What if you don’t know exactly what you want your writing life to be? No problem. Just as a lawyer builds a case for the argument she is making in court, imagine that you are making a case for your delighted and accomplished future as a person of letters. To this end, collect as evidence everything that might serve as a marker on your path, stretching your sense of the possible.
I recommend that you keep a separate file for each of the following categories that pertain to your writing and publishing goals. Every day, be on the lookout for inspiring examples that may inform or inspire a step you see yourself taking along your productive writing journey.
- Publishing possibilities: The names of presses, magazines, journals, or publishers whose published work feels familial with yours.
- Inspiring samples: Pieces of writing that stretch your sense of what is possible in writing or publishing.
- Kindreds: Names of writers (and examples of their writing) whose work feels in some way related to yours.
- Lessons learned: How-to articles about topics you are learning, success (and failure) stories of writers in your field and not in your field; wisdom from thought leaders you admire.
- Books to read: Reviews, recommendations from friends, and blog posts about books you intend to read. Including a few notes about why you’ve chosen each book can help you keep track of your list and what it means to you.
- Things to try: Lessons to learn; classes to take; experiments to try with craft, form, or process—wherever YES takes you.
- People to know: Potential agents, editors, collaborators, interview sources, mentors, teachers, colleagues. When reading writers you admire, for example, write down names from the acknowledgments section, then go learn about those editors and agents. Or if you read an interview of an industry expert and get an idea for how you might approach that person, or someone in a similar role, in the future, make a note of it.
- Places to appear: Radio shows, newspapers, magazines and blogs that feature writers you enjoy, where you would like to someday appear.
- Teaching: Lectures, conferences, and other literary or professional gatherings that you can imagine yourself participating in as a speaker, teacher, or leader—either now or in the future.
- Reading: Ongoing or one-time events in your community, or beyond, where you might like to read from your work.
- Potential partners: Businesses and people you’d like to explore collaborating with.
- Potential clients to approach: Businesses and people you believe could benefit from your writing or related products and services.
- [Your own topics here]
The idea here is that by the time you’re ready to publish or take a workshop or teach, you’ll have a collection of great ideas that you’ve collected along the way to serve as reference points. This way, your future won’t look like a great, white, empty page, but rather an overflowing collection of places and possibilities you’ve already navigated and can easily step into, without missing a beat.