This month, I had the interesting experience of helping my friend get her career plan mapped. Like many writers, she had ideas about what she wanted to accomplish but not much idea of how she was going to get from point A to point B. Very few people go into writing with a good idea of where they are going or how to get there. I know I didn’t.
Lucky for me, I had a friend who was more knowledgeable. The lovely and talented Kate Pearce took me under her wing, and the very first thing she told me to do was construct a five year plan.
I had no idea what she meant. I wasn’t thinking past daily writing goals and getting my manuscript finished, but Kate was focusing on the big picture, a picture I couldn’t even see from where I was standing. With her help, I stepped back and got a more objective view of what I wanted from my writing.
The first thing I needed was a picture of where I wanted to be in five years. The answer to that was easy; I wanted to have at least one print title on bookstore shelves. The next question wasn’t as simple. How was I going to get there?
That is where the heart of career planning lies… breaking down your goal and getting the steps figured out. Once I had that, I was able to break it down even more into a useable daily work schedule.
So, how does one get from a huge goal that is years away to planning their daily and weekly routine? It’s much like planning a trip cross-country. You need to grab a map and look at your route.
Start by taking a step back from what you are doing. Take a look at where you are in your career is, big or small, and get a good idea of where you want it to go, your starting point and your destination. Write down your destination, big or small, for the five year point.
Now take a look at that map. What states will you be driving through? What lies between you and your destination? Learning craft, making a sale and signing an agent may all lie along that road, but what order do you believe they should happen? Write down these steps as goals for years one through four.
What you have now is your general five year career plan. You know you are going to spend year one focusing on your writing skills, year two working toward publication, year three you expect to have something digitally published and year four you will sign with an agent. all of this will lead to the glorious year five when you walk in a bookstore and see your book on the shelf.
All done, right?
You know where you are going, and what states you have to pass through to get there, but what roads will you take to get there? This is where a goal becomes a plan and a wish becomes a reality.
If year one is to be spent working on your writing skills, what tools will you use to get there? There are a lot of roads to take, some of them may overlap or intersect. You need to pick what works for you. It might be a mentor or strong crit group which can point out common problems with your writing. You may decide that entering contests for feedback is the way to go. Your best option might be craft books or workshops. Whatever you choose, take a look at that route and weigh how effective it will be for you.
One hard part about this kind of planning is that life doesn’t always go according to plan. What do you do if you look up and realize you’ve made a wrong turn and are off of your career plan? First of all, don’t get too upset. Life happens. Sometimes Things take longer than anticipated, or you are forced to prioritize something other than your writing. Just take a look at that plan and get yourself back on track. Reevaluate your goals or extend your deadlines if you have to.
The time frame isn’t as important as the journey and the destination. Have a great trip.
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