Monday, January 9, 2012

The Writer’s Focus: Finding and Following My “Star”

For whatever reason, I’ve always avoided goal setting in January. I’m not sure if it has to do with wanting to buck the common trend of planning to do something and quitting within the first 90 days of the new year, or not. (Actually, September tends to be the month that I’ve visualized as the start of my new year. Something I chalk up to a holdover from my many years in school.) But this year, for whatever reason, is different.

Having a little more free time than I’m used to at the moment, I found myself catching up on some blogs I follow, re-reading some favorite books, and just having plenty of time for quiet reflection. It was during this time that I read Dr. Dennis E. Hensley’s Christmas/Writing-themed article “What the Wise Men Taught Me about Goal Setting” on the Christian Writers Guild site.

In it he writes: “I’ve spent years researching what drives a person to strive for something great, never resting until a goal is reached. No lessons related to personal achievement have impressed me more than those I have drawn from the account of the Magi.”

I recommend reading his full article, but for those who can’t, Dr. Hensley’s article contains four points:

Focus brings success

Goals provide motivation

Study to be wise

Seek the truth

I tend to be a bit of a scatterbrain when it comes to writing. I get a great idea, I jot it down, I start the new project, I get distracted by another idea that I just have to get down on paper, I forget about my previous project, I get frustrated that I have so many unfinished pieces cluttering my mind and desk, I go back to the original project, then while writing I get another idea. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I can set all the great goals in the world. I can study and read and practice. I can seek truth in a story. But if I have no set focus I might as well be tossing multi-colored paint-filled balloons at the walls. I’m just going to end up with a jumbled, chaotic mess.

So, following Dr. Hensley’s advice, I sat down over the weekend and reflected on the various stories, articles, and scraps floating around. Many of them have quite a bit of potential that I hope I’ll eventually get some use out of, but I asked myself, “Which of these am I the most passionate about?” I then narrowed it down further by asking, “If I was told I would only write one story before I die, which story would I want it to be?”

And that’s when I found my “Star in the Night Sky.”

I always complain about never having enough time to write. I am now convinced that part of that problem is I was trying to write too many different things at once. With the exception of doing a bit of contracted freelance writing while looking for fulltime work, I may never again have as much time to write my story as I do right now.

With that in mind, I’m setting my gaze on that star and following it to wherever it may lead me.

Photo Credit: NASA, H.E. Bond and E. Nelan (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.); M. Barstow and M. Burleigh (University of Leicester, U.K.); and J.B. Holberg (University of Arizona) via HubbleSite 

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