I was in a meeting with a client who is a great project manager, hitting all their organizational goals, but struggling to complete a short story.  They seem to think that writing is “magic and whimsical” versus their concrete approach to business. Nothing could be father from the truth. I dug out a oldie but a goodie for them: the SMART project management tools. 

Be SMART with your writing

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So my character gets in a spaceship wth a pig…


SMART refers to criteria for setting goals and objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. You can evaluate and guide yourself through the writing project with this criteria, and have some structure around the “magic and whimsical” creative part.

As an example, let’s do my own play I need to finish by the end of May. 

  1. Specific: The goal should target a specific area of improvement or answer a specific need. Are you writing this piece to speak on an issue, expand on a societal issue or just to entertain? My goal is to write a full length play. about being Metis. As very few Metis peoples’ stories are told in Canada, I want to make being Metis the key plot element. 
  2. Measurable: The goal must be quantifiable, or at least allow for measurable progress. I have an outline and a timeline attached, and can see what progress I’ve made in the various drafts. I also have a dramaturge (sort of like a editor) that is helping me reach my goals. 
  3. Attainable: The goal should be realistic, based on available resources and existing constraints. This one requires you to ask some hard questions: do you actually have the time to invest in this project? What resources do you have at your disposal to do this? I have a flexible work schedule, a supportive partner, and the ability again to reach out to my dramaturge and other writers for help. 
  4. Relevant: The goal should align with other objectives to be considered worthwhile. Is the writing you’re working on going to add to your happiness or is it just for a cheque? Is it to grow and expand who you are, and how does it fit into your life goals? Or does it? I love to write and this real need I have to express myself through writing is being met. 
  5. Time-bound: The goal must have a deadline or defined end. This is the number one issue for all writers be it an article for a newspaper or their novel: when does the writing need to be done by? End of your vacation time, or your editor needs it by Tuesday? Can you do that or not? What’s a reasonable time line? Mine is the first full draft done by May, with touchstones along the way that will keep me motivated.

Do you think you can apply the SMART project management to your writing? Feel free to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.

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