Formulating a Clear Vision for Your Writing Career

As 2012 winds up, I’m taking an in-depth look at strategic planning for writers. In last week’s post I introduced the four things we need to look at when planning our writing careers: vision, strategy, tactics, and action. Rather than have a nebulous idea of what we want to achieve as writers, it’s helpful and wise to think about the goals we want to reach.

Then we want to take our vague vision and form it into something not only specific but laid out with reasonable milestones to reach at certain steps along the way.

By transforming our vision into doable steps, we can measure our success, reevaluate the milestones and goals as we go along, and hone that vision into a reality with its resultant rewards.

The first thing we need to explore regarding strategic planning is our vision. That equates to a clear mental picture of what you want your career to look like by a certain date, such as the end of one year, two years, and even five years. If you don’t have any long-range goals for your career, then you may not achieve much, and your efforts to succeed as a writer may be haphazard and scatter-shot  Rather than using the shotgun approach to your very important writing journey, think sniper scope. You want to hit those targets dead-on.

So Let’s Break It Down

Your vision is made up of three components or goals:

  1. Things you want to HAVE
  2. Things you want to DO
  3. Things you want to BE

Last week I encouraged you to freewrite some of your dreams—imagine what your ideal successful writing career looks like in specifics. When you take time to dream, you can be as ambitious, outrageous, or ridiculous as you want. This is your dream. We all know the truth of these famous quotes:

  •  “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” (Walt Disney)
  • “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)
  • “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” (Robert Kennedy)

Dream Big!

In other words, don’t censor yourself when you dream. Don’t have that little cartoon devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear and telling you you are stupid or fooling yourself thinking you deserve success or will see your greatest writing dreams realized. I mean, think about it. If Walt Disney hadn’t envisioned Disneyland, we never would have had all those fun rides!

Seriously, some of humankind’s (maybe all?) greatest achievements started as an outrageous dream in someone’s mind (Take a spaceship to the moon? Are you crazy?).

So write down your vision of what you think your career should look like by the end of 2013. Write down some ideas for two years and five years. Where do you see yourself? What do you see yourself doing? We generally overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but often underestimate what we can do in five.

Honing Your Vision

Now, fill in these blanks by answering this question (compliments from Randy Ingermanson, who has such great resources at his blog In ____ years this is what I want my life to look like: (Do this for each period of time for which you are setting up your vision.)

  • I will be having a wonderful time writing ___________________________________________ (What do you want to be writing about/what kind of writing?)
  • I will be earning $____________ from my day job each month, working _________ hours per week doing ____________.
  • I will be earning $____________ from my writing job, working _________ hours per week.
  • I will also be doing these fun or cool or worthwhile things: ______________________________________________________ (because you also have a life and other things are important too).

If you are going the indie publishing route, you will want to add these:

  • I will have ___________ ebooks for sale by this benchmark date.
  • Each ebook will be selling ____________ copies per month and earning me $______________ per month.

If you are looking to get traditionally published (or have more books published via this channel), you may need something like this in your vision:

  • I will have landed an agent contract by this benchmark date.
  • I will have gotten a publishing contract for this novel ______________ or this many novels ___________________.
  • I will be selling _________________ copies per months of my published books and will have earned $ ________________ royalties by the end of this benchmark date.

Yes, Be Specific!

Do you see how specific your vision must be? In order to create a strategy to reach your goals, you have to get that vision set up so it is the destination you are striving for (remember my last post about saddling up your horse and heading to that town you drew at the edge of your map?) If you look up at that list of three things your vision entails, you see by filling in those blanks you are clarifying what you want to do and what you want to have, which in turn paints a picture of what you want to be.

Once you have all this worked out, remember this is not set in stone. You are not making a blood pact that inflicts torture or shame if you fail to reach your vision by the benchmark dates (hmm, maybe it’s not a good idea, then, to picture those as tombstones with R.I.P. on them). You should look at this more as your lens focus, helping you hone in on your writing career goals in a practical way.

So spend some time and think about these particulars and next week we will discuss just how to put together a practical, manageable strategy to help you get there—by setting milestones along the way. Till then, dream big.

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  1. Thank you for including the line about how much I’ll be making from my day job. When I started to dream last week, I couldn’t get past having to have a day job for some time. My only problem is that I want to change careers in my day job as well and don’t have the resources yet to do that. I’d love to work as an archives technician. Living where we do in Western North Carolina, there aren’t any jobs or schools to teach this. So, that also includes moving east, which is also dependent on my husband getting a job transfer to a VA Hospital in Raleigh/Durham area (that’s where the jobs & schools are). So, till then, I’ll do the sheet above with my present job as the day job…and add the dream of the new job in the future.

  2. Thank you for this “timely” advice. I seem to have no problem in setting goals; it’s keeping them in front of me so they become actionable that is my downfall. I periodically unearth notebooks with wonderful goals – completely broken down into action items with due dates…. But unless I keep them in front of me – nothing happens (surprise, surprise!)

    I’ve started a “new” method of keeping my goals front and center – a simple notebook (despite my love of all things Apple, I’m a paper girl at heart), with 8 dividers: 6 for each of the major roles in life, one for gratitude and the front one for THIS WEEK. Sunday nights, I review each section and transfer items needing action into the This Week section, which I then review every evening. Certainly not foolproof (and I can be a bit of a fool about moving my life forward), but better than sinking deeper and deeper into the quagmire that is a cluttered life.

    I’m putting your worksheet above into the writer section of my notebook (all filled in), so that I keep moving forward!

    Thank you!

    Penny Hawes

  3. Excellent advice and great ideas. I did have a kind of publishing plan for the year and am gradually achieving it, although I got a bit behind (didn’t realise how much time marketing takes!). I like the folder with dividers idea from Penny. I tend to use A4 sheets of paper with long lists, which I tick off as I get through my tasks, and am also a big fan of post it notes. But being specific about targets and quantifying these is really beneficial and can make what seems daunting much more do-able. Thanks!

  4. I love this!! I had set goals for 2013 for writing but not as specific as this…so I will put this to use and get really serious about my writing career. It’s no longer a hobby it’s a career and I need to put as much dedication into it as I do my day job (which I’m expecting my writing to replace my current full-time income within the next 2-3yrs)!!My ideal writing career is not needing a day job to supplement!! Great Post!!

  5. Great post! This was exactly what I needed today. I’m usually very good about setting specific goals and objectives for my writing career, but I feel like I’ve been disoriented lately. This exercise might be just the trick to help me hone my vision. Thanks! 🙂

  6. I love your goal-setting suggestions. I agree, it’s important to be specific and to hold the vision. I like to set up little “towers of intent” for my goals. For instance, one of my current towers (it takes up very little room on a dresser) includes a bookmark from my latest book, a crystal programmed for good communication, a written message detailing my goal, and related tokens of that goal & book that are significant to me. I like having a reminder of my intent to encourage me to focus on it, even momentarily, every time I see it. Thanks for this blog!

  7. Interesting post, thanks a lot. Have a method useful for evaluate “why” to do something seems a simple and usual thing, but it doesn’t happen very often among non professional writers (many of them self-publishers). It could be interesting to psychological research to understand the phenomenon.

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