It’s my usual activity around this time of year to take stock of what I accomplished during the year and formulate goals for the coming year. This year, I must say, the process has been particularly illuminating.
Taking stock of the previous year
Set aside some time across several days (I recommend three days to a week) to reflect on:
- What’s worked
- What hasn’t worked
- What gets in the way of your creative writing
I started with a two-column list of what went well and what didn’t. As I scribbled, I noticed the list of what went well was getting increasingly longer. Maybe I have a block against what didn’t go well or maybe there just weren’t that many items.
What went well:
- Had a research fellowship at the American Jewish Archives and delivered a seminar on “The Intersectionality of Emma Lazarus”
- Delivered papers at five academic conferences
- Received my MA in History and won a bunch of awards
- Served as a visiting assistant professor of creative writing
- Placed a short story, “Red,” in Michigan Quarterly Review and creative nonfiction in Jewish Literary Journal
- My short story, “The Last Survivor,” inaugurated the fiction blog at Lilith
- Started to teach composition at a community college and achieved a rank higher than usual
- Given a 300-level Holocaust class to teach at William Paterson University for 2017
- The Whole Megillah Online Classes
- A blog post about Emma Lazarus (with a poem) on Reformjudaism.org
- New work assigned from educational publishers
- Completed a new draft of a novel in verse
- Two paper proposals accepted for academic conferences in 2017
- Developed a new website holocaustkidlit.com
- Inaugurated the “In the Spirit of Poetry Has Value” feature on The Whole Megillah
- Served as an oral historian for the American Hungarian Foundation
- Working one-on-one with mentor poet Matthew Lippman
What didn’t go well:
- Ghostwriting a family history
- Not giving myself enough downtime
- The WordPress plug-in database developer for my holocaustkidlit site went MIA and the database doesn’t work with new WordPress releases
- Editors tell me my characters need to emote more
The next step
It would seem natural to continue to do what’s working and stop doing what’s not working. But what’s not working should inspire some additional strategies and actions. For example, if emotion is not my strong suit, could I take a class or workshop? But as serendipity would have it, Writers Digest just came out with a new book by Donald Maas, The Emotional Craft in Fiction. It’s giving me a lot of new ideas to work with as I revise a few manuscripts over my winter break.
Note: It’s also a great idea to list your previous year accomplishments. I just happened to open my 2015 file and was amazed by how much I actually did. I did the same for 2016 and realized I presented at five academic conferences and saw the publication of my poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction for the adult market.
There are some standards about this such as making goals SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic (although the “R” could also mean results oriented), and time-based.
I set up a few long-term goals and a short-term goal. This is an opportunity to think really big. For example, do you want to win the National Jewish Book Award within the next five years? Do you want to teach in an MFA program? Do you want an agent? Do you want to apply for writers’ residencies?
My goals are fairly lofty with specific actions, baby steps to get me there. I realized that the key to accomplishing my long-term goals is to actually complete a book-length manuscript and get it out into the world. So, I’m naming 2017 as “My Year of the Book.” How to do this? I need to write. Since I know I typically allow my teaching to take precedence over my writing, I am dedicating Fridays in 2017 to my personal work and have worked out a trial arrangement with an Amherst Writers & Artists leader to generate writing remotely.
Where to go for help with this process
Even though I have a background as a Corporate America strategist, well versed in goal setting, I found two blogs helpful for setting creative writing goals:
- Chris Guillebeau and “How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review“
- Annette Gendler and her assessment/goal-setting workbook
Some ideas for achieving your 2017 goals
- Want to create new story ideas? Check out Tara Lazar’s Storystorm.
- Need a place to write? Check out Tent, the new Jewish children’s writers retreat, hosted by PJ Library and the National Yiddish Book Center and Unworkshops at the Highlights Foundation.
- Want to learn and practice your craft? Check out online classes from The Whole Megillah. Selected seats still available for Fiction I, starting January 22, 2017.
How did your 2016 work for you and what are your 2017 goals?
Let us hear from you. After the end of each quarter, I’ll give you all a status of how I’m doing with my goal of completing and placing a book manuscript (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) in both adult and children’s markets.