The beginning of a new year is a time for pause and reflection. It is a time to look back and see what you have achieved and look forward to plan what you want to do.
I had a long list of projects I want to complete (short stories, novellas, a picture book, novels, collaborative projects including a multimedia production, short films/storyboards and non-fiction) so I divided them into a 3-year plan.
I typed up my goals, printed them on coloured paper and stuck it on my wall:
- GREEN (2013 – Go For Launch),
- YELLOW (2014 – Look, but preferably stay on target)
- RED (2015 – Do Not Touch Under Any Circumstances)
I did this to ensure I stayed on target (Red 5 standing by), to keep me focused on the work at hand and make sure it gets finished.
I am continually writing down ideas for stories and blog posts in my notebook, and keep a record on my computer of new ideas. Any new thoughts I have on future projects are written down and filed away.
My focus is therefore on the big picture. My plans are flexible and are subject to change but I needed to sort out the tangled spaghetti mess of ideas in my head.
Plans are all good and well, but how do you maintain the focus needed to fulfil lofty ambitions (I realise I am aiming quite high in what I expect to achieve but the bar has to be set somewhere)?
It is useful to distil the focal point of a year to a clear statement or paragraph or a set of words. Some people choose a S.M.A.R.T. plan (Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Timely.)
I choose three words.
This distillation is easy to recall. It is a check for me against what I am doing compared to what I know I should be doing.
I find using three words is a good way to monitor myself and my progress. This year I have chosen three words relevant to what I am aiming to achieve for my writing and myself. They are a measure of maintaining my creative life.
One area in my life that deserves attention is discipline. One of my favourite Proverbs (25:28) is “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”
If I want to pursue a creative life through writing, I must be disciplined. For me it will involve setting aside specific times for writing, editing, planning, while minimising distractions and time-wasting activities. It will also be a year of a disciplined mind and a disciplined body.
It requires discipline to keep your eye on the goals you have set and to work towards achieving those goals. I incorporate aspects and elements of a S.M.A.R.T. plan into my writing goals, although I allow for greater flexibility knowing certain times of year are busy for me with work.
The commitment to a creative life, the pursuit of excellence in a creative endeavour requires dedication. I write and I create because I believe it is an integral part of who I am. To ignore it is to forget who I am.
I am also dedicated to excellence in my work. I will not settle for substandard work. In my dedication to my craft and to improving my work I will seek out beta readers, gather feedback and critique, then edit and rewrite until it is finished.
I will frame this third word as a question: “Is what I am doing moving me towards my goals or moving me away from it?”
I allow for down time, rest periods and general shenanigans, but when it comes to writing time, am I writing with a purpose? Am I wasting time or am I being productive?
being purposeful might mean saying “no” to a project I want to work on. It might mean forgoing entry into a prestigious competition.
But the ultimate question is, “Is it moving me towards, or away from, my goals?”
Disciplined. Dedication. Purposeful.
What are your 3 words for the year?