by Colleen M. Story
When you first started writing, what did you want?
It might have been a publishing contract, a spot on a best-seller list, a way to work from home, or books that supported your coaching business.
But then as you went along, things changed. You overcame challenges, gained experience, and grew professionally. Your life outside of writing probably changed too.
If you ask yourself what you want from your writing career at this point in your life, you may have a different answer than you once did.
If you’re not sure or if you haven’t thought about it in a while, try the following exercises.
Ask yourself if any of these statements ring true for you.
If any of these statements describe where you are right now, it probably means that you’ve lost touch with what you really want in your writing career.
Even if you didn’t relate, you may still need to gain clarity on what you want if you feel slightly disconnected from your career, or if it doesn’t excite you as much as it used to.
Split your paper or document into two columns. On the top of one half, write “Don’t want,” and on the other, write “Want.”
Start with the “don’t want” list as that’s usually easier. Write down everything that you don’t want to do as a writer or no longer want to do.
Then on the other side, write down those things you want to do. Often this list builds off of your first one—look at what you don’t want, then use that information to write down what you do want.
|To write another story in the same genre||To write a story in a new genre|
|To feel tired and exhausted||To feel energized about my writing|
|To work on projects I don’t enjoy||To work on projects I’m passionate about|
|To spend time on marketing tactics that don’t work||To market in ways that are efficient and make good use of my time|
|To feel like I’m failing||To feel like I’m succeeding|
Keep going until you exhaust all of your “don’t wants,” then pick the top three that bother you most right now. Figure out how you can get rid of these in your writing life.
Think back on your writing career so far. What experiences, achievements, or goals brought you the most joy and fulfillment? Which would you most like to repeat?
Use your answers to steer you toward doing more of the types of projects you want to do.
Examine your answers for words or phrases that leap out at you as important or impactful. Write those words and phrases down in a different place. Your results may look something like this:
Whatever your list looks like, examine it for clues about what you’d most like to focus on in the future.
Draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. In that circle, write down what you want to experience more of in your writing life. Limit it to three things.
Now draw lines connecting this central circle to other circles that you will create. In each of the other circles, write down ways you might get more of what you wrote in the central circle.
Some examples might include:
Keep brainstorming until your ideas run out, then leave the map resting nearby in case another idea occurs to you.
Your next step is to take small actions toward those goals you discovered you “may” want.
Go back and determine three actions you can take, based on your work here, that can help inch you toward your new goals. As you move forward, you’ll feel either you’re going the right way or that you need to go back and do some more thinking.
Do be sure to take at least some action. Thinking only gets you so far—you have to take action to really determine what you want next. When you figure it out for sure, don’t let anything hold you back.
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Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker with over 20 years in the creative writing industry. Her latest release, The Beached Ones, was released with CamCat Books on July 26, 2022. Her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Colleen has written three books to help writers succeed. Your Writing Matters was a bronze medal winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards (2022). Other award-winning titles include Writer Get Noticed! and Overwhelmed Writer Rescue. Get free chapters of these books here.
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