In June I wrote about the benefits of carving out time to contemplate the things you’d like to bring to fruition over the next three, five or ten years (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/anything-but-ordinary). I hope the warm, summer days have provided a restful backdrop for sitting and thinking, because it’s time to dive into Part Two--translating those dreams into concrete goals over the next five years.
Five years might as well be eons from now, especially when you don’t know what you’re serving for dinner tonight! But trust me! Thinking several years into the future helps get our heads out of the sand. When we think beyond our day-to-day minutiae, worries and overaggressive to-do lists, we remove the anxiety and pressure to produce something right now. Instead we think logically about those big leaps we want--and will--make. Just like planning a novel, laying our five-year vision is exciting and energizing. Anything is possible. It’s a clean slate. But just as the novel can’t be written without an outline or a plot, we, too, must write down the details of our plan so that we can march toward the larger goals, one step at a time.
First, we must lay structure to the five-year window. What two or three big things do we want to accomplish in our careers in the next several years? As a writer of longer fiction, I can realistically attempt three manuscripts in a five-year span. That's it. For those of you working on shorter pieces, your five-year outlook might include several completed manuscripts or magazine articles per year, but you might chart career growth by targeting bigger publications over time or ones that you feel are too much of a reach right now but would be doable with a little more growth.
Second, our projects (and subsequent timelines) should take into consideration:
· three or four drafts (sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how you write and edit)
· “simmer time” (Our manuscripts need time to rest in the drawer.)
· time for beta readers or critique groups to read and offer feedback
· editor/agent research (Who's right for this style of story?)
· submission tracking
Our last step is to layer on annual conferences, writing retreats, and any specific workshops you want to take to develop your craft. Workshops will vary by project, depending on the skills you require, but make sure to plan for them each year. With these on your calendar well in advance, they are attainable. Time and money are allocated, and you won't be faced with short-notice indecision (or worse--excuses) causing the workshop to inevitably pass you by.
In the next few weeks, seriously consider the direction you'd like your career to take. ANYTHING is possible, especially with appropriate planning. Take an hour or two to put these goals in writing for the remainder of 2015 right on through 2020.
Next month we'll take these goals to the next level - planning your one-year tasks!
Happy dreaming, happy writing!