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!