Your Best Writing Goal Based on Your Enneagram Number

by Mary Adkins
published in Writing

One of the first things I ask a writer I’m working with is, “When do you want to be done with your book?” Sometimes people have a definite answer: “This year.” Sometimes they look at me and go, “Uhhh…”.

The answer depends, of course, on how quickly they write, how much time they have to work on their book, and how long their book is. These factors vary from person to person—and so we sit down and do the math to make a concrete plan based on the time they have available and their writing process.

But achieving a goal isn’t only about setting the goal. You must also be able to show up for the schedule you’ve created for yourself. It doesn’t matter that you’ve decided to write for two hours every Tuesday and Thursday unless you actually do it.

Showing up for our goals is hard—but it doesn’t have to be.

If you’ve found it difficult to commit to a writing schedule, you may simply be using the wrong goal type.

Finding Your Enneagram Personality Number

In this post, I’m breaking down the five types of writing goals and the best goal for you based on your Enneagram personality number

If you don’t know your Enneagram number, you can figure it out in under 5 minutes by taking this 2-question test. (If you want a more robust test and are willing to spend $12 and 15-20 minutes, you can take this one.)

I’m a huge fan of the Enneagram as a tool for understanding ourselves and our motivation—it’s the only life-changing personality assessment I’ve ever taken (and I’ve taken a lot over the years), and I mean that; it’s changed my life.

Once you have figured out your number, read a little about your type here.

Do you feel exposed?


Understood to a degree that makes you feel a little uncomfortable?

Then you’ve nailed your number.

Now let’s look at the various writing goal types and which are best suited to which numbers.

Writing Goal #1: Word Count

We writers love to hold ourselves to word counts—and that makes sense since most writing contests and publishing standards are measured by them.

Word count is the obvious metric if you’re a literary journal or newspaper communicating to writers how long their stories or essays should be, or a publisher communicating how long a memoir is expected to be.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best tool for us writers to measure our own progress, day by day. For some of us, word count may provide much-needed structure, while, for others, it can be uninspiring or even paralyzing. How do you know?

When you think, “I’m going to write 1,000 words every day,” or “I’m going to write 5,000 words by the end of the week,” how do you feel?

As with each of these goals, only you can decide whether it’s a fit or not. As you read this post, I invite you to notice your reaction to each goal type—does it fill you with dread? Excite you? Make your body relax? Pay attention to these physical cues. Doing so will help you decide your best fit.

Benefits of Word Count as a Goal:

  • Precise
  • Concrete
  • Easy to track if typing your draft

Downsides of Word Count as a Goal:

  • Impersonal
  • Inflexible
  • Difficult to track if you’re handwriting your draft

Enneagram Numbers that May Like Word Count as a Goal:

1, 3, 5, 8 

Enneagram Numbers Likely to Find Word Count Confining:

2, 4, 7

Writing Goal #2: Page Count

Still numeric but slightly less tedious; page count is another way of measuring your progress. A writer who uses page count as a goal will decide a certain number of pages that they’re committing to completing every day or week. These can be typewritten or handwritten (and a benefit of this goal type is that it works for both).

I’ve preferred this as my goal type at certain times, because I handwrite my first drafts, and page count is an easy way to keep myself moving forward.

I’ll decide to write 5 pages a day, or, when I’m really moving quickly or facing a deadline, I’ll go with 10 pages a day. (This is for a novel, by the way—hence the high number of pages per day.)

What are the upsides and downsides of page count? It’s much like word count, just toned down a bit.

Benefits of Page Count as a Goal:

  • More forgiving than word count
  • Still concrete
  • Easy to track no matter how you’re writing your draft (including handwriting)

Downsides of Page Count as a Goal:

  • Still impersonal
  • Can be difficult to translate what constitutes a complete manuscript, especially if handwriting

Enneagram Numbers that May Like Page Count as a Goal:

2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9

Enneagram Numbers Likely to Find Page Count Frustrating:

1, 5, 8

Writing Goal #3: Scene by Scene

By far, my favorite writing goal type for writing the first draft of my novels is the scene-by-scene method (or, if you’re not writing a narrative like a novel or a memoir, you can think of it as the beat by beat method).

This method works as follows: you decide what scene you’re going to write each day (or each writing session). Then, you write that one scene on that one day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 500-word scene or a 2,500-word scene. It doesn’t matter if it takes you 15 minutes or 3 hours. You commit to getting it done, and when it’s done, you’re done.

I love this method because of its flexibility and its practicality: since my scenes tend to be about 1,200 words, I know that 60-70 of them constitute a full novel draft. If I write one scene per day for 2-3 months, I will have a full draft.

It’s also freeing to me: I know that I’m off the hook for the day when it comes to writing as soon as I hit my target. If that happens at 8 a.m., I’m done for the day. No guilt, no pressure.

(Can you tell that this method leaves me calmer and happy to share it? Ask yourself which of these methods makes you feel that way, and that’s the method you should go with.)

Benefits of Scenes as a Goal:

  • Most flexible of the types
  • Personal/customizable to your project
  • Easy to track no matter how you’re writing your draft (including handwriting)

Downsides of Scenes as a Goal:

  • So flexible that it can lead to imprecise outcomes (too short a draft)
  • Requires advance planning (deciding ahead of time what scene(s) you’ll write)

Enneagram Numbers that May Like Scenes as a Goal:

2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9

Enneagram Numbers that May Find Scenes as a Goal Frustrating:

1, 5, 8

Writing Goal #4: Big Time Chunk

This goal type is what it sounds like—you say, “I’m going to write for 2 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” 

I think this type of goal is pretty self-explanatory. The question is: how does it make you feel?

If you think, Ahh, yes, that’s clear and straightforward, and I can do that, this may be your goal type.

If you think, but wait…what if something comes up? Then you’re like me: this isn’t it.

Benefits of Big Time Chunk as a Goal:

  • Simple
  • Straightforward
  • Can lead to highly productive writing sessions/getting into the flow

Downsides of Big Time Chunk as a Goal:

  • Rigid
  • Can lead to burnout
  • Hard to maintain/justify

Enneagram Numbers that May Like Big Time Chunk as a Goal:

1, 3, 5, 8

Enneagram Numbers that May Find Big Time Chunk as a Goal Frustrating:

2, 4, 6, 7, 9

Writing Goal #5: X 25-Minute Sprints

The last goal type is another time-based one, but one less rigid than the big-time chunk. With this goal type, you decide how many 25-minute sessions you’re going to commit to each day, à la The Pomodoro method.

This is a good one for you if you like the idea of a time-based goal but find it too restrictive or impossible to commit to a single big-time chunk. 

You don’t worry about how much you produce while writing; you just make sure to be writing (or at least sitting in front of your notebook or computer) during those 25-minute bursts.

Benefits of 25-Minute Sprints as a Goal:

  • Moveable/small
  • Not based on outcome/how much you produce
  • 25-minute work sessions are a proven tactic across disciplines

Downsides of 25-Minute Sprints as a Goal:

  • Gear up time takes time, every time
  • Still must navigate when/where to fit them
  • Can make it hard to get into the flow (too fast)

Enneagram Numbers that May Like 25-Minute Sprints as a Goal:

2, 9

Enneagram Numbers that May Find 25-Minute Sprints as a Goal Frustrating:

1, 3, 8

How to Decide Which Goal is Right for You

The Enneagram is a tool to help you understand yourself and how you relate to the world—it’s not a prescription or a judgment.

My own recommendations based on the Enneagram type are totally speculative, based on my limited (and amateur) understanding of it—I’m just an Enneagram lover and a big fan, not an expert.

But I offer this overview of writing goal types coupled with Enneagram numbers as an invitation to find the write-goal type for you as a writer and to use the Enneagram as a helpful piece of data in that effort.

Writing a book isn’t always going to be easy or even joyful, but it doesn’t have to be a slog.

Choosing the right goal type can help it be easier—more manageable and more fun. A large part of this decision will be what feels right to you, but also, ask what works best for you based on how you motivate (read: your Enneagram number).

As I like to tell my writers, I can almost guarantee that you can finish a draft of a book in 3-4 months without overhauling your life. You just have to know the right way to go about it. Deciding on a goal type is an important piece of that process.

Want my handy chart to track what your best goal type is based on your Enneagram number? Drop your email here and I’ll send it over.

Tell us in the comments: What’s your Enneagram type? What writing goals are you drawn to? Do they match?

Mary Adkins is the author of the novels When You Read This (Indie Next Pick, “Best Book of 2019” by Good Housekeeping and Real Simple), Privilege ( Best Summer Read), and Palm Beach (New York Post “Best Book of 2021,” and “like a sandy beach, equal parts beautiful and uncomfortable” according to the Associated Press). Her books have been published in 13 countries, and her essays and reporting have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and more. A graduate of Yale Law School and Duke University, she teaches storytelling for The Moth worldwide and runs The Book Incubator, a program for aspiring authors. 

You can also follow her on Instagram.

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