Today’s writing exercise is an excerpt from 101 Creative Writing Exercises, a book packed with creative writing exercises and ideas. This exercise comes from chapter 2, “It’s Personal,” and it’s called “Writer, Know Thyself.” Enjoy!
Writer, Know Thyself
This exercise asks you to look in the mirror and ask yourself a critical question:
Why do I write?
There are many forces that drive writers to the page. Some do it for love, for creative expression, or because writing is simply something they must do, a compulsion. Others do it for riches, prestige, or to make a living.
It’s not easy to succeed as a writer. Most writers have day jobs and write during their free time, chipping away at novels, drafting essays, or penning articles, short stories, and poems. They spend their evenings polishing their work, and they spend their weekends submitting it to agents and editors. Some plan to self-publish. Many already have.
Writing professionally requires an immense amount of self-discipline, because in the early years, you’re hustling. Trying to land gigs. Building up clips.
On top of self-discipline, writers are competing in a field that’s saturated with dreamers and overrun with talent. Creativity is fleeting; gigs are scarce. Far too many novels end up half-finished and buried in a bottom drawer.
For those who intend to succeed, finish that novel, get that poem published, or earn a living wage as a freelance writer, staying focused is imperative.
Those who succeed are not the most talented or the smartest. They are the ones who refuse to give up. They have good writing habits; they are focused and motivated and consistently work toward their goals.
As a writer, it’s important to know where you are in relation to your goals.
This exercise presents a series of questions about your goals and motivations as a writer. Your job is simple: Write a short paragraph to answer each question. Keep your answers concise and try not to go off on tangents.
You can revisit this exercise at least once a year to see how you’re progressing, to stay focused and motivated, and to remember why you write.
- What do you write, or what do you want to write? Think about form (fiction, poetry, memoir, etc.) and genre (literary, speculative, romance). Be specific.
- How often and how much do you write? Ask yourself whether you have enough time to write and whether you could make more time for your writing.
- What are your top three goals as a writer?
- Why are these three goals important to you?
- What is your five-year career plan as a writer? What do you need to do over the next five years to achieve one (or all) of your top three goals?
- In the past year, what have you accomplished in working toward your goals?
- What can you do over the next year to move closer to your top three goals and your five-year career plan?
Tips: Keep your goals separate and specific. If you want to publish a novel through legacy (traditional) publishing, you don’t need an additional goal of getting an agent. Getting an agent is implied in the greater goal of legacy publishing.
If you have more than three goals, then list up to ten, but highlight your top three priorities.
If you’re not sure what your goals are, then make goal-setting a goal. Give yourself some time to set goals (a few weeks or months).
Variations: Instead of answering all the questions in a single session, you can spread them out and answer one question a day. While concise answers will be the clearest, the first time you do this exercise, you might want to write a full-page response to each question. You can also use these questions as journal prompts and write your answers in your daily journal.
Applications: These questions help you clarify your intentions. When you know what you want to accomplish, it becomes easier to attain. In addition, articulating your goals ensures that you can discuss them intelligibly, which comes in handy when submitting query letters, in meetings and interviews, and in discussions with other writers and professionals in the publishing industry.