The visual artist Lisa Congdon, in her book Find Your Artistic Voice, makes the case that artists are unique in how they set and achieve goals.
“Many athletes,” she writes, “set performance goals that are measurable and easily comparable to other athletes in the same sport based on set standards: number of goals scored, seconds or minutes it takes to complete a specific distance… As an artist, your goals are things like nonconformity and difference, neither of which is based on a shared set of measurable outcomes.”
Congdon is writing about finding your voice, which can be a lifelong journey as a creator. But when you’re writing, it can be similarly difficult to know when you’ve achieved what you set out to write.
Writing a book can take years, over numerous drafts, and your benchmarks for success might only come with publication: you won’t know if you’re “successful” until your target audience reads and appreciates your book, or you hit a bestseller list, or (name your external marker).
Thankfully, you can still set and achieve goals as you write a non-fiction book. You can roll from one measurable outcome to another. Feeling that sense of completion throughout will compel you to finish.
And it’s as easy as making a checklist.
Create a checklist so you know when you’ve completed each stage in the writing process, from researching to completing interviews, self-editing, and lining up beta readers.
Then you’ll know when you’ve hit your goal, according to your own definition of “enough.” You’re an artist, and your finish point won’t look like anyone else’s.
As a starting point, here’s a pro tip about data collection: Still learning about your topic? Research can be endless. Create a list of books and articles to consult, and stick with it. Or create a firm end date for research.
I’m Amanda Lewis, a book strategist and writing coach with 15 years’ experience in the world’s top publishing houses. Books I edit regularly hit number 1 on bestseller lists and win major awards. I’m an expert at content development in print, digital, and audio formats, and am known for helping writers sort out the scale and direction of their project. If you want to start writing your book in January, I can help with that.