A lot of writers are thinking through their goals for the year ahead.
You may be measuring and drawing out calendar grids in your bullet journal or shopping for a bright, new, fresh yearly planner. You’re organizing and reorganizing Evernote tags and Notebooks. You’re trying out productivity apps. You’re going to test run a new social media platform. Maybe you decided this is the year to write your first book, so you set up a Word document or Scrivener file with the working title, as a promise to make progress.
You can imagine that as a coach, I love all of that dreaming, all that energy, all that desire and hope. I’m so happy you’re making plans and experimenting—maybe setting out to launch a new project.
Go for it.
Make those plans. Set those goals. Write out your intentions and resolutions. Stretch and get a little audacious.
And then, before you lock everything in, may I make a suggestion?
Run it through one more grid. Because I’d hate for you to get deep into the second quarter and realize you can’t possibly keep up with the pace you set for yourself. You can’t turn out the daily word count you set up, or you were unrealistic about how fast you could land a byline in a national publication.
I encourage you to look ahead with the idea of sustainability.
The word “sustainable” traces back to ideas of being able to last or continue over the long haul. But its root word, “sustain,” means to give support or relief to, or to supply with sustenance or nourish. I find that to be a satisfying way of looking at our work. So with those ideas of sustenance and nourishment in mind, let’s consider four ways our writing can be sustainable:
1. You can sustain your writing plan if you have enough ideas to keep going
This first idea is obvious. Your writing plan is sustainable only if you have enough ideas. If you set out to publish a blog post five times a week or three times a week, you need enough content to keep that up.
In episode 76, I did some math for you—and believe me, I’m really invested in you to do math for you. In that post, I figured out that to publish twice a week for three years, you’ll need 312 ideas. I was suggesting you brainstorm and see if you can generate a big number in one or two sessions because that would confirm you have plenty of content to keep writing in your niche.
Well, it’s the same principle as you move ahead with your writing plan for the year ahead. You want to be sure you have plenty of content to supply and support the plan. If you have 312 ideas, you’ll have no problem continuing—you’ll be able to move ahead with two articles per week. If you have only 75, perhaps you should reduce your frequency to once a week or broaden your niche so you can generate more ideas.
In any case, the concept here is that if you’ve set up a goal that requires a steady supply of content, make sure you have enough on deck to sustain it.
2. You can sustain your writing plan if the schedule isn’t brutal
This is closely related to the first sustainability challenge, except that you could have 700 ideas ready to go, but if writing still comes a bit slow for you, or if you’re working full time and writing is still a side gig, or if you face other complicated scheduling challenges, those ideas are just going to sit there.
Even efficient writers need time to write and prep content for a blog or freelance submissions or as pieces of a bigger project like chapters for a book. If you don’t have much writing time available, you can have all the ideas in the world and it doesn’t matter if you can’t get them written. Be realistic about what you can produce in your current schedule.
Now that’s not to say we shouldn’t push ourselves at times to meet those BHAGs and stretch goals. Just think through what you can truly pull off each month and each quarter. If you have a heavy month of travel or activities, for example, maybe that’s not the season to stretch yourself with an ambitious deadline.
Look at your writing plan, then look at your calendar to see if you can cut anything or open up more writing space. Then determine a realistic, sustainable schedule for your writing plan—an approach you can pull it off week after week for a year or more.
3. You can sustain your writing plan if the writing itself sustains you
Does your writing nourish and invigorate you or drag you down? Sometimes we set out to accomplish writing projects or goals that drain us. Maybe it’s a style that feels dull, or it’s so unfamiliar and overwhelming we feel frozen when we sit down to work. Either way, we’re heading into unsustainable territory.
I have to concede that depending on our goals, we may find ourselves at times having to write articles that aren’t about topics we love. We may have to serve an organization by writing in a style that doesn’t reflect our true voice. But when we’re creating projects that invigorate our imagination and creativity, that’s the kind of sustaining, sustainable work to keep you going. Look to maximize that in your writing plan.
4. You can sustain your writing plan if your writing sustains your reader
Does your writing sustain others? Does it breathe life into your reader, whether through its entertainment factor that makes people laugh or gasp, or through providing solutions to problems? Are you nourishing others through your helpful content, your captivating stories?
Episode 79 focused on figuring out the “Who” you’re writing for—Who is Your Who? Do you know who you’re writing for and are you delivering content that will sustain them in some way? Episode 80 discussed how we long to build a bridge from writer to reader—to connect. That, too, hints at a kind of sustenance to our writing as we, through fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, share with a reader what has helped and served us.
When you know your writing is connecting, making some kind of difference in your readers’ lives—when your work in some way sustains the person who reads it—you yourself will be further sustained.
Look ahead and make those plans for the year. Tackle something new. Look for projects and activities that will move you closer to becoming the writer you’ve always imagined. Just make sure that the plan is sustainable and that you, as a writer, are sustained. That’s when you’ll deliver to the world material that breathes life into the reader.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- Ep 76: Your Writing Platform – How to Confirm Your Niche
- Ep 79: Your Writing Platform – Who is Your Who?
- Ep 80: Your Writing as a Gift
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
- BHAG: Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (from Jim Collins)
- Are Your Stretch Goals Really a Stretch? (by Jeff Shore via Entrepreneur)
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