5 Simple Ways to Question Your Life and Your Writing
Do you have a goal on your bucket list that you can’t wait to finish but have no idea where to start? Do you have an email, essay, article or blog post that you have to write but can’t seem to get the right words on the screen? A technique that should work for anyone are the “5W’s”. You can use these as stepping stones and guides to build a solid frame around your goal. Now let’s start with the smallest but often the heaviest of W’s.
Why are you doing this?
This is the shortest question, but perhaps the most important question to ask yourself. Whether in life or in writing, it is crucial to identify the underlying reason and motivating factors. I like to take my time with this step, release my inner philosophical beast and really get to the heart of the matter.
The question takes many forms:
Is this fun or will it be a downer?
Is this a vanity project?
Is this a work of passion or pay?
If I do this will it benefit my life?
Is this even worth my time?
If this is my last day alive, will I still be doing this?
You can’t ignore these questions and the answers they bring to light in your life and in your writing. Indeed the honest answer to any of the above questions can kill an entire project. But, if your idea, task, goal or project survives after answering the above questions earnestly and honestly then be very happy as it is about to bloom. You just need to continue to feed and nurture it with the other W’s.
Who are you doing this for?
It is your responsibility to identify the people involved with your life goal or writing project. Knowing the parties involved and their expectations will allow you to lay a solid foundation of the work needed to complete your task. There were times in my life when I was doing things, many of which I did not enjoy, to meet the expectations of parents, relatives, and friends. These days when I set a target for myself, I do so because it is something that I want for me or for my own family. The same can be said for your writing. Are you writing for yourself? Whether it be some sort of ritual or honing your craft. Are you writing because you are being paid to write and have to submit your work to an editor or boss? But unlike life goals, there is another “Who” to consider when writing: your audience. Whether your words never leave the pages of your diary or they are distributed to millions around the globe, it is important to identify your audience (as accurately as possible), as it allows you to set context, frames your story and helps your writing resonate with your readers on an personal level.
When are you going to complete this by?
Deadlines are the bane of commissioned writers. Deadlines serve a purpose; they make sure that you get things done. Now, you can go out to your local bookstore and find entire sections dedicated to GTD (Getting Things Done), productivity, efficiency and time management. There are several, and often competing, theories and methods. There is a growing trend these days in which a self-imposed shortened deadline is favored and Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion, is used. With this idea in the forefront, one is able to complete any task or goal (everything from moving across the continent, finish writing an article, creating a business, to house chores) in half the time it is mandated or suggested to be completed. You need only weigh the pros and cons to see why anyone would choose this method. The best case scenario is that you have completed quality work in a timeframe thought to have been impossible or impractical. The worst case scenario is that you have spent half the allotted time doing a massive amount of work and are left with enough time to transform it into a polished product. Many of us are often wrapped up in the work and by the craft to the point where we lose track of time. But deadlines and schedules, no matter how robotic or grating they may be, serves to not only make sure that we work on our goals but we complete them as well.
Where are you going to do it?
In my experience, the environment in which you do your work plays a big part in the finished product. The space you work in and what you surround yourself may be a factor in how fast you can go, how big you can make something, how far you can travel, how much you can grow, etc. Finding a conducive environment is essential not only to find a suitable physical space but also to find a place where you can express yourself. In the context of writing, it would be a matter of choosing which platform you choose to reach your audience with. Is your writing staying in a journal? Is it going to be in print? Will it be going online? Blog or social media? These are all smart but important questions as each platform has its own audience. Sure, your audience may consume content from multiple platforms but each platform has its own way of presentation, it has its own community, its own tone. Choosing the right platform can mean the difference between your writing being taken seriously or as mediocre scribble.
What are you going to do?
The last question, and the one most easily answered because it leads to the exciting parts. But, this does not mean that it is fine to let go of your discipline. Create your To-Do list and arrange your tasks. Without a doubt something will go wrong, things will run longer than expected and things will break down. Just breathe through it, relax, reassess, recalculate and adjust. Most important is to keep moving forward and to break large projects and goals down into small bite sized pieces. Frequent small wins will eventually get you the big prize in the end. And remember to keep things enjoyable. This is the work part, the craft part, and the fun part.