by Cathy Yan, Creative Non-fiction Editor
As another year closes and a new one begins, the motivation to write have already seeped out of you. NaNoWriMo is long gone with varying degrees of success, all rough drafts in different stages of completion are saved, and there is nothing left to do except wait for the New Year to bring inspiration, right? Wrong. Although this time of transition may be cluttering your mind with post-holiday slump, it is crucial to reflect on the past and set strategic writing goals for the coming year.
Although reflection may seem tedious and unnecessary, the process will help you identify strengths and weaknesses, allowing you to maximize your potential and avoid repeating pitfalls. In other words, to grow as a writer (and as a person) establishing the causes of successes and failures is important for continuous improvement. If the fear of confronting setbacks hinders the process, remember writing is not a one-size-fits-all occupation, and it is better to learn harsh lessons and make corrections rather than blindly repeat them.
Exercise: An easy way to begin the process is to make a list with two columns: one for achievements and one for shortcomings. Try to complete this exercise in less than 15 minutes.
When you are finished, circle two or three highlights or lowlights from each column and analyze them by considering the steps that led to each point. Ask yourself questions that provoke reflection or discussion (imagine talking to a friend or mentor) such as: How did you convince the publisher to accept your piece? Was it your professional attitude, your writing style, your perfect grammar, or something else? How can you replicate this in the future? Why did your other piece not do as well? Was your effort lacking? The more prompts you have, the deeper your reflection can dive, which leads to setting more strategic goals for this year.
The trick to setting strategic writing goals is to target specific weaknesses. Whether it be developing the patience to finish a piece or having the confidence to write without being hindered by your literary dragon, being as concise and straightforward as possible will prevent confusion and give you the motivation to face your concerns. Sometimes, the best goals are action oriented and encompass steps for achieving them.
Take the goal: “finish a novel.” Right away, you know the problem the person faces is not their inability to write; it’s their tendency to leave things unfinished. However, devising the perfect goal is only half the battle; they still need to iron out practical details such as when they plan to write and what methods they will use while writing to ensure completion.
At first glance, this may seem overwhelming and perplexing, sending you crawling back under the residues of holiday cheer, but reflecting and goal setting is identical to what your writing process should be. The first round is quick, superficial, and only a lump of clay; but through constant revisions taking place throughout the year, you can adapt your goals, deepen your reflections, and set yourself up for success.
If you want to share your writing goals with the LTC community, please visit our annual goals page and follow the submission instructions.