Even if writing isn’t the job that pays the bills, if we want to consider it something more than a fun hobby, if we’d like to produce regular content, complete our projects, and improve our skills, we have to make a commitment to our craft. How we do that depends on our life circumstances and the goals we’ve set for ourselves, and there’s no one right approach. I’ve written several posts on setting goals, protecting your time, and creating good habits. You can check out some of my favorite tips here: 5 Tips on Time Management: A Busy Writer’s Guide.
Let’s assume you’ve set some writing goals for the new year and you’ve made modifications to your lifestyle in support of those goals. As March winds down, and the first quarter of the year comes to a close, this is a good time to assess progress and make modifications if needed. Here are a few thoughts on how to evaluate your own forward progress and make adaptations if necessary:
Are your goals realistic?
If you’re a new writer working on your first project, you may have had no idea how much content you’d be able to produce in a day, a week, or a month. Now you have a couple of months’ worth of data. Perhaps you’d aimed for five thousand words per week, but find you are averaging only half that number. In my experience, it’s important to set achievable, realistic goals.
If you are a seasoned writer, it’s still important to assess your progress against your goals. Life circumstances change. Maybe you have a new day job, and temporarily need to spend more time focused on that. Again, it’s important to set goals you can actually achieve. For the next quarter, be realistic about what you can achieve based on real experience, and set your goals accordingly.
When are you most productive?
Did you plan to lock yourself in your office for a couple of hours after dinner each night, but find you’re really too tired by then? Maybe you can wake up an hour earlier and write when your mind feels fresh. You may find that one good hour, when you are at your best, is worth three or four hours of time when you’re not. Can you change up your habits for next quarter in support of this?
Have you learned anything new about your creative process?
When I wrote my first book, I made plenty of assumptions about how the whole creative process should work. I didn’t understand that there would be days when the words flowed easily from my head to the paper, and days when everything felt stuck. I didn’t feel productive at all when I had to spend hours, sometimes days, solving a plot tangle in my mind before I could write a new scene.
What I’ve learned through experience is that I have to set aside a specific amount of time each day devoted toward creating new content. But, whether I stare at the screen for half that time struggling to get a word out, or I finish the session with a thousand words more than I planned, it’s the habit that’s important. Sometimes during a writing session, I won’t even open my laptop. Instead, I’ll have a notebook out and I’ll scribble down potential solutions to a plot problem or I’ll work on outlining the next big scene. This is all part of the creative process.
As the first quarter of the year comes to end, take some time to assess where you are and where you want to go with your writing goals. Be honest about what’s working and what isn’t, and then make any necessary adjustments. Remind yourself to check in again in June to see if the adjustments have helped.