BEHAVIOR AND VISUALIZATION
Jay Lake posted an incredibly interesting piece on behavior and goals that you might want to check out. Here's my contribution to the comments on the post:
Just to provide anecdotal evidence, when I was in my teens I sat down and I did in fact create macro goals for myself. One was, "In five years I want to be published in Asimov's and other pro magazines. In ten years I want to have a book out. In fifteen years I want a book out from a major publisher." Etc. I broke it down into five-year plans as a kind of joke (because of the Soviet Union's five-year plans. But within each five-year span, I then created a series of micro tasks, things I should be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. At the end of each year, I would evaluate how good I'd been at keeping those daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and adjust accordingly. At the end of each five years, I would reevaluate the macro goals: based on what my behavior had been during the time span, did my behavior actually support my goals? Or did my goals need to change if the behavior didn't?
These, of course, were career goals. Which sometimes but not always have to do with the quality of the work. So I also had a set of goals for the writing itself. And these goals were pretty much the same every year: concentrate on strengthening some aspect of my writing that I thought was weaker than the rest (this year, for example, I'm focusing on aspects of dialogue), write from some new perspective or style or approach, double check problem spots I'd solved in the past to make sure I hadn't lapsed into bad habits, etc.
I found this was all very helpful in staying focused even during rough patches. I had this kind of vision in my head during the whole time, and that was the vision of my books eventually being right next to some of my favorite authors on the bookshelves.
Now, I can tell you that once I reached that goal, there was a moment of "Now what?" that lasted about a year, but I have since set goals for the next five years, and they're less practical and more exploratory, and I really like that.
Underlying all of this, from day one, has been the combination of ego and humility that you have to have, in which you say to yourself, "Yes, this stuff I'm writing is not perfect, it is flawed, but it fails in a way unique to me and it succeeds in a way unique to me, and therefore it's worth it to continue writing."