New Year, New Screenwriting Goals…
The past few weeks, social media has been buzzing with writers posting their goals and resolutions for 2022. Most of the goals I’ve seen are to gain representation or write a few screenplays in the new year, while others hope to get staffed or sell a script. Some writers want to write more. I’ve found that whenever setting goals, no matter how modest or ambitious they are, it’s easier to follow through on them and make them a reality when they’re realistic and actionable. In other words, when they’re “SMART.”
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What is a SMART Goal?
Having SMART Goals doesn’t have anything to do with the quality or perception of people’s goals. In other words, a “dumb” goal isn’t a thing. SMART is a way to help you dissect what’s necessary to reach your goal at hand, the steps you need to take to get there, and, ultimately if it’s realistic or not. The term is also relatively easy to remember! It’s an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
How to Set SMART Goals in Screenwriting
Now, let’s pick a goal as an example. To demonstrate the next steps in setting SMART Goals, my goal for 2022 is to: Write two feature-length screenplays.
Starting with Specific, I’m going to ask myself: Is my goal of writing two feature-length screenplays specific? Yes. Can it be more specific? Absolutely. It’s up to you how detailed you want to go. If you want to note the genre, premise, etc., feel free. There are no hard rules here!
A non-specific goal might be along the lines of: “I want to write more.”
This makes it tricky in this next part, where we look at if a goal is Measurable or not. “Writing more” is something that can’t be “finished.” By going with “writing more,” one can write one sentence by the end of the year and be done with it. While that’s an exaggeration, it’s easier to make things happen when the goal’s progress can be measured along the way. The goal of “I want to write two features” can be measured because I’ve either written nothing, something, or two features by the end of the year.
Achievable comes next. How can this be achieved? This is where you break down the steps in how you’ll get to the goal at hand. Two features will come out to be roughly 180-200 pages combined (unless you like to write longer movies, then adjust the number as needed). So now, let’s do some basic math:
- 180 pages in total over one year / 12 months in one year = 15 pages per month
- 15 pages per month / 4 weeks in a month = 3.75 pages per week
- 3.75 pages per week / 7 days in a week = 0.536 pages per day
- 0.356 pages per day / 24 hours in a day = 0.022 words per hour
- 0.022 words per hour—
Just kidding. We’re going to go with the 3.75 pages a week here. It’s the most narrowed down and easy to track without being too specific.
Now, is writing 3-4 pages a week achievable? Absolutely! But wait, is it Realistic? This is where you look at your schedule, hobbies, lifestyle, and obligations, and see if this goal fits into your life. How long does it typically take you to write a page? An hour? Thirty minutes? Can you fit time into your week to write those 3-4 pages? If yes, it’s realistic. Can you catch up if you miss a week? Also, yes.
Imagine if someone set the goal of writing 12 feature screenplays in a year. Without having you suffer through more of my math, that’s roughly 20 pages a week or about 3 pages a day. While ambitious, this goal is specific, measurable, achievable, it isn’t realistic for everyone. For example, for those who work two jobs, take care of family members, or have other reasons for having little time to write, 3 pages a day might not be possible. Also, if you miss a few days, there’s a lot of catching up to do, which might become a source of stress and ultimately end in the frustrated goal-setter scrapping it. This is why having your goals be specifically realistic to YOU is vital in setting them.
Last but not least, we come to Time-bound. Does my goal of writing 2 features in 2022 have a start and an end date? Yes. January 1st, 2022 to December 31st, 2022. The great thing about SMART Goals is that you can set and envision your goals by year, month, week, day, or however you feel comfortable. One month might be different than another because you’re writing on a new TV series, so you have to make adjustments. As long as there’s a specific date you’re aiming to meet your goals by, you’re good to go! If you’re broad and go with something along the lines of, “I want to become the President of the WGA,” you may have trouble with the previous four steps of setting these goals. The purpose of having SMART Goals is to make your life easier and increase your chances of succeeding.
SMART Goals Outside of Writing
SMART Goals can be made for pretty much any screenwriting-related aspiration. Whether you’re focused on productivity, gaining representation, selling a script, you can set SMART Goals for all of these. Some might be trickier than others, such as “getting signed” since it’s not entirely dependent on your timeline. However, you can still list the necessary steps to increase your chances of getting a manager by a specific date. This would include scheduling time to do IMDBPro research on managers who potentially fit your style and genre and draft and send query emails. You could even make your goal “to have 3 general meetings with managers” per month. It’s however you decide to break it down.
The breakdown of SMART into an acronym is almost like an outline for a screenplay—it serves as an outline for goal setting. Now that you know what a SMART Goal is and how to set one, do it for as many of your goals as you wish. There’s genuinely no wrong way to do this! It’s wholly up to you; what’s best for you, your daily life, and your goals as a screenwriter.
It’s NEVER Too Late to Start
Whether you’re reading this in January or November and feel like your goals are already bust and want to wait until next year to try again, breathe. It’s NEVER too late to set SMART Goals for yourself inside or outside of screenwriting. By quarter, month, quarter, week, or even by day. Whatever you need. Even if you decide to set a goal to write one page at the very end of the year, no one is judging you. You wrote something! Something so many people are afraid to even try. You met a goal, so don’t be hard on yourself. They’re self-set and there to help you with productivity and accountability, but life happens. Just because you missed a self-imposed goal doesn’t mean you’re any less talented or less of a screenwriter. It means you’re human.