As we’ve talked about on DIY MFA in the past, setting goals can be a powerful tool to helping achieve our writing dreams. But what sort of goals should we be setting? There’s the obvious ones–like writing every day, finishing a certain project, or sending out queries. But there are many other ways to improve and strengthen our writing lives. Here’s a few.
1) Set an Aggressive Reading List
“Read with Purpose” is one of the core tenets of a DIY MFA. As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” It’s so important that we be filling the well with good books, and–since we only have so many hours in the day–books that will improve our writing. Whether this is non-fiction books for researching your historical novel, best-sellers or classics in your genre, or books on craft by masters before us, reading with purpose will help us to write with more clarity and expertise. Set a goal to set aside a certain amount of time for reading, or write a list of twenty five (or whatever number suits you) books to read this year. And keep a list to keep yourself encouraged!
2) Strategize Your Social Media
Social media is an awesome way to meet other writers, interact with readers, build your brand and get your name out there. It can also be a huge time suck and a source of stress. If you’ve found that you’ve been spending more time on social media than you’d like, or that the time you do spend on social media is aimless and unproductive, consider taking some time to think about your social media strategy. Not just what you’re going to post and when, but also when you’re going to check it. Personally, I’m setting a few goals for how often I will post on various platforms, but I’m also setting a time limit for how often I’ll check those platforms throughout the day. After all, it doesn’t matter how helpful social media is for my writing career if I’m not spending the majority of my time, well, writing!
3) Plan for Writing Retreats
There’s a reason writing retreats are so popular. As great as it is to write every day, or a certain amount of times a week, it can be hugely beneficial to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and concentrate solely on writing for an extended amount of time. We can set them up anywhere, from renting a cabin in the woods for a week, to just spending a full day in a coffee shop or your writing space with the door closed and the “Do Not Disturb” sign up. Putting a few on the calendar throughout the year will give you something to look forward to, and a built-in time to reassess, re-evaluate and get to writing!
4) Focus on Health
Writing can often have a deleterious effect on other aspects of our lives. Many writers juggle full time jobs, families and other responsibilities in addition to writing. Adding in exercise and healthy eating may seem nearly impossible! But we all know these things are important as well. Especially when we’re spending so much time at a desk, in our heads, it can be especially beneficial to get outside and get moving. So many people set goals to get healthy in the New Year, but it’s also one of the most difficult goals to keep. If you’re thinking about ways to add in exercise to your routine, consider a few alternatives to simply hitting the gym. For example, if you’ve resolved to read thirty minutes a day, try an audiobook, and go for a walk. Try to slip in ten minutes of a yoga video before sitting down to write in the morning. Even just setting goals to get a certain amount of sleep will help us to be more productive. Just like the goal to “write every day,” fitting in a small amount of exercise will lead to overall healthier habits and a more productive writing life.
5) Set Out to Be Inspired
This is a fun one, and the resolution I’m most excited about having made this year! As writers, we talk a lot about filling the well–whether it’s through time with writing friends or reading a good book. But there are many other ways to fill our writing wells and help us remember why we love writing so much in the first place. Seek out ways to inspire yourself, whether that’s taking a long hike or visiting a museum with an exhibit that pertains to your story. Keep a notebook of new ideas, stories or characters you dream about one day writing. Alternatively, keep a notebook of things you love about writing–certain stories or places that moved you, or an event in your life that motivated you. Writing is so often a struggle–it’s important to remember that it should also, at least sometimes, be a joy.