The infamous interview question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Usually, it brings out a lot of waffle about ‘maturing in a professional capacity’ and ‘pursuing exciting opportunities’, a lot of nodding around ‘increased levels of responsibility’. But, what if we ask this question of our own writing goals: Where do you see your writer-self in five years? Is the answer more waffle and shying away, or is it an answer well-rehearsed and immovable in your life plan?
Read any writing blog and its sea of articles universally demand the use of goals. It is no surprise then that we might have subsumed such gems as:
- You should write at least 500 words a day.
- Get up an hour earlier.
- Do Julia Cameroon’s morning pages.
- Finish a day’s writing mid-sentence, like Hemingway.
- Writing 1,600 words everyday will net a 50,000 word novel in a month (familiar to any NaNoWriMo participant).
I think that way lies madness. Writing does not work when expressed as a series of goals, a series of zero sum games of win or lose. Having a goal intrinsically sets you up for failure. Writing success works more akin to a series of personal, organic processes – as small as you like – that culminate by their own momentum. While it might feel admirable to have goals, it’s my experience that they do more harm than good. Especially regarding the written word. “I’m going to write 1,000 words every day!” is often the battle-refrain. But that battle is forever-lost through no fault of our own, on account of life just being, you know, life. The question to ask of your writing goals is therefore only to rephrase the question: How are you going to process writing over the next five years?
And as for my own writing “goals”? To make each process so small, manageable and sustained that I don’t trip over them. Or myself.
Runner-up for The Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award in 2012, Eve-Marie Power went on to win Waterford City Council’s Tyrone Guthrie Residency in 2013 and was named an Emerging Poet at The Cork Poetry Festival 2014. A graduate of NUI Maynooth’s Certificate in Creative Writing for Publication, she has read at NUIM’s graduation ceremony, Waterford’s Winterval Festival, as well as at various libraries. She was also short-listed for The James White Award, RTE’s Arena Flash Fiction Award and UCD’s MA in Creative Writing Poetry Competition.
A native of Ferrybank, Eve-Marie lives on the much-disputed Waterford/Kilkenny border. She is a full-time student at NUI Maynooth, where she studies History and Celtic Studies. She is currently working on her first poetry collection. Eve-Marie is on twitter.