Goals Day 3: Action Plan
To work, goals should be broken into small micro-actions necessary to complete the larger goals. As Kanye West learned in 2020, you can’t run for president if you don’t complete the proper paperwork first.
Goals require action. For example, if “publishing my first novel” is your overarching goal, break it down into specific parts:
What is it you want from or for your writing career? Take some time to write your answers in a notebook or digital document. Ask and answer these questions:
Time is finite, use yours well.
Mill around checklist
In the military, we had a name for those all-too-frequent occasions when we had to show up 2.5 hours early for a briefing. We called it the mill-around checklist, because no one knew what was happening or when it would start. We do that with writing when we don’t plan. We open a file, read the last few pages or paragraphs, spend time on internet “research,” check our email and social media while we’re online, etc. That’s the writers’ mill-around checklist. Do what you must to prevent that from happening.
Get started now by developing your goals into an action plan.
Open up your brainstorming questions from Day 2. Are they measurable? Achievable and realistic? Do they have a deadline?
Generally speaking, the more often you keep your goals in mind, the more often you review your goals, adjust as needed, and note your successes, the more likely you are to succeed at reaching your goals.
How you measure success is up to each individual writer, but keep in mind that you cannot control most of the publishing process. Focus on what you can control: word count, queries, submissions, and completion. The rest is up to the volatile writing gods.
Micro-actions are specific things you can do during your writing time to achieve your goal. A common question for expressive writers (journaling with a purpose) is to create a list of micro-actions that they can use when faced with a certain situation (often a trigger). In this way, the expressive writer plans for those moments rather than let those moments become a surprise attack. We then re-evaluate to see how that plan of action works. You will do the same with your creative writing schedule.
Ask yourself the following: what is the specific goal? What is the end result you want out of the goal? What actions do you need to take to get there?
Day 3 Homework
Take some time to write your brainstorm answers in a notebook or digital document. Complete the above process for each of the 3 goals you created in Day 2. Know your goal, the end result you want, and the micro-actions necessary to do the work.
When you are finished, you will be ready to work on time management for writers in Day 4.
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Cindy Skaggs is the author of nine books, multiple creative nonfiction essays, memoir, and short fiction. She teaches undergraduate and graduate writing.