Know Your Why (Intent) Excerpt from Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author
The first thing we do in Write It Forward is set goals, from the single strategic writing goal to all supporting tactical goal.
For every WHAT (goal) you have, you need to know and understand its corresponding WHY (your intent). A goal is usually factual and external, while your Why’s are emotional, internal things.
When you want to change something, there is always a reason WHY you want to change. For many writers, the WHY remains buried in their subconscious and does them little good. It’s critical to not only bring your WHY to your conscious mind, but to write it down to make it real. You also have a WHY for every book you write. Consider the WHY your motivation.
The intent (WHY) and goal (WHAT) should be mutually supportive. Like the goal, the intent should be a positive statement, because we want positive emotions.
When You State Your Goal’s Intent, Follow This Format
I am doing X (goal) for reason Y (intent).
When I first entered the army, the key portion of the operations order was the mission statement, which detailed WHAT the unit and members were to accomplish. About five years later, someone came up with the idea of adding the Commander’s Intent to the mission statement. This considerably improved the effectiveness of an operations order. Since you are the commander of your life (TOOL EIGHT—COMMAND), you must know your intent.
Like the goal, the intent should be stated positively. Remember, you will respond better to positive emotions than negative.
Most writers I know want to make money writing so that they can keep writing. So sometimes you can come up with goals by reversing WHAT and WHY. If your goal is to make a living as a self-published writer, how much money do you need to make a month? Let’s say it’s $5,000. You have one book. You price it at $2.99. This means you must sell 2,500 eBooks a month to hit your income goal.
Thus your goal becomes: I will sell 2,500 eBooks a month. Why? So I can make a living writing. Why? So I can continue writing.
Intent helps you innovate and motivate. Because intent gives direction but not specific instructions, it allows a large degree of latitude as you further develop your goals and decide how you are going to achieve them.
But how do you innovate?
Try the following processes:
Ask yourself—What if?
Project out courses of actions, much like a chess master, trying to see how they will play out. Enlist the aid of others in doing this. Particularly focus on suggestions that you have a strong initial negative reaction to. Our greatest weaknesses have our greatest emotional defenses built around them and that extends to WHAT and WHY.
Study and Research
You are not the first one to face whatever challenges, that are ahead of you. Study how others did it. We’ll discuss this more in the next TOOL when we cover the Special Forces Area Study.
Take It One Step Further
Yes, maybe you can achieve your goal by doing A. But what about if you go beyond A? What if what appears to be isn’t what is really there? For example, I’m selling quite well on US and UK Kindle. But, taking it one step further, I’m starting to have my books translated into German of DE Amazon and also into Spanish as that’s a world wide market. I’m trying to stay ahead of what’s happening and constantly look to the future for the next way to succeed.
Reverse Your Thinking
Stop beating your head against the wall. Back off, and walk around the wall and look at it from the other side. Change your perspective and stop having tunnel vision.
What If You’re Wrong?
What if your blind spot is controlling you (something we’ll cover in TOOL FOUR: CHARACTER)? Sometimes, if things don’t feel right, you need to stop and pay attention to those feelings. As a writer, I’m not a big fan of the concept of writer’s block—I usually call it laziness. However, if for several days in a row I feel disquiet inside about what I’m writing, I take that as a warning that I’m going in the wrong direction. At times like that I put the brakes on and step back from what I’m working on. Drop my preconceived notions.
Keep It Simple
This seems to contradict some of the earlier techniques such as take it one-step further. However, when you are doing something completely new to you, it’s often best to keep things as simple as possible so that you can focus on the goal and not get bogged down in the process. For the first book I sold, the only advice my agent gave me on rewriting before he marketed it was to simplify it. He said I had too much going on. He mentioned Hunt For Red October. He said that was a rather simple story if you really look at it. I simplified the book and we sold it.
Clear intent helps you stay consistently motivated. When you use your initiative, your morale inevitably goes up. For example, if your WHY for writing is to make a living, knowing you have to pay the mortgage via your writing can be rather motivating.
Sometimes you can use negative emotions as motivations. Many successful people have become successful to prove something to their families. But I think it can be stated in a positive way.
I will become a USA Today best-selling author of cat mysteries, because I want to prove to my family that I am a smart, talented and driven person. Is a positive way of saying I want to do that so I prove to them I’m not a loser, incompetent, pathetic slug.
But you know what? They aren’t going to change their opinion of you. But you will change your opinion of yourself and that’s all that matters. And when you do that, then, surprisingly, their opinion will slowly begin to change. A tenet of Write It Forward is that we teach people how to treat us.