Happy New Year!
We’re only one week into 2016 and it still feels full of promise.
We start out with hope, optimism, and a renewed sense that we can do what we’ve always dreamt of doing. THIS will be the year!
But, after the champagne wish bubbles pop, our more familiar reality may start to nibble away at the euphoria.
It is as I said in my last post of 2015: resolutions are not enough.
You can buy all the books, programs and courses you like, write affirmations in your journal, meditate, pray … there are any number of things you can do.
And NONE of it will work if you don’t have a plan.
The Freedom of a Plan
It’s a word we throw around a lot, but I’m not sure everyone sees it the same way.
Some people hear the word “plan” and run for the hills, like they’re narrowly escaping the gallows, while others eagerly roll up their sleeves to get at it.
As with most things in life, it’s all in how we choose to perceive it.
So, I want to be clear about what I’m proposing here: the plan I’m talking about is NOT going to hang you and strangle the creative life of you.
In fact, it’s going to free you.
“Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail.” ~ Honerée Corder
Without a plan, you may have fun flitting here and there, trying different things out. It may even seem like you’re free; going where inspiration takes you.
Distractions Are Not Freedom
We all need to wander a little, but we can’t let it fill our days and, let’s face it, it often does.
There’s always another course/program/book for learning how to blog … write copy … use social media … teach a course … build an email list … journal … Right now, there’s even a bunch about planning and setting goals. Add all of that to the constant distraction of social media, and you could find yourself wandering and overwhelmed, when what you need to do is write.
I’m a serial course-taker and social media user, so I know of what I speak. And, if you’re like me, there’s at least one new course to catch your eye arriving in your email inbox every day, never mind the latest shares on Facebook, the great looking pins on Pinterest, or the entertaining videos on YouTube.
It all poses a challenge for the curious mind, and we writers are naturally curious. That’s a good thing—how else will we find our next great idea for a story or the secret sauce for building our author platform?
But, if that post/book/course/program won’t help you do what you need to do NOW, it can become more of a distraction keeping you from setting your own course.
How do you know if you need it NOW? That’s where your plan will come in. You’ll know what you need to do and, if necessary, what you need to learn to do it.
Have A Clear Purpose
The steps you take will be more purposeful.
Some argue that writers, or any creative professional, can’t be governed by such things. We need to be “free-spirited”.
Absolutely! I would never propose that we don’t and personally, on the days that I don’t have room for it, I get a little grumpy.
But, when I look closely at the culprits that steal my attention and time, they often have something to do with figuring out my next steps … because I don’t have a plan.
Think of it this way: it’s the difference between driving in a strange place and driving the same route every day. When you know where you’re going and don’t have to think too hard about it, you have more time to look around and take in the view. Your hands aren’t so tied up with maps and/or GPS coordinates and you don’t have to focus on finding road signs and strange landmarks.
Say “No” And Feel Good About It
You’re also less likely to turn down a street that adds miles to your trip.
All of those great distractions will be less tempting, and the ones that call your name will be aligned with where you are and where you need to go.
It can be so hard to say “no”; I know it’s one of my biggest weaknesses. I love to learn, so anything that offers it will get my attention … unless I’m focused and I have a clear direction in mind.
With a plan, you will know what to say “no” to, for now, with much less hesitation. If it looks really great, you’ll have a folder for future “stuff”. Put it there, where you can go back to it because it works with your plan.
Way back in my cubicle days, I remember resenting the fact that I had to justify books and courses to my boss. To me, they always looked perfect and the forms and questions felt like a waste of time. But my boss had a budget and, in order to justify the expense, it had to be aligned with my job. Naturally.
Why should it be any different when you’re the one footing the bill (in money or time)? Really, that should make you even more vigilant!
The goal(s) you wish to accomplish, as outlined in your plan, will become your beacon and you will choose accordingly.
One of the most frequently asked questions about starting a writing life, after “how do I find the time?”, is “how do I start?”, and any writer who has lived through countless hours staring at an empty piece of paper or a blank screen will immediately empathize.
As much as saying “I’m a writer” may feel like an exciting beginning full of promise, that doesn’t mean it’s a start.
In the story of your writing life, the beginning will never go anywhere without a plot, and a plot doesn’t exist without action.
“You need to give your inner writer an outer identity.” ~ paraphrased from a recent article by Libby Galin
So, let’s start!
Step One: Clarity
In my next post in this series, I’ll explore how you can find clarity in more depth.
Until then, if you want to start working on it, get out your journal, or open up a new document on your favorite device, and give these two things a try:
- Wish it: Name it, claim it, and enjoy it! Allow yourself to express your burning desire. Don’t bog yourself down in the details of it, and especially don’t worry about how you’ll get there. Just describe your perfect writing life for this year or for years to come. No limits! (As an example, check out what writer Sheri Conaway wrote when she recently created what she calls her “sense of excitement”.)
- Will it: This is where you start to drill down a little. It’s one thing to say “I’m a writer”, and it’s another to say “I’m writing a [insert project name here].” Start making it concrete. Will it be a blog? A novel? A short story? Personal essays? Memoir? A nonfiction ebook? What will it be about?
Don’t worry if you can’t “will it” yet, or if you feel like your “will it” isn’t concrete enough. It will come and we’ll explore ways to get you there.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this final thought:
“When you have clarity of intention, the universe conspires with you to make it happen.” ~Fabienne Fredrickson
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Let’s make 2016 the year the universe conspires with us!
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions below.
Do you already have a plan for 2016 or do you resist planning all together? Do you struggle to find clarity?
If you have a plan, what’s on tap for you in 2016? (Sharing tends to add a little more accountability, which always helps, so share away!)