S.M.A.R.T. Goals in Writing



I’ve been curious about writing goals.  The same way that people set New Year’s resolutions, writers set goals for themselves.  Maybe not on January 1, but writers and other creatives have goals (usually).  So, is a goal S.M.A.R.T.?  Whatever do you mean by that?  You may ask.  I did a bit of searching and found that the University of Virginia has a guideline that details what S.M.A.R.T. writing is.  Their definition is, as follows:

Specific – Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you’re going to do

Measurable – Goal should be measurable so that you know when you’ve achieved the goal

Achievable – Goals should be achievable; they should challenge and stretch you but defined well enough that you can achieve them

Results-focused – Goals should measure outcomes; not activities

Time-bound – Goals should be linked to a time frame to provide urgency

Okay, now that we know what smart writing is all about do we, as writers and creatives, indulge in such scholarly madness?  The short answer?  Some do.  Some don’t.

If you do a quick search about smart writing, you’ll find a middle grade book, an app, as well as a great website by Laura Robb relating to her book — The Smart Writing Handbook.

This begs the question, can there be D.U.M.B. writing?  Well, since this is not politically correct any longer (except for the For Dummies book series…), the only thing I see in a quick search on dumb writing is a book called 303 Dumb Spelling Mistakes and What You Can Do About Them.  This book was written in 1989 so dumbness in the title wasn’t offensive.  (It still mustn’t because it was 135,766 in the Amazon sales rank at the time of this article’s penning.)

Okay, so we don’t need a book about dumb writing as we know what that is intuitively.  When we see dumb writing we know it.  But, can you see and know smart writing when you read it?  Is it that clear, specific and definable?  Does smartness depend upon genre, the POV of the story, if the story’s in first-person (or, second person)?  Well, yes and no. 

Smart writing is not definable in a quantifiable way.  Smart writing is relevant to the time the piece is written.  It takes into account the age and maturity of the writer and the subject matter.  Smart writing can be literary, genre fiction, or take a poetic form.  Smart writing is a concept moreso than an actual “goal”, in my humble opinion.  The very fact that there is talk in the world of smart writing can be frustrating, academic, and can induce writer’s block if one dwells on having a well-received “smart” book for those in the know to discuss discreetly over cocktails at a book signing or gathering.

Blogger Dean Rieck has it right when he states, “To sound smart, you must stop trying to sound smart.  Brilliant writing is simple writing, a relevant idea delivered clearly, and directly.”  Sounds pretty smart to me.  To read Dean’s full article, click here.  [Dean’s got a quote in there about an editing tip from Mark Twain – hee-larious!]

Okay, I’ll stop the charade now.  Dean writes copy; he’s a freelancer.  His blog is called copyblogger.  So, his advice is about a specific type of writing.  Granted, creatives can put many of the ideas in his article to great use in their works-in-progress but they don’t need to drink the Kool-Aid.

The point is, there is no point to this post.  Smart writing is something that creative writers should not focus on — period.  This will stymie their attempts at getting the first-draft completed.  One should focus on being smart in the sense that you set a goal to work on your work-in-progress on a regular (daily/weekly) basis.  That’s smart.  A writer…writes.  This is the only smart thing we writers need to know.


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