Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Conducting a Self-Performance Evaluation on Your Writing

Moist palms.  Quickening heartbeat. Churning stomach.

Just a few symptoms of the dreaded performance evaluation. Even though it usually turned out much better than expected, it was filled with what ifs. What if the screw-up I made on the database back in August is all my boss can remember? What if my sales numbers were lower than last quarter? Will I get a raise this year? Will they be able to sign me on full-time? So many questions.

At the beginning of a New Year, what if instead of making resolutions we took inventory?

Performance expert, Daniel Pink, is a business author and speaker and has written several bestselling books. His recent release Drive is about the "surprising truth about what motivates us." His insights are geared to the workplace but are very applicable to writers.

I heard a recent motivational talk by Pink and was inspired by how his ideas could help garner growth in our writing lives.

He suggests conducting a pre-mortem or evaluation. Pink assesses himself every six months, just like a performance appraisal but suggests doing so even more often could be valuable.

What better time than a start of a new year to ask ourselves some key questions about our writing lives. Suggested by Pink here are some ways to assess followed by my thoughts how we can apply this information specifically to our writing lives.

  • Were my expectations right?

First, what were your expectations in the last year? Did you expect to get a publishing contract? Sign an agent? Make a sustainable income from writing? Enough to pay the grocery bill? Did you expect to win a contest?

Why were your expectations not met? First of all, recognize that many of these items are not dependent on us alone. So make sure your assessment is based on the things you can change.
Finding an editor who loves your writing can be a subjective and dependent on timing, market, etc. However, we can also evaluate what part of your goal did fall into your hands.

What constructive feedback did you get that might help you readjust your expectations? Maybe an agent expressed that you needed to work on building suspense at the end of each chapter of your novel. Perhaps you were offered opportunities you didn’t take the time to pursue.

Time to quit whining and think about what we can do on our end to grow.

To bring you closer to meeting your writing dreams (in as much as it is in your control), do you need to sacrifice money? Giving of your time is a must! Is it the year you forego buying a new espresso machine in favor of taking a class or paying a freelance editor to help you move further along than you can on your own?

Do you need to give up a favorite TV show? Facebook? (I’ve been called to fast in social media several times to bring quiet to my devotional life and creativity). Maybe give up something else on your schedule that is “good” but not your best?

Write up some new expectations for 2016 after you evaluate your old ones. Remember, most goal setting experts believe getting your goals in writing is super important in making them happen. One author suggests stapling your evaluation to the front of your notebook as a reminder.

  • Were the pitfalls I expected what happened?

I love this question, because first of all my problem is often finding the pitfalls. Pink believes that the most innovative leaders find problems before they are noticed by others.

What kept you from meeting your goal? Sometimes we grow in an uneven manner in our writing life. It may be easier for me to improve my dialogue to build realism, but harder for me to write tight. And God has a way of being gentle with us and working with us step by step. He knows what causes overwhelm and is so kind to grow us and stretch us in one or two areas at a time.

What can you do to prevent these pitfalls this year? If your downfall was not allowing enough time for editing before sending in a contest entry, how can you set up your calendar now to prepare earlier?

  • Was I able to avoid pitfalls altogether?

Where did you improve in avoiding past issues? Perhaps you had several beta readers evaluate your contest entry in the area you most struggled? Where do you need more work in your unique areas of weakness?

  • How could I do better next time?

Specificity is key to succeeding at our goals.

If you need to be more consistent in your writing how about: I will write from 8-9 every morning.

What specific plans will I put into play to grow in the areas of weakness in my writing life?

How will I be intentional about my writing dreams this year with God’s help?

It all begins with time at God’s feet, reading his word and sitting in prayer allowing him to set the agenda for 2016.

To purchase Drive by Daniel Pink click here.  

How about you: Do you conduct a performance evaluation? What pitfalls are you trying to avoid in your 2016 writing life?

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