Most of us have a good general idea of our plans and motivations. But we also have so many different things going on in our lives that it’s easy to forget to check in with ourselves about how things are going.
Once we have created a system or a plan, we tend to keep trying to follow it until things go horribly wrong. However, even if things haven’t gone horribly wrong, the plan or system might still not be completely right. It might be causing us unnecessary frustration or stress just because it no longer matches our needs. If we take time to check in with ourselves and assess what we need right now, we may discover some useful information for revamping our plans.
Perhaps we are holding on to old plans and ideas that no longer match the reality of our lives. (Perhaps you used to have more or less time to write than you do right now.)
Maybe the goals we once set don’t have the same meaning that they once did. (Are you still trying to finish a story just because you started it, even though you no longer care about it?)
If things have changed, it could be time to reevaluate how we use our time and our energy.
Without being harsh with ourselves – because that never helps – we can use questions like the ones below to have a conscious look at our writing practice and reshape it to match our current needs.
So, go ahead and interview yourself. You can do this on paper, or just in your head, or, if you want to be more official, you can record yourself asking and then answering the questions. If you find it too ridiculous to work on alone, ask a writer friend for help – you can interview each other.
1) What do I want to get out of my writing right now?
Your writing is YOUR writing. And your writing time is YOUR writing time. The way that you use it is up to you and there are no wrong answers.
This might be a time for you to write solely for your own pleasure. That means you have a wide range of choices about how to spend your writing session, journaling, writing fiction, doing writing exercises.
Or your current writing may be all focused on a given area. You might be pouring your energy into finding lucrative writing opportunities, or trying to get some flash fiction published, or finishing your novel. That narrows your choices but it makes your milestones very clear.
You may be working to improve your writing skill at the moment. So, your choices would be all about identifying skills and figuring out ways to hone them. This gives you a different range of choices and helps make your plans very clear.
2) What does a satisfying writing session look like for me right now?
Once you know what you want to get from your writing overall, perhaps you can turn your mind to what each individual writing session could look like. What is your minimum amount of writing or learning that would feel satisfying, like you were making progress? What kind of parameters can you put around each session so you feel like they are adding up to a useful whole?
The more satisfaction you can find in each session, the more likely you are to stick with the plan overall. It’s well worth it to think these things through.
3) Who is on my team?
Since you know what you want to get out of your writing, it will make it a lot easier for you to find people to help you to accomplish those goals. You can reach out to people who are undertaking the same kind of project, or you can go the opposite route and find people who are trying to do something different.
And, it will be easier for you to get exactly what you need because you can articulate it. It won’t be ‘I just need some support.’ It will be ‘I am trying to write a short story each week, can you help me find markets to send them to?’
4) What does overall writing success look like for me at the moment?
This ties into your first two questions but it also asks you to think about things a little differently.
You know, in general, what you want, and you know what it would feel like to be satisfied with your writing time, but what does success look like for you right now?
Will you measure in time spent? In words written?
Perhaps you could track the stories you have submitted or the contacts you have made.
Any of these are valid approaches to measuring your success, and you get to decide what measurements work for you.
Note: Don’t forget to celebrate your successes, whatever they might be!
5) What do I need to put in place to ensure that my needs and my goals are met?
This can be a tricky one. Maybe you need to do tangible things like reorganizing schedules or setting up a desk. Or, perhaps you need to take some time to create mental space to brainstorm or to consider the tasks ahead.
Perhaps you need to ask your kids not to interrupt you at certain times. (I can hear you laughing but sometimes it works.) Or maybe you need to get up earlier or stay up later.
Only you know what you are aiming for right now.
Only you know what tools you will need to hit the target.
It’s okay to plan for and seek out those tools so you can get what you need from your writing – session by session and project by project.
Whenever I interview people, I start with a set of questions but I may not limit myself to my list. Sometimes, the interviewee’s responses lead me to even more interesting questions. Feel free to let your answers lead you to ask yourself different things.
And, of course, if any of these questions cause you stress, feel free to ignore them.