Welcome back to the Make 2015 Your Year to Write series! We're closing in on the end -- both of our seven-part series, and also of 2014. The end is near! ... which makes this the perfect time to venture into the real reason we're all here: setting goals and resolutions for 2015 that are real and attainable.
But first, two things:
One: In case you're just joining us, let's review what we've been exploring this week together. We started by reflecting on our writing lives so far, then looked at challenges and insights, then began tapping in to what we want for our writing lives, and then explored how to close the gap between where we are right now and where we want to end up.
Two: Before we get into specifics for 2015, we're going to first look at the big picture of your writing career (and writing life!) as a whole. Tomorrow will be the big day for 2015 goal setting and resolutions. More about why we do it this way in a few minutes.
In the meantime, remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I'm your coach this week. Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I'll be sure to address or answer them for you. And if you're wondering, it's perfectly okay to join in on this process at any time. We're glad to have you.
Now for part five!
Tune into your vision for your writing career and life
Although we did some initial exploring in part three for what you want your writing life to be like, feel like, and look like, and looked at how we can start to close the gap between then and now in part four, today we're going to consider the trajectory you want for your big picture writing career and life.
The importance of having a long-term vision
Before we go into it, though, let's talk about WHY we want to do this visioning thang. It's important to start with a long-term vision BEFORE setting goals for 2015, because we want to make sure that your short-term goals are in alignment with those long-term goals.
In other words, if you're setting goals for 2015 that have nothing to do with where you want to end up, you can end up in an entirely different place than you intended to go. That may sound entirely obvious, but I can't tell you how many writers I've worked with who set goals that take them to the wrong place, often because of what they think they should be doing or because someone else wants something for them that isn't necessarily a match with what the writer wants for themselves.
So it's worth it to be clear about what you're doing and why you're doing it before you start identifying specific goals.
First we'll discuss the common places writers get stuck with visioning and how to use a vision.
Then we'll explore our two writing prompts for today.
Common places writers get stuck with visioning
Sometimes visioning can get sticky. It sounds like a big fancy thing to do, and in a way it is, but it's also a lot simpler than we tend to make it. And we're all wired a little differently, so the kind of visioning that works well for Josephine Writer down the street may not work so well for you.
Here are the typical ways I see writers getting stuck with visioning. If you see yourself in any of these, try my suggested tweaks to course correct.
- Some writers get hung up on trying to be too specific, e.g. "I'll have written 27 books by 2019!" Being specific can be clarifying and useful, but it can also feel like all the creative juice gets sucked out of it when it's just about fulfilling a numbers game. If this is an issue for you, just be a little more broad with how you approach it, e.g. "I'll have books lining my shelves with my name on the byline."
- Sometimes going into visioning work can feel discouraging because it feels so far off in the distance and so big that we'll never get there. If you find yourself having trouble with this, invite yourself to hold it lightly, like a game or one possible future. And if it feels too heavy, give yourself permission to tweak and change it until it feels fun and inspiring. That's really the point, after all! We're going for fun, inspiring, and directing.
- Another important pitfall to be aware of is that it can be easy to fall into fulfilling other people's visions for you if you're not careful. Sometimes our mentors, agents, managers, parents, families, friends, colleagues, spouses, and kids can have ideas about what we should be doing that may or may not ring true for us as individuals. And if you start forcing yourself to follow someone else's goals, you'll be likely to find yourself feeling lost instead. This isn't to say that our trusted experts and colleagues should always be ignored, but rather to make sure that we are checking in with our own internal guidance about what we truly want. A good way to check for this is to keep an ear tuned in to the word "should". If you catch yourself saying that, chances are your vision needs some adjusting to be more in line with YOU and your reality.
- Along the same lines, we can get equally hooked by what outside measures of success are supposed to look like. In other words, you might think you "have to" self-publish, or traditionally publish, or break in by a certain date, or make a certain amount of money. It's important to both remember that we each have our own paths to take, and also that we can define success on our own terms. So as you vision, think not about what you are supposed to have, be, or do, but rather what feels most exciting and meaningful to you. Don't just focus on making lots of money if you don't know what you want to do with it, for instance. This isn't a race. It's about creating meaningful, quality lives for ourselves, and that can span a wide range.
- Don't worry overly if you can't get super clear and have great detail about your vision. Some writers say, "I just don't see anything specific." If you find that to be an issue, you can go for flashes of a vision like we did in part three, or even try to tune in to a felt-sense that tells you a bit about where you'd like to be. There's no right and wrong with visioning. Just go with what comes to you, and feel free to make it a combo-deal of your mental ideas and thoughts plus the images you see. As long as it's coming from you, it's all good.
How to use a vision
It's also important to know HOW to use a vision. It's not a hard and fast tool, nor does it have to adhere to a specific timeline.
Instead, hold a vision lightly, as a guiding tool, and know and trust that you can evolve and change it as you go -- because after all, things change, and LIFE changes.
That said, we can still use a vision as a powerful step in moving toward what we want.
The key is to get clear on the vision and then focus on taking the first steps.
As you take your first steps, your next "first" steps will become clearer.
It's worth checking on a regular basis about where you are on the path -- Are you moving in your intended direction? Falling off course? Is there anything that you want to change or adjust?
Then you can make adjustments -- or not! -- depending on what's emerging for you in terms of your own clarity about it.
- Hold it lightly.
- Take the first step.
- Check to make sure that the next "first" steps are in alignment with the big picture vision.
- Refine and adjust the big picture vision as needed.
- Take the next "first" steps.
- And so on.
So now let's look at our inquiries for today's exercise:
1. What’s your overall vision for your writing career?
We'll begin with thinking -- your ideas and thoughts about what you want.
While you're working with this inquiry, you want to consider things like:
- What kind of writing career and life do you want to have? Are you picturing writing in a quiet, remote place with lots of independence and freedom? Or working in the hustle-bustle of a big city? Or collaborating for long full days in a writer's room in Hollywood, staffing a TV show? Do you feel excited by the idea of high-intensity, fast-paced work, late nights, and deadlines? Are you more in the "I just want to write in a quiet place by myself" camp?
- And along those lines, is what you're currently headed toward or holding in mind a good match for your temperament? Sometimes writers are focused on a specific kind of writing career that doesn't fit well with their temperament, like someone who might prefer the collaborative environment of screenwriting but is instead currently focused on novel writing, or vice versa.
- Is writing the core of your career, or is it part of your platform? Some writers are also speakers, teachers, bloggers, or coaches. Writing can be a PART of the big picture but it doesn't have to be all of it.
- Are you envisioning your writing as your sole source of income or does your income come from a mix of sources? Think about what that might look like and feel like. Sure, it may be something you transition to over time, but making a living from your writing as your only source of income is a very different thing than having multiple streams of income. And it might also be interesting to think about the types of writing you're considering as well.
- By when do you hope to have "arrived"? Do you have a timeline in mind? Is there anything you know will be in place when you have the career you want to have?
- How will you know you have "arrived"? Are there any outside measurable or observable criteria? Any inner guidelines that will help you "know"?
From my notebook:
"I'm most interested in a having mixed and varied writing career. I'd like to publish novels and write the screenplays based on them. I'd also like to write about writing, since I love the personal insights we can all gain around our writing processes (and tantrums, LOL). As much as I like collaboration, I know I'm going to want to have time alone to write as well. As far as income goes, I'd be delighted to have the majority of my income coming from my writing, but I'm hard-pressed to imagine giving up ALL of the coaching work I do too, since it's so much fun. I'm willing to have that be something that gets determined in a supply/demand kind of way."
2. What do you intend to accomplish as a writer?
Do you have a specific idea in mind about the breadth or depth of your work?
Any ideas about how your work will manifest?
This might include things like:
- Sales (or not!)
- ...and more!
From my notebook:
"I want to be known for a groundbreaking sci-fi series that gets adapted into movies for the big screen. I'll happily write other books and screenplays along the way, and I know they'll be primarily in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. In my heart of hearts, I'd also happily have more than one series. But I still imagine there being one core series that I am known for. My own Harry Potter or Hunger Games. Wouldn't that be fun?"
3. What images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments?
A great tool for exploring the first two questions are to also see what images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments.
For instance, do you see a row of your published books lining the shelves in your favorite local bookstore? Posters of your movie plastered all over town? Your published articles in your favorite periodicals?
Perhaps you see yourself as the renowned expert in a specific field of study.
What comes to mind for you?
From Ginger, one of our Writer's Circle members:
"For the longest time, I had an image in my head of shelves and shelves of books in the bookstore, like a Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele. Not necessarily romance, but tons and tons and tons of books. I never really put too much thought into it, it was just a picture that I had. I always wanted to write a LOT of books -- like, a crazy lot.
"Then the other day I was in Chapters and I saw it -- you know in the sections where it’s like, 'Fiction A-D' or 'Spirituality' or 'War'? There was one of those huge signs, just like those ones, and it said 'James Patterson.'
"He got a sign as big as 'Lifestyle' or 'Magazines'.
"And I said, 'That. That’s what I want.'
"Of course, it’s a different world now, and by the time I’m publishing, and considering what I’m publishing, there probably won’t be a bookstore, and there won’t be a sign. Digital world and all that. But I want it to be reasonable for there to be a sign, even if the whole world goes digital. I want to be worth a sign."
Writing prompts for Part five: Vision
Now you get to play with the writing prompts for today.
If you're inspired to do so, please share your responses in the comments section on the blog -- or your insights after writing about them in your journal, talking them over with other writers or a trusted friend, or letting them swirl through your consciousness. Feel free to leave questions for me too, if you have them.
- What do you intend to accomplish as a writer?
- What’s your overall vision for your writing career?
- What images flash into your mind that show your accomplishments?
And don't miss tomorrow's installment, where we'll get specific about goal setting for 2015!
Hold on to yer keyboards, writers, here we go. :)