This Article is About
taking stock
setting personal goals
labor day weekend
balanced life
present moment
goal setting
different times
self assessment
journaling
intervals
Taking Stock
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A valuable thing for writers to do from time to time is an activity that I call “taking stock.” This exercise goes a long way to boost motivation for your upcoming projects and efforts.

You can do a taking stock exercise in conjunction with journaling, although you can do this in other forms as well.

The best taking stock endeavors will use a combination of different self-assessments, although you can do partial sessions using any one of several techniques. One way of doing a taking stock self-assessment involves doing the various different activities but broken out into different sessions on different days, different times of the same day, or over the course of a week or two.

Not uncommonly, the activity of taking stock can work hand-in-hand with the activity of setting personal goals. Taking stock need not be limited to writing-related activity. Indeed, some writers like to pursue this activity in a “balanced life” form, and look at multiple aspects of their circumstances.

The way in which taking stock differs from goal setting is the focus of the activity. Goal setting looks to the future, starting from the current moment. Taking stock, conversely, looks from the present moment back to one, or more, chosen intervals of time in the past.

Let’s say I wanted to take stock at this time: and indeed, I often invest part of the first month of the calendar year doing just that. I would choose one or more significant dates in roughly the past twelve to eighteen months.

Let’s say I chose Labor Day weekend as a date to look back to, and also chose the very beginning of 2011. Labor Day weekend is a likely date for me, because I had wrapped up a work project just about a month before that.

So, I would want to consider about these two dates: where was I in terms of my freelance writing and personal writing at each of those dates?

Once I identify the starting point circumstances, then I would examine: what has changed since those dates? What kinds of things have I accomplished? What was the nature of those accomplishments? Were they accomplishments of personal satisfaction? Educational achievements? Financial? Gaining visibility for my professional efforts?

In my particular case, even since Labor Day weekend there would be some level of accomplishment in all those areas. I’ve had the satisfaction of working on two novels that at this point are partially complete but well along [about seven chapters of each.] I’m only a few exercises short of completing a self-study program in a new area of writing for me. I had some earnings through my writing during this interval. I’ve gained some visibility through activities like Street Article and network building at LinkedIn.

What a taking stock exercise helps you do is identify your level of performance, based on criteria you choose. The more you find yourself accomplishing, the more potent this exercise becomes. Taking stock helps you to identify your progress. Unless you stop to consider this kind of development in your writing life, you may not realize just how much you have realized in terms of your efforts. This makes it well worthwhile to look at your recent past and ask yourself the question: “Where am I now as a writer [or as a viable freelancer] in comparison to where I was on such-and-such a date?

You can make this an even more potent activity if you combine it with other “fill the well” activities. For example, I make it a point every now and then to re-read some of my own early fiction as well as reading the fiction of others. Reviewing the tangible accomplishments you had early in your writing career can give you a morale boost.

A taking stock activity such as this may, indeed, feed into your goal setting efforts as well. If you are using it in that way, you will want not only to identify the things you have accomplished but you will want to examine if you had goals during the interval that you did not accomplish. If so, you will want to re-examine if that goal still has meaning for you and re-enter it on your goals list for the upcoming interval of time. Some goals lose their attraction over time, and if so, then you will want to strike that goal from your list. Some encounter practical obstacles and you may want to discard that or you may want to defer that goal for a later time. Stock taking can be particularly helpful for this type of goal because it allows you to set different goals to put a foundation under a goal that proved impractical: for example, wanting to start college but having not received a timely acceptance or running into financial issues. Stock taking would result in a goal of saving enough for tuition or setting a new timetable for entrance applications.

It is a cliché, but a true one, that success breeds success. That is why incorporating a regular stock taking session(s) into your career development planning makes for a potent way to build your incentive and further your writing career.


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