Recently, one of my practicing writer friends, in what I’m sure was an effort to be helpful (since I was rambling on about various writing-related ideas and projects), asked me what my priorities are. I was stumped. Goals, I have a-plenty. But what are my priorities? And isn’t it possible that I need to identify them (the priorities) in order to accomplish those goals?
Here’s what I mean. According to the dictionary, a goal is “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.” My writing goals have changed over time. When I was applying to MFA programs seven-plus years ago, for example, I wanted to see the novel I was working on then published. And I wanted a tenure-track job teaching creative writing. Now, those goals are simply not among my priorities.
Which is to say, they are not things “given special attention”; they do not have “the right to precede others [as in, other goals], in order, rank, privilege, etc.”; they do not have “the right to take precedence in obtaining certain supplies [like my time and attention], services, facilities, etc., especially during a shortage.” Between my full-time “day job” and my family involvements at the moment–two priorities that are without question at the top of my day-to-day mental list–and a couple of non-writing goals that should probably be priorities (like exercising more often and eating more nutritiously and exploring more fully all that New York has to offer), there is indeed a “shortage” of resources I can devote to my writing goals.
Clearly, I’m more committed to my current writing activities and projects than I am to that abandoned novel and job search. What’s not so clear to me is how I should prioritize all the pieces of my writing life, both those already under way (like trying to place the story collection many agents and independent presses have already turned down [most recently, last week]; maintaining this blog and the Practicing Writer newsletter; writing and revising new poetry and prose and submitting that work, etc.) and those goals that are still nothing more than ideas in my head (like creating some particular new resources for other writers and acquiring the skills and expertise to run my own small press, for starters).
Any tips? How do you prioritize your goals? This practicing writer needs to know!