When we first start writing, it's only natural to start with...well, writing. I remember when I first imagined the idea of writing a book. It was an absolutely ridiculous thought. Me? Write a book? Wasn't that reserved for the elite of the world? Was there some kind of qualification process someone made you go through before you were "allowed" to attempt such a thing?
I tentatively dipped my toe in for the first few years, not even thinking about whether pursuing publication made sense for me until I was 5 years into this lofty experiment. Up until then, it was mostly one project at a time, one draft at a time, one day at a time.
When I signed with my agent, though, it (or something that rhymes with it) got real. I was suddenly facing my writing "career" becoming an actual "thing" and I realized I had no idea what that meant for me or my future. I knew that if I wanted to do what was necessary to have a career, I couldn't keep thinking of my writing as a hobby that I did when I had free time. And even more than that, if I wanted to be successful, I needed to have some vision for my writing future.
GETTING CLEAR ON THE BIG PICTURE
So I did what I do whenever I'm freaking out--I organized. (I may have been compared to Monica Geller once or twice in my life.) More specifically, I created a Career Plan for myself. In truth, I was still pretty unsure about how things would unfold for me and my book--I'm still not sure--but I knew that if I could at least start to put my vague thoughts on paper, they would eventually bloom and unfold into something that made sense.
Maybe you have some experience with that?
I wrote out my first writing career plan two years ago. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to update it and while I was surprised by how much had changed, I was also surprised my how much had stayed the same. My ambitions for my career have certainly grown as I've gotten more in tune with who I am and what my strengths are, but the heart of my dreams have remained steady. The goals that have evolved did so because of the quick progress I've made by having a clear vision for my career in the first place.
In the beginning, we must start from the bottom, with the daily tasks. We have to figure out if this writing thing is really for us anyway, right? It makes sense to be sure that you can dedicate enough time and heart to make a real go of it.
Once you've decided on the path of publishing, though, the path can be a lot smoother if you take a big picture look at your career and where you'd like it go. After all, you may need the support of an agent and/or publisher to get your book out into the world, but when it comes down to it, you will always be the driving force of your career. Your career plan is your map.
THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A CAREER PLAN
Here are some reasons I believe it's important to have even a vague and elementary career plan:
- Knowing what career goals and values are will help you make in-the-moment decisions. It will be easier to stay in line with what's important to you if you have it written out in black and white.
- Once your big goals are determined, you can break those down into smaller tasks that you can make progress on every day or every week. No longer will months or years pass without real progress.
- You will feel more in control of your career. You may not be able to control whether or not an agent or editor says yes to your work, or how long from signing to book release you have to wait, but if you know what your goals are, there will always be a next step that YOU can take.
- You will be able to see what skills you need to learn and who you need to make connections with in order to move forward.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN CAREER PLAN
To create your own career plan, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What is my purpose in creating a writing career? i.e. Creating an income? Leaving a legacy? Entertaining readers? Sharing my message?
- Whose careers, skills, books, and values do I admire? In short, who are my role models that I can model my career and myself after?
- What genre(s) do I intend to write? Will there be a common theme or message throughout my books? What impact do I hope to make on readers?
- What will the breadth of my career be? i.e. Books--fiction and/or non-fiction? Short stories, freelancing articles, and/or blogging? Speaking or teaching? Movies and screenplays? Editing?
- What do I want my professional presence to be? Will I be highly available to my readers or do I prefer to keep a respectful artistic distance? How much time will I spend networking with other writers and industry professionals? How do I want to be viewed in the writing and reading communities?
- How will writing fit into and support my overall lifestyle? What will my work/life balance look like? How will my writing income and lifestyle support my life goals?
- How do I want to feel in my writing career and in my life life?
Have you created a career plan for your writing? Do you have any answers to the questions above that you'd like to share?
Also, if you'd like a free downloadable and customizable template based on my career plan, you can get it by subscribing to my newsletter here.
WITS Announcement: The two class winners from Laurie Schnebly Campbell's Friday post are Lyn Brittan and Janet Kerr. Please see the comments section in the post for instructions.
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Jamie Raintree is a writer, a writing business and productivity instructor, and the creator of the Writing & Revision Tracker. She is represented by Regal Literary and is currently working on her second novel. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website below.