Figuring Out What You Want to Do Next

Monday, December 19, 2016
"Listen to the whispers." -Sue Bender

Now is the time for setting next year's writing goals, but you may not be sure exactly what those goals should be. Do you want to focus on short story contests? Work on a novel? Try to make more money freelancing? Stick to journaling or blogging? Take a writing class?

Until you know what you're trying to do with your writing life, there's no way to start plugging monthly and weekly goals into your new calendar. Figuring out the big picture comes first. So what do you do when that picture is a bit hazy?


A good start is grabbing some quiet time and playing around on paper, listing all the possibilities for your writing life. What are some things you'd like to try? What are some achievements that would be satisfying? Write down whatever pops into your mind.

Imagine also what your ideal writing life would be like, if you were capable of anything. What would you do if you knew you could not fail? The answer will tell you a lot about your perfect path.


To get more clear about your direction, you can also ask yourself the following, meaningful questions from Rick Jarow's Creating the Work You Love:

  • What do you feel in your depths is the most important thing for you to accomplish in the next 6 months of your life?
  • Where is it most important for you to focus your energy, to spend your time, to give your attention in this next period of your life?
  • What are you being called to accomplish in the coming period of your life?

By meditating on these questions, you may begin to feel a certain focusing energy. You'll find a priority or a "point of attention" emerging. Listen to your inner guidance.


Lynn Robinson, author of Real Prosperity, offers some comforting words for the confused, and another question that you can ponder. "People rarely know exactly what they want," she says. "Ask yourself, 'What do I feel excited about?' Pay attention to when you hit on something that makes you feel lighter and enthusiastic, or even if you feel just a flicker of interest."

In terms of your writing path, what would excite you? Let the New Year be fun, including some writing activities you like, instead of only "shoulds." Plus, you'll need all the enthusiasm you can get in order to make your goals happen.

Consider what Roger Ebert said, as well: "Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you." Go for what feels exciting.


Here's another thought that may bring some relief: you don't necessarily have to map out your entire year. How about a three-month or six-month plan? Does that feel less daunting?

You may need to try something, see if it works, and learn from the experience. You can always make adjustments to your goals as you go along, and change course as needed. "Our priorities will change over time," Rick Jarow writes. "This is only natural and knowing this can fuel current projects. We understand that they are not forever; and so for now we can give them all we have got to give."

Just concentrate on whatever you’ve decided to pursue at this time, without worrying about the future. You can reboot and start over at any time.


The writing bug is in you for a reason, and you have a unique and special contribution to make—even if you're not completely clear about what that is. Be patient with yourself as you to try to figure out where you want to go next. Keep writing, and keep taking steps toward what feels right. You'll make your way toward something great.


Marcia Peterson is the editor of WOW! Women on Writing's blog, The Muffin. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Marcia--I appreciated you sharing Robinson and Ebert's quote. Our gut and our passion are powerful components, and when they weigh in, we need to listen...

Thanks for this post. Like most of us, I certainly need to work on some goals for next year.

Marcia Peterson said...

Sioux - I like those two quotes a lot too. Hope you come up with some goals you feel good about!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I really like this method, Marcia! I'm always too concerned with making goals "realistic" and doable (fear of failure, anyone?) that I forget to really go for it. I like the advice of imagining your ideal writing life. Thank you. :)

KAlan said...

Wow. Goals. I think I should start by deciding which genre is my speciality. Has anyone ever been through that? How did you decide which way to go?

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