In prior posts in this series about understanding your writing process, we discussed limiting disruptions and alternating writing, reading, and resting during writing sessions, and setting writing session goals. In this post, we talk about how to end your writing sessions by assessing your progress towards your goals.
When setting goals, take a long view—a very, very long view. If you know what your writing process is and understand how to set up your sessions to write productively you can write to plan and integrate your writing into your research.
Be gentle in assessing your goals. If you had a very productive writing week, note that it helped you reach your goals. If you had an unproductive week because you were writing under difficult conditions, note that too. Don’t worry about whether you were “good” or “bad” at writing. Instead, mark your progress towards your goals and set realistic new goals. It’s easiest to meet larger writing goals if you divide them up into small, manageable steps.
Many factors may help or hinder you. For example, you may only realize that you write most productively at 5:00 after several unproductive attempts in the late afternoon. Comparing your productivity at different times of day could inspire you to set a goal of waking at 4:30am to write at 5:00am. Everyone is different; understanding your ideal writing conditions will help you plan your writing sessions.
Assess your measurable and unmeasurable goals differently. You know when you complete a paper draft because you’re ready to send it to your collaborators; that’s a measurable goal. But many goals are affective, and success is harder to measure. If you want to achieve affective goals like figuring out your ideal writing conditions or feeling better about writing, it’s helpful to characterize how you feel, decide how you want to feels, and then test strategies to see if they bring you closer to that goal.
Assessing your writing goals can be easy or hard. Some days, your progress and goals may seem easy to list. Other days, you might need to set aside time for serious reflection. Your assessment sessions may be formal or informal, long or short. However you design your assessments and whatever goals you choose, keep assessing and setting goals regularly and use them to plan your writing session activities!