(Photo taken in New York’s West Village, October 2008)
A few months ago, I joined a writer’s coaching meeting that consisted of myself and two other people (who are near and dear to me). The ringleader for this meeting was Paul, who made it very clear that we ARE NOT TO READ OUR WORK ALOUD. No, instead THIS meeting is about kicking our collective asses and holding us all responsible for producing something. Meeting goals, if you will.
Now each Wednesday, I attend our meeting and must explain whether or not I met my writing goals for the week, and if not, why not, and I’m also tasked with identifying pitfalls, priorities (or lack thereof) and new goals for the upcoming week.
In the above, you may have noticed my usage of terminology like “tasked,” “must explain,” and “kicking asses.” This isn’t so much a warm and fuzzy meeting (although often there is wine) as it is an accountability meeting. You know, right? We all talk about finishing our book one day, or I gotta write that, or I’m a writer, or I’d die if I couldn’t write, and so really? Really? THEN WRITE. WRITE. WRITE!
See, I have this problem. I talk a lot. I espouse my goals and ambitions and my wanting to finish this manuscript and I can’t wait to tell this story and blar de blar blar. But have I concertedly worked on my manuscript?
This, despite asked for the full manuscript from two agents who read the first 20 pages at a writer’s conference. TWO (or THREE?) years ago. Despite wanting, really wanting, to write it. Have I?
So I’ll admit: At our first meeting, I wanted to talk to Paul about what I was writing (or not writing), why I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and while we’re at it, what is he writing? And really? We’re not going to read our work and get feedback and what is this accountability stuff anyway? Because I have blocks, Paul. BLOCKS. I’m scared my work won’t be good enough and it’s paralyzing. FREEZE-MAKING. I don’t always know how to advance my plot so I don’t move it forward at all, because then it can’t be wrong or bad and suck and if I don’t finish this book, I won’t find out that I’m not a writer after all and then what? THEN WHAT? What will I do? Who will I be? I don’t want to write it because I don’t want to discover I cannot write.
We’ve got deep-seated issues, folks.
But no. This meeting is not about talk. Or blocks. This meeting is about “did you do what you said you were going to do?” This meeting is not about I was too busy or the kids are driving me crazy or I’m tired or I might suck. This meeting is about “did you do what you said you were going to do?”
Right. So at the beginning of our meetings, I started with lofty goals like “Write 1,000 words this week” and “Write for two hours straight.” And I did not meet those goals. And I discovered things about myself, which I will detail in Part II. But for now, my more reachable goals are “Write for 30 minutes” and “Write for 40 minutes.” And have I met those goals?
Through these meetings, I’ve learned to see my excuses for what they are and to identify the difference between an ideal and a value (Do I want to be a writer someday? YES. Am I valuing that ideal enough to live it through action? NO.) So due to these meetings, Paul (and Kristine) have gently pushed me to see some of my writing issues more clearly and have given me helpful feedback and tips. Henceforth, I thought I’d share them with you because I’ve got a feeling some are universal.
So please stay tuned. The writing rubber hits the road in Part II.
But meanwhile, I leave you with the below questions asked weekly at our meetings (and I hope Paul won’t mind that I’m sharing, because he came up with them):
Have you changed the nature or priority of your writing/publishing goals in your life since our last meeting? If so, are you giving up on a goal or dream — or just adjusting the target. Do you feel a lack of drive/incentive due to another problem? If so, why?
Did you achieve 100% (or more) of the goals you set for yourself last week? If yes, share how you did it and any pitfalls you avoided?
If no, please share your pitfalls and ask the group how you can avoid making this a recurring pitfall.
And so I say YES! This group is exactly what I needed.