Rethinking Goals

1. Writing goals should be expressed as products to be created.

Make goals that are specific and reachable by your own efforts. You want to set goals in which you are entirely in control of the outcome.

I will write for 15 minutes is not a goal. It is part of the process of working towards a goal.

I will write two paragraphs is a goal. I will write a draft of a poem is a goal. I will outline a scene for my novel is a goal.

Also, don’t make goals that depend on other people.

A goal to publish depends on editors. When you choose a goal where the outcome is dependent on the actions of somebody else, through no fault of your own, you may not reach that goal.

For example, last summer I got stung by wasps, went to analytic shock and almost died. Writing an article about it is a terrific goal. And, in fact, I’ve written two. Selling an article about it to a magazine is dependent on the action of an editor. Luckily for me, I’ve sold one and the other one has been submitted for consideration. But my goal was to write the articles.

2. After coming up with your writing goal, break it down into the steps needed to complete it.

What do you need to do to reach your goal? Once I decided to write a magazine article about getting stung, I broke it down into the steps required to reach the goal:

come up with idea for article
research possible markets
write the article
submit it

Most days reaching my writing goal was simple. When it was time to write, I worked on my wasp sting article for 15 or 20 minutes. No hesitation. I knew what the writing plan for the day was. Other days I spent time looking at possible markets or did other research and counted that for my writing time.

So here’s a reminder: set writing goals that are specific and reachable by your own efforts, and you will be entirely in control of the outcome.

If you found this post helpful, be sure to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Learning to Work

Learning to work is about learning to write every day, even if it is for a short time. It’s about returning to the work day after day.

There’s such a thing as making a decision to be productive. Being productive in your writing, as opposed to having a sporadic work habit, gives a lot back to the writer. Work begets work, and when it does, it begins to add up.

In her little book Minding the Muse, Priscilla Long says, “You get, piece by piece, a lot more experience. You develop more skill to bring to the next piece. Also each piece is asked to carry less weight in the artist’s lifetime body of work, and this in turn affords an easier, more fluid working process” (p. 7).

When my boys were toddlers, I worked full time, and had to give up the dream of having long stretches of time to write. So, I wrote during 20 minute coffee breaks at work. What I figured out was that if I wanted to write a 1,500 word article and I roughed up 300 words a day, I would have a rough draft written in five days.

This taught me two things about learning to work:

1. Work in short stretches of time. Push out distractions. Try fifteen minutes. Try twenty or thirty minutes. Whatever you have time for, try that.

2. Have a writing goal. My goal was specific and reachable: 300 words. Just a couple of paragraphs.

It’s Not Easy to be a Woman and to be a Writer

When it comes to help with finding time to write, a review of the articles and blog posts that talk about it is actually somewhat disturbing. A google search of the key words “time to write” results in over 1 billion hits!, and an examination of these articles and blog posts reveals a certain distain for people who have trouble finding time to write. The attitude of many authors is illustrated in this comment from one I’m here-to-set-you-straight-writer: “If you have trouble with it, then tough. That’s right I said it—tough! Too many writers use lack of time as an excuse not to write”.

Telling someone to take the time to write, doesn’t teach them how to get there.

One reason I study the conditions that affect women’s writing is that the sheer complexity of it guarantees that many diverse factors will come into play. All of which are important, and none of which should be dismissed as simply individual differences. I believe the problem is a complicated weave of our social-cultural conditioning, the state of the publishing industry, and our own personal beliefs about our writer-selves.

This is why my blog is a combination of an examination of my own writing process, methodology to make writing a habit that is hard to quit, and academic information on how social and cultural mores affect women writers.

How has being a woman and a writer impacted you? Let me know in the comments below.

Why I Write #1

#Whyiwrite . . . because it hurts to climb from dreams and shower and dress and work all day and wait for the day’s end to try and fit in some writing time.

Today I am blessed with this soul-saving luxury: a 5:30 a.m. writing session at Starbucks.

Welcome to the Woman Writer Project

Hi, I’m Nancy Lou Semotiuk. I’m a writer, a mom, a professor, and a PhD candidate in humanities and culture at Union Institute and University. Mostly, I am a woman who struggles to write. There is always something that prevents me from writing. It has not been my experience that if I turn off Twitter and do not clean the house that I’ll have a rich writing life.

And I know that I’m not alone.

I’ve fought to understand why I, and women like me, have such a hard time doing the very thing they love most: writing. My blog will address the special needs and dilemmas of women who have trouble finding the time and encouragement to write.

Rather than being told that making time to write is a choice they are not making, women need encouragement and pragmatic tools to help them achieve success.

That’s what this blog is about. Join me.