Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Writing Goals’

Top 10 Tips for Writing

In Writing Advice, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals, Writing Motivation on January 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

2018Planner1

A new year is a great time to think about your writing plans and goals.

Lists are a great way to get motivated and to turn desires into habits—and to get motivated to write, I resort to my top 10.

Over the years, I’ve collected notes about writing processes and habits from magazine articles and books on writing, writing conferences and workshops, and my own personal experiences. I find these notes to be helpful, especially at those times when I feel discouraged, unwilling or stuck.

From these notes, I’ve generated my top 10 tips for writing and rules to live by to make writing a routine and, over time, a habit that I do without thinking or agonizing about it. I don’t want to have ideas and put them on hold because I’m busy, tired or overwhelmed. Instead, I want to show up for writing, finding that once I got started, I have something to say, a poem to write, or descriptions and storylines to add to a work in progress. It can be sticky or rough at first, but once I write, it seems easier to continue and I’m glad I put in the effort.

Top 10 Writing Tips

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. For example, make it a goal to write for two hours or 1,000 words in a session.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Figure out what is most essential for you to write about. Write about what interests you, what you want to learn about and, of course, what you already know.
  • Have more awareness, using all of the senses when making observations to add details to your descriptions. Take notes for later use.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story or message unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the sentences down, then revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

Writing in the New Year!

The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the best writing advice to find the time, discipline and inspiration to do the hard work of sitting down to write. It’s a great time to make writing a habit through the year of 2018!

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Writing in the New Year (to make it fun!)

In New Year's Resolutions, The Writing Life, Writing, Writing Advice on January 7, 2018 at 6:00 pm

2018Planner2

Zoey the Cute Dachshund poses by a 2018 planner to welcome a new year of writing.

The best part of the New Year is the new planner and seeing all of the blank pages to fill in plans for the next 12 months.

This year, I got the same purple one as I did last year. I tried to go with another color, like pink, but the brand I like didn’t have the nice little silver bookmark, only in the purple and red versions. I don’t want red because it makes me think of fancy dinners and fast cars. I needed a serious color, so really I should have gotten black.

Writing Resolutions for 2018

As I look at my planner with 2018 in gold letters, I think about my resolutions and big plans to make my writing more of a priority, instead of fitting it in when I have time. I plan to work on some novel revisions, giving my young adult novel one final editing pass and one of my literary adult novels two passes, including one through my writers group. I plan to keep on the daily poem challenge. And I plan to continue writing short stories and start drafting a new novel for 2019.

What are your writing resolutions for 2018? To join a writers’ group and stick with it, to write a novel or a few short stories, or to participate in NaNoWriMo, a month-long challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November? Or if writing is something you don’t like to do and would like to try, start with a class or one-day workshop or meet up with a writing friend to get some tips.

But keeping to a resolution can be difficult—according to the latest statistics, only 8 percent of those who make resolutions follow through. Research shows that the top resolutions are to lose weight, get organized and spend less money.

Sticking to Your Resolutions

Here are a few ways to stick to those resolutions:

  • Pick a resolution that you want to do, instead of something that is good for you or is something everyone else is doing (like writing novels when writing short stories is your preference).
  • Pick one, two or three resolutions instead of a long list that will be difficult to manage or even remember. That way you can focus your efforts on what you really want to accomplish.
  • Write down your goals and visualize what you want to accomplish and how you’ll do it. Put your goals in a prominent place, such as on your desk or the fridge.
  • Make a plan to carry out your goals with smaller steps that can be accomplished each week or month. If writing is one of your goals, start out with 500 words or a half hour and build from there.
  • Be specific, such as planning to write two days a week for one hour each time, or to write 2,000 words three times a week. Set aside a certain time for writing or for your other goals.
  • Check in every so often to make sure you’re meeting your goals and ask if any adjustments need to be made.

As you work on your resolutions, reward yourself as your efforts lead toward tangible results. Writing consistently to make that progress takes some adjustment, motivation and discipline. But then it will become habit and easier for 2019!

Top 10 Writing Tips

In Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Goals on February 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

Every writer I meet has their top tips for writing and the rules they live by to make sure they write, both in the sense of discipline and inspiration.

Writing takes both, because there has to be a little bit of the spark, as well as the willingness to show up and do the work. There are times, I’ve had ideas but put them on hold, because I was busy, tired or overwhelmed. I didn’t want to write.

But there also have been times when I made myself write, finding that once I got started, I had something to say. I got to work and got results, even though, at first, I wasn’t sure I had something to say.

Writing requires work and lots of it, so:

  • Write as much as you can, setting a writing quota with daily, weekly or monthly goals, such as writing three to four times a week. For example, make it a goal to write for two hours or 1,000 words in a session.
  • Get rid of distractions and the inner critic, which can keep you from writing by serving as excuses to not write or to invite in writer’s block.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration, because the more you practice writing, the easier it is for words and ideas to come to you.
  • Have more awareness, using all of the senses when making observations.
  • Cherish silence even in noisy environments to let the words come.
  • Think about where your writing wants to go, realizing that you’re not in total control of it. Trust your subconscious to make connections your conscious mind isn’t ready to or won’t necessarily be able to make.
  • Realize that rough or first drafts aren’t perfection on the first try. As you write, the story or message unfolds and isn’t readily formed until it’s written. Get the sentences down, then revise and revise again.
  • Accept that writing is supposed to be hard.
  • Focus on the process instead of the results. Enjoy that process.
  • And, last but not least, read. Reading makes you a better writer.

 

 

Writing Resolutions

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

I love the hoopla surrounding New Year’s Eve, the countdown to midnight, the noisemakers and the playing of Auld Lang Syne – all of it a boisterous farewell to a year, whether a personal success or not.

New Year’s Day is a more serious day, at least for those of us who feel obligated to make those annual resolutions.

It took me four tries to go to the gym, but in the middle of 2012 (not on Jan. 2), I started going twice a week, and by early 2013 amped my effort to every other day of weight lifting. I was motivated because I started seeing results – fewer body inches and smaller clothing sizes.

It took me three tries to do NaNoWriMo. I said I’d do it, but then came up with avoidance excuses until 2013, when I wrote 51,000 words in November. I told enough writer friends, posted it on Facebook and blogged about it that I felt obligated. Once I started, I was motivated because my daily efforts resulted in the words I needed to reach my goal.

And it took my two tries – it would be convenient if I could think of something – but I have to diverge.

I found I was never good at following through on New Year’s resolutions, at least those that required me to change a behavior immediately on Jan. 1. Change takes time and adjustment, motivation and discipline.

This year, I’m taking a new approach to annual goal setting, thanks to advice I got from an interview I conducted last month with Joan C. King, a writer, coach and speaker who works in the field of neuroscience.

King recommends coming up with a theme or idea for the year, such as finding ways to make things easier, doing things to be more expansive or choosing a state of mind of joy, calm or curiosity.

In 2012, I wrote out a writing contract outlining my year-end goals with smaller monthly/weekly progress goals. I asked two questions for my check-in progress report: Are my weekly and monthly goals being met? And do any adjustments need to be made?

The problem was I filed away the contract and didn’t look at it all year. I should have printed it out, laminated it and put it in my laptop sleeve.

That’s what I’ll be doing for my 2014 contract. Taking King’s advice, I will carry out my writing goals around the theme of joy. That way when I sit down to write, edit or do the other work of the writing life, I won’t think of it as work. I will look for ways to make writing joyful, changing how I approach writing to keep it fun, interesting and challenging.

Thinking of joy, not goals, makes me want to start in on my list of five: writing another novel, editing my current novels, conducting research for my memoir, writing and publishing my short stories, and finding a literary agent all seem exciting to me now.

Writing Dream

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on May 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

Since I was in the sixth grade, I knew I wanted to write professionally, but I also knew I had to work to get there.

I wrote a novella I called “Me, Lisa,” about a sixth-grader’s reactions to going through her parents’ divorce. It starts with quote marks, does not establish a clear setting in the first few pages, has flat characters and lacks true-sounding dialogue.

Of course I was a child, and definitely not a savant writer able to produce genius-level material without life experience, years spent writing and knowledge of the art and craft.

First, I needed to put in my 10,000 hours, at least if I take to heart the advice in Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers: The Story of Success,” which asks what makes high achievers different.

After 16 years of working as a journalist, I probably clocked in about 32,000 hours (this, minus my two weeks of vacation each year), but all of that time wasn’t spent on writing. I had to conduct interviews, make phone calls, attend meetings and do research. As a result, I maybe spent one-third of my working time on writing, or about 10,600 hours.

My hours mean I’m proficient in news writing and have reached a professional level there.

It does not mean, as I’ve learned from my research and conversations with other writers, that I’m at that level in creative writing.

This would require another 10,000 hours.

Two years ago, I began tracking my novel, short story, blog and poetry writing hours. I averaged 5 to 10 hours a week, but sometimes wrote 0 or 15, depending on my schedule and motivation level.

If I take 10 x 52, I get 520, or slightly above 500 hours of creative writing time a year.
Given my on-again, off-again relationship with writing, I probably am halfway to the 10,000-word mark. This means, as I’m editing my fourth novel, “The Fire Painter,” I probably have to write a couple more books to reach the experienced professional level.

Writers get published before or after they put in the hours and life experience, plus studying of the craft. This occurs as a result of luck, persistence, networking and writing ability, plus final product. What it means is writers are treated as professionals when they are published, even without the experience to back it up. Whether or not this is fair is not the question.

It’s just the way it is in a competitive market.

And writing has to be about the love, plus putting in the hours. What comes of it is the gift.