This week, amidst holiday preparations, I sat down and began to map my writing goals for 2010. I'm a big picture person, so I made a visualization chart with generalized goals across the top and broke that flow chart into specific goals. (Some people might say Way to procrastinate, LuAnn, but I say I need visual proof that I'm working hard to meet my goals, so it's not procrastination!)
One problem I've dealt with in the past is maintaining focus on the prize. I may start the year with fountain pen or computer keyboard blazing, but winter doldrums fence me in, spring fever skips through my work, summer fun beckons for play time, and fall festivities fetch my fancy. In other words, life happens, and sometimes, those roadblocks slow down the journey to the goal. And, sometimes, goals shift or are left unmet during the year, causing motivation to wane when I need it the most.
What I've discovered through the writing years is this: We are the choices we make. If I choose not to write today, that's my prerogative. But, if I make that choice, I shouldn't complain, I shouldn't let it slow down tomorrow's writing, and I shouldn't let it interfere with the long-term outcomes I would like to achieve.
No, maintaining motivation is personal, but sometimes, it takes a village to raise a writer. Consider these four tips to keep inspired during the next 365 days.
- Establish writing time. When I first began freelancing, I kept a rigid schedule. That lasted about six months until I realized the schedule was cutting into my creativity. Now, I make a to-do list and if it takes me three hours to research a possible story idea, I go with it. I make it work. That's one of the benefits of being a freelancer. But, I also make sure that I spend a certain amount of time each day writing. I'm the most productive from 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., and from 10:30 - 1:30 p.m, so I let those times work for me. Find a time that fits your schedule and use it - even if you can only spare ten minutes - to write.
- Develop both short- and long-term goals. My visualization chart is a compilation of both. I like to plan my week and say to myself, Okay, here's what I would like to accomplish this week. But it's also important to have a direction to work toward. Otherwise, some pieces of work will stay on the back burner if you don't self-impose deadlines.
- Share your work with other writers. It's important to get other opinions, especially from colleagues. That's how you grow in your craft. This is an area I need to work on. I joined a local writer's group, hoping to share my YA novel, but most of the group wanted to be given a topic and then write about it. While that may work for some writers, it's not the type of critique I need at this point in my career. I'm still searching for an appropriate online group that will fit my needs.
- Celebrate your achievements. If an editor or a reader let you know how much they appreciate your work, celebrate! If you land a major article in a national magazine or sell a manuscript to a publishing house, celebrate! If you send a new query, celebrate. These moments provide impetus for writing careers, so go ahead, celebrate! I recently completed a three-part series for a regional newspaper, and an editor from one of my state's dailies sent a note to my editor, who forwarded it to me. In the note, he pointed out elements of my story that stood out. Trust me, I celebrated! I printed it out and have it directly behind my laptop screen so I remember why I write: to connect with readers.
- Network . Connect with other writers and editors, develop relationships, and maintain a professional but friendly demeanor. First impressions are lasting, and hopefully you'll set the right tone with others who, someday, may use your work.
- Learn a new skill. Even though the art of writing may change very little, we writers still need to keep our skills sharp. Attend a conference. Take a class. Buy new software that assists with writing. Learning a new skill and putting it to use will make you more marketable.
I'm glancing at my goal chart and re-reading what I hope to accomplish in 2010. With a visual reminder, reasonable goals, and writer friends who encourage, I can't go wrong. Maintaining motivation won't be a problem this year.
Happy Holidays! And, happy motivating!
Follow LuAnn on Twitter - @luannschindler