Working on your career is like working on your story. You need to ask yourself, “What is the ending for my 2018 story?”
Michelle Mercurio shared that advice during a James River Writers workshop. I found it so powerful I went home and spent a few hours journaling about it. Before long, I had three specific outcomes I wanted to see happen by the end of 2018. More importantly, the outcomes were more than words. I told a story with each of the outcomes, weaving in details and monthly plans. It’s going to be a beautiful journey.
The actual workshop was about scheduling, motivating and organizing one’s writing life, but I quickly found the advice applicable to so many areas. And yes, one of my 2018 outcomes is to have a book contract.
Here’s what else I learned:
A map is useful. Michelle urged the audience to define their buckets and then create an ideal calendar and map out how to fill the buckets.
Accountability matters. Karen A. Chase said when you regularly meet with groups you have to show up or people will ask why you didn’t attend. And when you show up, there are people asking about your progress. I’m finding that to be true with my book of travel essays. I’m making more progress the more I talk about it because people follow up and ask me how it is progressing.
Find your spot. We all need a place that inspires us. Or a place that helps us get unstuck. Or maybe a place that is simply a change of pace. I recently spent a long weekend in the Outer Banks writing. It wasn’t my house so I couldn’t be distracted by things I should do around my house. Instead I focused on my writing. It helped that the weather was lousy and I stayed indoors.
Organize. You can organize your notes and ideas by folders using dates or topics. Michelle prefers to use binders. Others organize electronically. Choose the system that works for you, and, if you need to, Kristina Hamlett said hire someone to help you organize.
Say no. “We need to say no in order to say yes,” Kristina said. It’s important to make time for writing. That might mean turning down invitations.
With all this planning and organizing, you would think you would be set to write (or whatever your goal is), but avoid the pitfall of overscheduling and making so many lists that you aren’t writing.
“It’s safer to plan than it is to do, but choose writing,” Michelle said.