Setting writing goals #productivewriter

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This week I’m at a writer’s conference in Port Townsend, the Centrum Writer’s Conference.  Tonight I’m sitting in my hotel room, thinking about the week ahead.  In the mornings I have a class all week with a wonderful instructor called Sayantani Dasgupta, author of Fire Girl:  Essays on India, America, and the In-Between.  With every morning committed in this week-long course, I’m keeping the afternoons open to work on my own writing.

I used to come to a conference and rush around, going to every class session and workshop, filling every day with instruction.  Looking back, I realized it was hard to digest all that information.  Not only that, but afterward I missed being able to spend time actually writing myself.  Now I try to look over the schedule with an eye to blocking out time each day to be able to write.

When you are a writer (or photographer or textile artist), the days can seem to flip by (like on those old-fashioned calendars in the movies) without seeming to make progress.  This week I’m going to try a new experiment in productive writing:  setting specific writing goals.  Each day I’ll write down my goal(s) for that day’s writing.  And at the end of the day, I’ll check to see if I’ve made the goal, how long it took, and what I learned about my writing and the writing process itself.

Setting goals is a proven way to achieving success, but the creative spirit does not always lend itself to linearity or measurement.  Yet, by asking myself what really matters in my work, what I really want to accomplish, I hope to help the creative spirit to focus on what is really important.

Join me!  If you’re interested in becoming a more productive writer, let’s engage in this together.  Each time you sit down to write this week, take a post-it note or open your calendar and write down your goal for that writing session.  Try to make it measurable and concrete.  Some examples:  write for 30 minutes on a new short story; spend 45 minutes doing writing exercises; identify three new markets for that story I want to send out.

Let’s check back in with each other next Sunday and see how we did!  Have a great week of writing.

32 thoughts on “Setting writing goals #productivewriter

      1. When I was working, I almost went to a grant writing workshop, but that’s different kind of writing. I went to Sacramental to be on the grant applications review team. There were two applications apparently written by the same consultant, she just rearranged the paragraphes, but didn’t escape my eyes. She double charged for her one job, and submitted the two during the same period. Sometimes people don’t understand the process or don’t know what’s behind the scene.
        I should go to a regular writing conference. A friend got an agent to publish her book, but she expressed that the deal was not honest.

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      2. Oh! The consultant used the same write-up for two different applications? That’s terrible. Good for you for catching it! I have learned a lot about nonfiction writing at this workshop, but I’m also realizing the intensity takes a lot out of you. 🙂 Thank you for commenting, Miriam!

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      3. Sort of yes, sort of no. We focus on a different “type” of nonfiction every day, such as personal essay, memoir essay, etc. And, in the class we do a brief (15-20 minutes) in-class generative example of the particular essay we are studying. – which is usually not finished. The instructor has said this way we will have 5 different kinds of nonfiction “starts” by the end of the week.

        Oh! I just thought: Miriam, you should consider coming to this conference next year or so! You’re already familiar with Seattle, and there is a wide variety of sessions to choose from. The cost is not too bad, either. Here’s the link: http://centrum.org/the-port-townsend-writers-conference/

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      4. That’s a good idea to attend the conference. I bookmark the link so that I have the website. I may be with my daughter in Portland before and after. They are talking about taking the baby to Hong Kong to meet my family next summer. So I will go with their schedule, since they work. It would be fun if I could come!

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      5. Oh! Or in a future year… this is my second consecutive year – last year I took the “afternoon only” option, which was cost-effective, and let me write every morning. This year I took the 6-day morning workshop for the opportunity to work with a particular instructor. And you can also do a “retreat-only” option if you just want to write and go to readings, etc.! 🙂

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  1. We can not agree with you more Theresa. Planning is a must otherwise as you so well note, “…the days can seem to flip by (like on those old-fashioned calendars in the movies) without seeming to make progress.”. We constantly encounter this.

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    1. Yeah, it is pretty ambitious. I’ve been learning quite a lot so far (1st 2 days) about nonfiction writing, which I chose as my study area for this conference. But, also, it’s a challenge to sit still for almost 3 hours in a room with 14 other writers and the instructor – sometimes she forgets to give us a break – reading and writing together. But at least I am getting a lot out of the instruction! 🙂

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  2. Hi Theresa! I hope you had a great time at the conference!! I love the idea of setting daily goals. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you either have too much creative things going on, AND also when you have too little!! Making a note of what I want to achieve will help me stay focused and organized! 😀

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    1. Coming back to this reflection, Tami, I realized that I didn’t really have success in setting daily writing goals while I was gone. I felt a little sheepish about it … but re-reading your comment reminded me that I used to do something slightly different, which did work. That is, i would jot down “what I want to write on today” when I was starting my day, getting ready (eating breakfast, teeth brushed, etc.) and that would have an inviting effect, even if I didn’t get to everything I’d written. (- rather than write “1000 words today on ___ story,” or something like that). I’m going to give that a try again! Thanks! 🙂

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