As January approaches, it’s time to sit down and forge our creative goals for the coming year. And since I’ve yet to meet a writer who wants to write less in the new year, I know many of us are scheming how to get more one-on-one time with our manuscripts in 2022.
But I also know vague goals to “write more” do little good without creating an actionable framework to show how exactly we’ll write more in the next 12 months. For me, this means taking the time now, as winter descends in earnest, to reflect on the year I’ve had and to dream of where I’d like to go next. It’s a perfect season to take inventory of my creative stores, to build an inspirational nest out of all the scraps of advice, insights, and revelations I’ve collected in 2021.
If now seems like the perfect time for you to do the same, the following questions may be helpful:
When did I feel most creative this year?
- When did I feel I produced my best work?
- What physical, mental, and emotional circumstances contributed to this period?
- How can I recreate these conditions in 2022?
Where did I struggle creatively this year?
- What physical, mental, and emotional circumstances contributed to this challenging period?
- Where might these circumstances pop up again in 2022, and how can I prepare for them?
What would I like to start next year? What would I like to finish?
- What are the specific barriers to starting and finishing these projects?
- Are there ways I can remove them or soften their impact?
What do I want to learn in 2022?
- What is the best environment for me to learn it?
Where am I currently spending my time?
- If I treated my free time like a budget, where am I overspending?
- Where should minutes be re-allotted?
Where am I currently spending my creative energy?
- Am I happy with how it’s being spent?
What tools will I need to accomplish my goals this year?
- How can I accumulate them before the new year begins?
What in my creative process brought me joy this year?
- How can I pursue more of this joy next year?
The ultimate goal is finding the perfect balance of starry-eyed hope and clear-eyed realism, juggling what you yearn to do with what you have the resources to achieve. Which is why I’ll leave you with one of my favorite writing insights of the year, the formula for “Real Writer’s Math,” which comes from agent Kate McKean by way of her fantastic “Agents and Books” newsletter.
Writer’s Math, McKean explains, is the temptation to calculate how long it will take to finish a book under ideal circumstances. If we write 3,000 words in a good writing session, Writer’s Math lets us dream we’ll complete a 60,000-word manuscript in three weeks. But for most of us, achieving this kind of output “means everything else has to go perfectly and no one needs me for anything else and my brain functions flawlessly the whole time and someone brings me lunch and I have the whole plot sorted out,” McKean writes. Real Writer’s Math, on the other hand, is taking our average output and cutting it in half to account for how often “life gets in the way,” and it’ll give us a much more accurate word count to strive for in 2022.
Overwhelmed with beautiful possibility, we find it’s all too easy to be blinded by what we could do in a perfect world instead of what we can do in the real one. But the real one is where most of the magic happens.
Please consider sharing your own goals, strategies, and Real Writer’s Math formulas with us on social media or by writing [email protected]. We’d love to share what we’re all dreaming of in a future issue.
—Nicki Porter served as the editor of The Writer from 2016 to 2022; she previously served as its associate editor. Before helming The Writer, she worked as a food editor for Madavor Media and America’s Test Kitchen. She’s also written for a number of publications and spoken at writing conferences across the country. Learn more at nickiporter.com.Originally Published