Back in January, I shared some writing goals that I hoped would help me get “unstuck” in February. I suspected that my “writer’s block” (which I don’t really believe in) was due mostly to the fact that I did not quite know what to do next, and I thought that making a plan would help me get through feeling stuck. I said I would report back after the month was over to see if it had worked or not.
By nearly any measure, I had a great deal of success with the goals I set in that post. I did not complete them 100% (one of them I did not do at all, and the others I either completed or mostly completed), but my main goal with all of this was to push myself forward and to make progress. And I did. I spent more time on research than I had before, I even went on a little research expedition which was not only fun but productive (research wise). Perhaps most importantly, I reworked the first chapter of my manuscript to the point that it was ready for a beta reader. It helped that I set myself a deadline and told her it would be in her inbox no later than today. I even completed it early enough to have my mom read it first, to make some edits, and get it over to my beta reader a whole day before my self-imposed deadline. Score! (It’s the little victories, right?)
The thing that shocked me most about this sudden burst of creative productivity is that it spilled over into my reading – which is absolutely crucial to my writing. In the last two weeks, I have completed 11 books. (I’ll probably post a reading wrap-up soon.) Many of these were audiobooks, and one (A King’s Ransom) I had started earlier than that, but the point is that I read more in the last two weeks than I have in a very long time. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever read that much in a two-week period ever before. The vast majority of them were quite long books, too.
I’ve always viewed reading and writing more as mutually exclusive. Time spent reading is time taken away from writing; time spent writing is time taken away from reading. It always seemed like a zero-sum game before. But this experiment of laying out a plan has made me realize that when I read more, I naturally get more writing done, and vice versa. They feed each other, as strange as that sounds.
I should admit that I have had some time off of work that I don’t usually have, and that definitely made my research time more possible, but when I sit down and think about it, every way I look at it, I’m pretty sure it still would have been a more creatively productive two weeks than I have had in a very long time. (And that was in the middle of a very stressful few weeks at work.)
Now, I know that the magic of making a plan for my writing may lose its effectiveness and that it may not continue to work very well for me, but for now, I am going to continue taking a few moments every two months to plan out what I am going to accomplish. It’s not so much goal setting as it is taking the time to sit down and look at a map to figure out a sensible route instead of driving around aimlessly hoping I kind of stumble into what I’m vaguely trying to find.
All that said, my goals for the months of March and April are as follows:
- Complete three of the books from my enormous research pile. (They are long and difficult reads, so I’m not going to set my expectations too high.)
- Rework chapter two of my manuscript so that it is ready to send to my beta reader. I know this will be much more difficult than chapter one was, so I am giving myself oodles of time to complete this.
- Revise chapter one. (Again.) Just this week, I discovered a number of things from my research that I would really like to add and that I think will really add a lot to the chapter.
Here’s to the next two months…