January, that post-holiday start of a new year, is a natural time to reassess, reprioritize, and reorganize our lives and our writing. Yesterday, Jilly shared her watchword for 2017: publish. Last year I made up my own word (phrase): joie d’ecriture. This year, my watchword/mantra/true north for 2017 is intention.
Intention. It’s not just paving material for the road to hell. It’s having a purpose. Setting goals and focusing on achieving them. Living each day as though it could be your last and knowing you won’t regret having misspent it. That’s all fine and good, you might be saying, but what the hell does it mean? How does one work toward intention?
First, you pick your goal, large or small. You say it out loud, write it down, or both. Then you choose your course of action, your tasks for the day, and the ways you will spend your limited time and energy in service of achieving that intention.
In my case, I’ll be setting my career goals for the year, then laying out the logical steps to reach those goals as part of my annual business plan, as described here. I’ll be looking to those necessary steps to set my weekly writing intentions, and have joined an ‘accountability’ group of writers with whom I’ll share those intentions at the beginning of each week, and my progress or lack thereof at the end of each week.
Each day, I’ll set intentions for writing, but also for other important aspects of life, like connecting with others, spending time volunteering, or even something so small as performing a random act of kindness or making another person smile. When sitting down to write, I’ll consider what I intend to accomplish for that writing session: writing 1,000 words, finishing a scene, untangling a plot problem.
The idea of a life of intention is not a new one. In fact, it’s quite ancient. (If you have lots of hours to spend and a desire to
avoid writing go down some rabbit holes, you can type in ‘living with intention’ on your internet search engine of choice.) It’s also not a new concept to me or my writing. I’ve always set goals and laid out how and when to achieve them. So what’s different this time?
This time I’m going to make setting intention – for my life and my writing – a daily practice, a ritual, a habit. I will set my intention(s) each morning and review my progress each night. I will celebrate my successes with a quiet moment of gratitude, and at the same time will forgive myself when I fall short.
If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that life is short, sometimes brutal, and never guaranteed. By setting my intentions and living up to them (or getting as close as possible), I plan to savor each day I am lucky enough to have.
If you want to set up your own practice of intention for your writing or your life, I recommend starting with this how-to article. The big take-aways are to set intentions that are positive, that can grow and evolve, and that (at least to start) are short-term and attainable. Above all, at the end of each day, regardless of how well you’ve done, be kind to yourself and remember tomorrow is another day, and another opportunity to set a positive intention.