Focus. We all need it, in our careers, in our lives, even day to day. But as we discussed in previous blogs, there are different kinds of focus. Today we’ll take a look at how you can use Mountaintop Focus to guide you in your career as a writer.
As we discussed before, when you’re on the Mountaintop, you can see for miles and miles. So, first and foremost, Mountaintop Focus is big-picture time. It’s time to consider the whys and wherefores of what you’re doing. To determine—and then review and refine, if needed—your core values and goals. I’m sure you’ve all determined long ago why you’re writing, but it’s a good idea to review those reasons at least once a year to see if they’re still what drives you. Because life changes, and we change as a result. I started out wanting to write fun romance novels, novels that celebrated the wonder of romance and love between a man and a woman. But as life went on, I found myself asking some hard questions about those relationships. And about faith. And surrender. So the driving questions behind my stories changed. As did my core values/goals.
A number of writers do this “look-back” evaluation, this Mountaintop Focus, at the end of December or the beginning of January, a kind of yearly review. But you can do it at any point in the year–and you need to do it if you feel as though you’ve lost your way or your focus. Which has happened to many writers in the last few years thanks to all the changes in publishing…and life.
So here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re in Mountaintop Focus mode. If you find the answers are the same as the last time you asked yourself these things, no worries! We’ll have plenty for you to dig into with the other types of focus:
1. Why Do I write?
Answer this not just for yourself (e.g., because the stories just keep coming and I love to write; because I want to encourage people in relationships, because I want to testify to God’s faithfulness in the face of loss), but for your family (e.g., to show my kids the reality of making your dreams come true; to help build a college fund for the kids), and for your walk with God (e.g., to be obedient to God’s call, no matter how hard it is).
Until you have the answer to this question pinned down, you can’t be strategic about what you do and how you do it.
2. What one thing do I want people to say about my work?
I used to want people to say they’d had a great time reading my books. Now I pray they say reading my books helped them see their relationships through God’s eyes.
3. What do I need to do to ensure that happens?
Could be you’re doing all you need to, and that’s terrific! But if you’re not sure, it’s time to ask some hard questions:
- Have you found your true voice as a writer? It can take a number of books to determine who we are as writers, what our real voice is. Are you writing as you, or could it be that you’re writing as you think you should, but not as you really want to? Or that you’re mimicking someone else’s voice?
- Are you writing the kinds of books that will elicit the response you long for?
- Is your craft where it needs to be? Should you consider hiring an editor/mentor? Or attend certain writers’ conferences? Maybe you need to get involved in a working critique group, one that will push you in your craft?
- Do you need to read more novels along the lines of what you want to write?
Think and pray on what, if anything, is missing, and how can you address it.
4. How Do I Write?
Writers need to be purposeful about how they do what they do. Consider:
- How many books a year to I want to write?
- How many hours a day do I need to commit to writing? Include the time it takes to prepare your heart and mind to actually write. Many of us have little routines we go through—fixing the perfect cup of coffee, playing Solitaire, listening to music, checking the laundry…and on and on, before we manage to glue our behinds to the chair and get our fingers on the keyboard. Be realistic here, or you’re just setting yourself up for failure and frustration.
- What’s the best writing schedule for me? How many days a week, how many hours a day, what hours of the day? My best writing time is late at night and into the wee hours of the morning. Don’t know why. That’s just what suits me best. What suits you and your creativity?
- How does that schedule affect my family? How can I enlist my family’s help in keeping that schedule?
5. Where do I want to be in 5 years? 10 years?
It’s hard to decide what you should be doing now if you don’t know where you’re headed. So where do you want to be in:
- Your faith
- Your family relationships
- Your finances
- Your writing career
6. What one thing do I need to change now to accomplish each of those goals?
7. What do I need to change long-term to accomplish them?
8. What do I need to do to ensure I’m taking care of my other priorities?
As much as we’d like to sometimes, we simply can’t close off the rest of life. Not on a regular basis. While writing is important, it’s not the most important aspect of our lives. Faith, family, relationships…those are the most important ministries God gives us. So how do you honor those ministries/involvements and build a writing career?
Now, I’m sure you could come up with a boatload of ideas, but try to focus on just two or three things that you really can do in the next year or so to ensure you’re keeping your priorities straight.
There are a lot more questions I could toss out at you, but I think that’s enough for now. Next week we’ll take a look at using focus to help you refine your craft. Until then, have a wonderful, focused day!
Karen, these posts have been so encouraging. I’m at that point where I’m confident that I do have a writing career ahead of (only took 15 years) and am including it as a major portion of my futureand well into my retirement years. I’ve written out my five and ten year plan and love reviewing them from time time, making adjustments, and daydreaming a little. Thanks again for these wonderful posts.
Thank you, this is wonderful. I was all ready to launch. Then I realized I needed to slow down a little. I want to have a long career and start that with a strong foundation 🙂
Karen, what a fabulous post. I love the practical applications in the form of questions for each facet of mountain top focus. I’m definitely printing this one off. Thank you!
Karen, thank you for such a detailed, helpful post. I’ll be saving this and praying over it in the days and weeks to come. I’m encouraged that I have already thought through some of the questions, but others need refinement.
Thanks Karen for the awesome post. I love the goal setting and strategy planning. Our careers are much more than just being at the right place at the right time.
Thank you, Karen, for such a practical, focused tool for re-evaluating how my planning lines up with my vision.
Thank you, Karen. Your post helped me think about my goals and where I want to go from here. I’m new to writing. God put this desire in my heart after a long career as an engineer. Strange transition, huh?
My goals and priorities as a 60+ year old grandmother are very different from the ones of the younger writers I know. I tried, for a while, to stuff myself into the mold I thought a writer should be. Slowly, God’s showing me I need to allow Him to mold me.
Susi Robinson Rutz
Karen, your post arrives right on time. I planned to spend the evening writing the landing page for my blog/website. I pulled the hard copy of my first author website from my files for reference. Wow, yes, I have grown, but also drifted. You’ve challenged me to contemplate the changes, but hold tightly to my original mission and call to writing. Thank you.
Donna K Rice
Thank you, Karen. Great post!
Karen, this is a great set of questions. I’ve pondered most of them at one time or another, but it’s good to revisit them because things do change. It’s questions six and seven that perplex me the most. Thank you for asking the hard questions.
Awesome post, Karen.
A tad overwhelming, but perhaps it “hurts in a good way.”
Great post, Karen, and it’s advice that’s right on. Thanks.