We are in the first week of 2012, full of energy and enthusiasm to meet our goals! Right? Hopefully so. After all, this is the time of year to get caught up in the collective optimism. Everybody has at least an inkling of what they would like the new year* to hold. Some even have a detailed plan of attack, with written resolutions and personal deadlines. Others may have a vague notion to just “do better”—and that reminder may be enough for them. It all depends on your personality, your drive, and your willingness to change.
Many people distinguish between two types of writers: “pants-ers” and “plotters.” Plotters are the writers who start with an outline. They create the basics of their entire story or work—the skeleton—before they go back and add the body. “Pants-ers” are those who write by the seat of their pants. They may not really know where the story will take them, they just have an idea and they run with it.
It’s the same with your goals, you may outline your entire year and know when you want to accomplish them. Or you may feel that creating concrete demands on yourself will stifle your creativity. You will be fine as long as you are writing or editing. It will come in time.
These are both fine ways to prepare for your journey, as long as you start taking the steps. Marking goals on a calendar or having a sense of ambition are both worthless if you do not take the steps and start the work.
Last year, my knee decided to give up on me. Not only could I not work out like before, I started to limp around in my daily life, too. After x-rays and an MRI determined the problem (basically wear and tear and a little plaque build-up), I was told that physical therapy would help, and may even keep me from getting surgery. I am all for not getting cut open, so I scheduled the therapy.
I’ve been a gym rat for years, so the exercises were not really new to me. Some days, I wondered if it was really worth my money to come in there and do the moves I could do at my own gym or even at home. But after 6 weeks of therapy I can say it was worth it. I knew what the steps were. I knew what my goal was. But I could not have done it alone.
It’s the same for writers. Just because you have all of your goals planned out, or your ambition to succeed is sure to drive you forward doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from some external help. Take advantage of what you can, and you will achieve your goals.
- · Appointments. When I was going to therapy, I had scheduled appointments. I knew I would get closer to my goal because the work would be done during those visits. For structured writers, make sure you schedule more than just the deadlines, schedule the time it will take to meet them. Other writers should consider creating daily or weekly times that are only for your writing. This will help you avoid the “I have to be inspired” trap. You will be inspired to write if you know that writing during your appointed time will bring you closer to your goal.
- · Expectations. My physical therapist gave me “homework.” In order to get better sooner, I had to do work on my own. I knew that she would be able to tell if I skipped my homework. My drive to be the good student crossed over and I made time for the daily work. Your writing coach (shameless plug here), critique group, editor or mentor can help you stay on task in the same way. It’s one thing to let yourself down, but when you know someone else is rooting for you, it gives you that extra push when you need it!
- · A Critical Eye. At the end of each physical therapy session, my therapist would stretch, pull, and move my knee around to see my progress. Based on what she could see, she would recommend different exercises or methods to help the pain. When I work with writers, I give them ideas that will make their journey to completed work or publication smoother. Your critique group can point out how your dialogue has become crisper or ways you can incorporate more imagery into your scenes.
- · Community. At therapy, I could see that I wasn’t the only one dealing with the limitations of my body. In my writing group, I am reminded that I am not the only one who struggles with describing setting or motivating myself to write. Writers have common problems, and it helps to talk them out with others who have been there. Learn from others that you can write and re-write your way through common problems. Your actual writing is done while you are alone, but have a person or a group of people that you can touch base with as a reminder that you are not alone.
Happy New Year, and happy writing!
*note to grammar check: I am talking about the whole year, not just the holiday called New Year, so don’t tell me to capitalize (thanks to Editor 911 for the help.)
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