble on and make no sense, without actually really noticing the mistakes you’re making until the following day.
This is more of a mental challenge. I found this out the hard way years ago (I was inexperienced and less disciplined then).
When I’d gotten back to my piece and read over it again, I often found I wasn’t happy with what I’d written down … at all. Complete gibberish.
“Sweet Jesus, what in the world was I rambling on about here?” I’d think to myself as I quickly pressed “delete” on the keyboard, erasing all evidence of my horrendous scribblings.
Is it possible you might produce something good while working overtime? Of course it is, but let’s face it, the odds are heavily stacked against you. Writers are less productive—and less likely to realize it—when we’re tired.
So, if there’s a sentence you need to finish off, by all means, finish it off. Fifty words away from the 3,000-word marathon finish line? Cross it. But, proceeding beyond this—just stop.
As a writer, you should have smaller short-term personal targets that lead toward your long-term objective.
Your short-term goals should be the groundwork for what you want to achieve as a writer in the long-term. Keep progressing as if your life depends on it—your career just might.
Never cut corners, keep disciplined, and never come to a standstill. Keep learning. Get better. Keep progressing.
And most importantly, challenge yourself.
Michael Bradley is an entrepreneurial writer currently based in Ireland who lends his services to various brands, SEO agencies, and magazines through his own website: www.freelancemichael.com, or directly through his personal email: [email protected]. When he isn't attending to his clients, Michael is a passionate Liverpool FC supporter and his dream is to one day see Liverpool win the Premier League. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.