"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Dream Catching for Writers

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dream Catching for Writers

Dear Fellow Writer,

Good to speak to you again.

Today we look at turning writing dreams into practical, credible goals - ones that you can publicly display and admit to - and can finally convince those around you are achievable.

In case you're keeping tabs on me: after six weeks I'm up to 65,000 words of my latest novel, just three chapters away from completing the first draft. Should be done by Monday.

Click HERE to discover and enjoy my Amazon books.
Keep writing! 

Practical Dream-Catching for Writers
Practical Dream Catching for Writers

Your First List

Make a list of all the things you want to have achieved in your writing career in the next ten years. The sky's the limit. Rock star’s careers, even some empires, rise and fall in less time.

Here's what your first list might look like:

               1. To have written ten bestselling novels
               2. To be a day time TV celebrity
               3. To be a NY Times columnist
               4. To have movies based on my books
               5. To be writing copy for a big ad agency
               6. To have met Stephen King / Stephenie Meyer
               7. To have earned at least ten million dollars from writing

And so on - list as many goals as you wish.

Next, be honest with yourself, today. You now need to look at your list and ask: Do I really want this stuff? More especially, Am I willing to do the work that these goals will entail?

Look, there's really no point knocking yourself out for the next few weeks, working on a big goal, no matter how far ahead in the future its realization, when you know in your heart that you're not going to be able to sustain the energy to pursue it to the bitter end.

Your energy levels, for one thing, dictate what you're capable of from one hour to the next. 

If you already know that you probably could not write for eight hours a day, every day, for five years, there's no point in holding onto a novel writing goal that requires so much supreme energy.

Being realistic is NOT about changing your goals because someone else says they're impossible or silly. Being realistic is about knowing what you're capable of - right now. Could you write for five to eight hours flat, today? Be honest.

Look at it this way. You'll probably relate. When I was working 9 to 5, I dreamed of writing all day on some novel or other - and couldn't imagine myself being happier. But the reality was different. Within six months of working full time as a writer, I realized that it was just too tiring to write all day.

I adjusted my schedule so that novel writing took up three hours a day. Okay, so it added time to how long it took to complete a novel but at least the novel's first draft could be finished in, say, six to eight weeks because I hadn't created an unrealistic expectation of finishing it too quickly - and probably getting blocked in the process.

The Second List

Go back and look at your list, changing some of the goals to outcomes that you absolutely know you have the energy for today. This is an exercise in discipline, a way of taking into account your limitations. This is healthy, and remaining healthy, mentally and physically, is a large part of changing your life for the better.

If in doubt, be easy on yourself. There is time, over ten years there’s lots of it.

If you know you're essentially lazy or a slow worker, it's of paramount importance that you take that into account, rather than having to review your action plans later - and continually.

Also, don't be afraid to see yourself having fun and taking it easy in the future.

Working hard is no guarantee of productivity or indeed success. You probably know people who seem to work all hours and get nothing much done - especially middle-management office workers. Busy does not always equal effective

You are more likely to achieve your aims when you truly know yourself and your capabilities.

Construction Time

When you're satisfied with your list of 'realistic' goals, print them off. Read them often, carry them around with you. Let the list become you - and you become it. Change it if it doesn't feel right.

Now we're ready to get specific.

From your list of dream writing activities, you now need to pick three. Yes, just three activities. And they must fall under the following headings:

               1. Favorite

               2. Second favorite

               3. The sure thing.

The favorite is the one writing activity you absolutely love and must do, the one that fires your soul and will keep you thrilled. You'll know which this is because it will make you tingle at the thought of it.

You second favorite is your back up activity: the work you'll turn to when you want something relaxing and rewarding but not too stressful. It could be writing blogs or short articles, website designing, short story writing or, if you really need a break, even train-spotting or birding.

The sure thing is the writing activity which represents cash in the bank. The one thing you can do that will always make money. You'll probably know what this is, even if it fills you with dread. It could be writing ebooks, editing other people's books or ghost writing, or giving talks on writing in your local community. Whatever you choose, you must have ONE THING that is going to bring in money, guaranteed.

You'll need this for three main reasons:

1. Without money coming in, you won't be able to do what you love (your number one activity)

2. Your friends, family and especially your partner will want to know what you're going to do to bring income into your new life as a writer

3. For your sanity's sake, you need to make money from your dream life

Without money as validation, you're going to find a new life as a writer very tough going. 

Those around you will take every opportunity to get you back to a proper job, so you need to feel you made the right decision - and there's nothing like cash crossing your palm to help that feeling.

Plus, when the inevitable happens and your partner gets antsy with you about 'sitting around all day doing nothing', as they always do at some point, you'll have a comeback. My experience is that although partners will generally club together and help each other out financially if both are working, the situation changes when one stops earning income.

The working partner will often isolate you (unless he or she is a writer too) and leave you high and dry when you need money. It's human nature. You need to be prepared for this eventuality and have a steady supply of cash coming in to counter the inevitable.

Take your list of three writing activities, print it out and pin it somewhere prominent, where you and everyone in your house can see it. This is your public declaration of intent. When asked about it, explain what the list means and how it will work in practice.

This exercise should go some way to reassuring your partner, your friends and your family that your writing dream is not just a fantasy.

You literally mean business.

Keep Writing!
Rob Parnell

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