Friday, January 2, 2015

Building on What's Working: A New Approach to Setting Writing Goals for the New Year


Some writers think writing a book is just this:  sit down, write, and hope for the best.  Goals are a waste of time, because in a purely creative world, it's the flow that matters.  Just keep the flow going and you're golden.  Your book, too.  Right?

Not really.  Goals are valued by most professional writers.  They give markers and deadlines.  Writing is easily put aside in favor of a thousand distractions.  Goals give accountability.  A way to see if your writing process is actually working for you. 


When the morning email delivered Cheryl Richardson's weekly post, I took a break to read it.  Richardson always presents a fascinating twist on goal-setting, and I look forward to her new year's articles.  Most often, they deliver ideas I can really use.

In anticipation, I've already jotted down what I want most to accomplish with my writing in 2015.  I work with learning goals as well as tangible (production) goals.  My current writing group is helping me align descriptive passages with character growth--a cool new skill I've been learning these past months.  More of that went on my 2015 goals list.  I also have several final chapters of my novel twisting in revision, trying to find their purpose.  Discard or rework?  Another goal.  I also need to find better feedback, maybe through a class.  I enjoyed taking classes in 2014, and there are some great ones I'd like to try in the new year.  Most looming, I've promised an interested publisher my manuscript by March. 

All of these goals feel important--to me.  They give me energy when I think about them--a sure sign that I'm crafting goals that are aligned with who I am now as a writer.

But before I set these goals, I began a different kind of list--and here's where Richardson's post was timely.  I thought about what I've learned and accomplished in my writing life in 2014.  What strengths have I built this past year?  How can I use them as jet fuel for my next steps?

Richardson proposes that we build from our strengths.  It creates firmer ground for the next step if we acknowledge our progress.  We look back on the year to see what is working--and we set our new year's goals from there. 

Writers don't naturally do this.  About time we begin, eh?

So here's your writing exercise to launch into the new year.  Two steps, both delightful (or so they have been for me).  Find what worked, then find where you'd like to go from there.

New Year's Exercise for Writers
1.  Grab your calendar or journal, whatever would give you clues about your progress this year.

2.  Begin jotting down both your tangible accomplishments (pages or chapters written, classes taken, feedback received, tangible outer progress made) as well as your learning accomplishments (skills, understandings, learning, practice started and maintained, feedback groups built).  Don't censor this list--everything counts!

3.  You may also want to jot down what your writing has given you this year.  I loved doing this--and got some surprising answers, such as the chance to be part of a creative community, something in my every day that is only for me, and right-brain food). 

4.  Look ahead at the twelve months of 2015.  If you imagine yourself at the end of 2015, what would you most want to have accomplished during the year, in terms of your writing?  Again, include both tangible results and learning results.