How I Plan to Become a Better Writer by Goal Setting and Execution
With a heavy dose of self-exploration thrown in for good measure.
I want to be a better writer so I can make a living wage writing.
I want to make a living wage by writing, and I want to have done that by yesterday. Since I haven’t perfected my time machine, I’ll settle for becoming a better writer now, so that I can eventually make a living wage by writing.
To get me closer to that goal, I’m reading posts on Medium about how to be a better writer. My biggest problem seems to be that I have about 300 posts I could write, but when I sit down to write, I either can’t choose one topic, or I edit the living bleep out of my post until it takes me five hours to write one half page piece.
I’m a mother of three boys, a wife, and a person in her own right — I don’t have that kind of time for every piece I write!
So when I ran across this post about goal setting by Shaunta Grimes, I figured I’d work through the exercises she lists.
I took the Ninja Writer’s Writer Archetype Quiz.
The quiz was downloadable from a link in the post linked to by the original post, so I printed it out. I read the questions and circled and scratched out and doodled in the margins and re-circled my answers, and…
My results were inconclusive. When I pressed myself to answer every question, with only one answer, I had 3 A’s, 2 B’s, 2 C’s, 2 D’s, and 3 E’s. For two of the questions, none of the answers fit me, and for five of the questions, most of the answers fit me.
So what’s my writer archetype then? Maybe if I kept reading the goals post, I could set a goal to find out.
I did the five why’s... well, three of them.
Why don’t I write every day?
It takes me too long.
Why does it take me too long?
I edit and re-edit, or I can’t choose the right topic.
Why do I edit and re-edit, or dither over topics?
I believe that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing right the first time.
So now what do I do about that? Change myself to believe that a thing is worth doing even if it’s not perfect? 35 years hasn’t changed that belief in me; I’m not convinced another 35 would be enough to do the trick. LOL
Maybe Shaunta has a trick for that. I’ll keep reading.
I identified my strengths and weaknesses.
So then she’s talking about strengths and weaknesses — maybe that will help me figure out my archetype.
The hesitator is a strong learner, enthusiastic about research, but never seems to jump into any particular topic or publication— my husband chimes in enthusiastically, “That’s you to a T!”
The skipper is good at whatever needs doing, but doesn’t really start well on her own — my husband chimes in, still enthusiastically, “That’s also you to a T! That must be your real type!”
The spiller is incredibly personal, makes her audience feel her feelings, and is really inconsistent about writing, because she tends to write whenever something sparks a blog idea. My husband states slowly, “But that’s also a great description of you…”
A teacher is great at explaining things, and is good at building an audience, but tends to be boring and bogged down by details. My husband questions, “Can you be all the archetypes? Is there a super-archetype that she’s describing?”
The artist is amazing at writing technique, but gets hung up on editing. My husband walks out the back door with a tray of meat in his hands, “I give up. When you’re done with the post, tell me if you figure out what type you are. I think you’re all of them.”
I laugh, and silently wonder about his super-archetype idea, as I scroll down to keep reading.
I wondered how I could use my strengths right now.
Shaunta didn’t really have much to say in this section. She tells us how she uses her strengths and challenges us to find a similar calling.
My answer would seem to be, “find a publication that pays me to write for them about something I don’t know about yet, but want to learn, and write about my learning process, and edit the snot out of it to meet their word count.”
Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Shaunta envisioned as a good use of strengths.
I snorted at the thought of course correcting for my weaknesses.
That’s why I am reading her post in the first place. I hoped that setting some goals would help me to course correct for the weakness of not writing enough.
I made a 90 day goal, and worked backward.
Shaunta actually gave me this one: I want to be writing 5 days a week in 90 days. Her suggested steps don’t really fit my workflow, so I’ll need to rework them a bit.
- I am writing 5 days a week in 90 days. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I suddenly start writing 5 days a week on that 90th day. I need to build up to it, and have been writing 5 days a week for the prior two weeks.
- I am writing 4 days a week in 60 days. This should get me to the goal, so that I can write 5 days a week for 2 or 3 weeks by day 90. But what comes first?
- I am writing 3 days a week in 30 days. This seems like a huge step, but I’ve got about four weeks to figure that out. Let’s break them down a bit more.
- I am writing 2 days a week in 15 days. That seems somewhat doable… right? I just need to get started somehow.
- I will write at least one thing this week. And next week. That is very doable. I’m doing that now!
- I make a list of 40 writing topics today, so I have my planning done for me and don’t dither over topics in the coming days.
I don’t know all the answers, but I have a goal and a plan.
I still don’t know my archetype. I don’t know what the fix for the problem identified by the Why’s Exercise is. I’m pretty clear on my strengths and weaknesses, though, just not how to use or course-correct for them.
But I do have goal. And equally importantly, I have a plan for executing that goal. I wonder what the next 90 days will teach me. I wonder if I’ll make any money by writing.
Most importantly, do you think I’ll find out my archetype by then? ;-)
This article was originally published by ClaireElaine (O'Malley) Molnar on medium.