Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over...

With coffee.  And other things, but lately I've rekindled an already pretty strong love affair with Starbucks despite all of the posts about their questionable 'loaded gun in store' policy.  The socially conscious part of my brain is rioting while the biochemical need I have for their coffee is sated twice a day.  But that's not really the cup I want to talk about.  Instead, it's the professional one.

Around my birthday (in the 30's, no specifics!) in June, I decided that my writing career had become stagnant.  I was still attending conferences and working on novels and stories, but a timeline was lacking.  A missing urgency.  Instead it felt like projects were completed at random, and my work was suffering.  So I turned to good old-fashioned goal setting and made a list.  A list I didn't share with anyone, a list that felt both reasonable and ambitious, but a list nonetheless.  At the time I told myself I should be writing and it was a procrastination tactic, nothing more.  

But lo and behold it worked.

Two of my short stories were accepted for online journals.  "Encounters In the Park" can be found here, thanks to Literary Orphans.  And yes, that is absolutely my silhouette behind the story. (If you follow the link, you'll see why this statement is utterly untrue and vaguely hysterical.)  And flash fiction originally written for one of NPR's Three-Minute Fiction will show up in the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal next month.

Pair this with an acceptance to Lesley University's Creative Writing MFA program and a fantastic agent reviewing my YA novel as we speak, and I couldn't be happier with the summer's writing progress.  And I am one thousand percent certain that without those defined goals, none of that would have happened.

In part this post allows me to put the results into writing as a testament of what a few months of hard work can really do, but it's also a reminder of just how important the goal setting and planning are.  I fight this thought often, because writing has always been such an intimate, organic process for me.  Even forcing myself to write every day no matter my mood or the inspiration has been tough, but the lists and strategic thinking helped perform wonders with my writing routine, too.

My recommendation, perhaps a terribly obvious one, is as follows.  Think specifically about what you want to get out of writing.  Are you working towards a book?  Do you plan on publishing short stories as a hobby, or do you hope to teach/mentor other writers or just find your own mentor to move out of the amateur writing world?  Of course it's FINE to say 'I want to be a writer.'  But there are many different journeys implied by that statement, many exciting paths to pursue.  Defining that journey can only make it richer, and your success rate will skyrocket.  Break each goal into steps, translate those steps to an action calendar, and hit all of your checkpoints.  Hold yourself accountable.  I'm the first to admit that first and foremost you must be a good writer to get anywhere (except Stephenie Meyer, she's an anomaly), but once you've grown into your writing shoes, goal setting will take you to that next step.  

The Starbucks obsession, of course, is optional.

Good luck writing!