When a client brought me along to New York City, the airport shuttle bus dropped us off near Times Square and we had to find our way to the hotel. For a couple of Midwesterners who had never set foot in New York, this was magical.
Getting around, however, was a tad mystifying—at first. As quickly as possible we had to evaluate our location and figure out our next step.
We pulled out our phones and used an app that located where we were in order to guide us to our hotel. It helped us find our way to the next destinations, as well. The app located where we were and guided us to a restaurant that night and the publishing house the next day.
Where Are You Now?
Mall maps show a big overview of the layout of the place and mark the keystone stores. You look for a big red arrow pointing to where you stand labeled “You are here.” It helps you figure out your next steps so you take the right path based on your destination and your starting point.
That’s what we did in New York and that’s what we can do as writers. We can take time to figure out where we are right now in the world of writing—we’re kind of looking for a big red arrow labeled “You are here,” though it won’t be as obvious as when we stand at that big kiosk in the mall. Nevertheless, with some reflection we can orient ourselves.
It’s time to evaluate. If you look at the writing and publishing landscape—and your writing life so far—where are you now?
Orient Yourself with These 10 Questions
The following questions will help you evaluate your writing world so you can orient yourself and identity your starting point. To help you articulate and solidify your thoughts, record your responses on the downloadable worksheet (below) or copy the questions into a journal answer them there:
1. Describe the writing you’re doing.
If you’re writing and submitting poetry and short stories to literary magazines, your world looks different than if you’re writing self-published thrillers, blogging in the travel market, or seeking traditional publishing of a book about cooking with kids.
2. Describe the writing world your work is part of.
For instance, are you part of the self-publishing world, traditional publishing, blogging, or the literary market?
3. How long have you been here, doing this work?
4. What kinds of readers are here and how many are reading you? How are you known in this writing world?
5. What projects reflect your best work in this world?
6. What are you still figuring out (or have yet to figure out) to make the most of this writing world? What knowledge or skills do you need to fully inhabit this world?
7. How close are you to maxing out every possibility in this world of writing and at this level?
Are you feeling stretched every day, or are you so experienced you’re bored, just skating along as you wash-rinse-repeat?
8. Who has done exemplary work in this space? Who do you look to for inspiration or as a model for what‘s possible?
The next question that may take some courage to say out loud or write in a journal:
9. Is this the world you want to continue to write in? For example, do you want to continue submitting to literary magazines? If so, great. You can work on leveling up within that world.
It’s smart to ask this question early in the process, because as you continue learning what it takes to level up, you want to be sure you’re investing time and resources moving up in the world that you value—the writing world where you want to continue.
The last question is this:
10. If the answer to the previous question was “No,” and this is no longer the world you want to write in, where do you want to write next?
A specific goal might drive this, such as wanting to seek traditional publishing. Or someone’s work may model the kind of writing you’d like to attempt next.
Want to Shift to a New World?
Are you done writing self-published thrillers and now you want to pursue literary fiction with a traditional publisher? Maybe you‘ve become known as a vegan blogger, but you’re ready to push yourself creatively with poetry or to aim for something bigger, like a traditional cookbook.
If so, there’s a new world of writing to enter into—and different ways to level up.
Sticking with Your Current World?
But maybe you answered a big, heartfelt “Yes!” when you asked yourself if this is the world you want to continue writing in. If so, I’m so glad you took time to confirm that because now you can move forward with confidence.
Once you figure out your destination—and where you are now—you can clarify the path you need to take. After all, if you’re in New York City and you want to see the Statue of Liberty, you’ll take a different bus or subway line to get there than if you’re heading to the Empire State Building.
Evaluate Where You Are
Ask yourself these questions to evaluate where you are, and where you want to be. It’s like seeing that big arrow pointing “You are here.” You’ll have a clear picture of your here and now, so you can you take the next step of determining how you’ll level up.