Posted by: Glenda Bailey-Mershon | January 6, 2009

The Writer’s Inventory

Maybe you’re just beginning to wonder if you should devote more time to writing, a pastime you’ve always enjoyed. But how to focus your efforts? You’ve tried a little of everything and found some genres or forms work better for you than others. But can you call yourself a writer?

Of course you can. You write, therefore you are.

Still, knowing who you are as a writer takes a bit of self-examination. Below is a form I ask students in my Fresh Start workshops to fill out for discussion. Try it, and see if you’re surprised by any of the answers. Maybe you won’t be surprised, but keeping in mind where, how often, and in what forms you like to write, and what your strengths and weaknesses are, will help you form a more detailed writing plan. Elsewhere on this page is a wonderful post from Tamara Sellman on how to form a business plan for your writing. In a comment below her post is my own more laidback version of an annual and week-by-week plan. How structured you want to be in your approach to writing is a personal decision. But you’ll make more progress if you begin to ask yourself these questions––where, when, how, and what?–– on a regular basis.

A WRITER’S PERSONAL INVENTORY

1.    I write every day

sometimes ____  generally ____  always ____  no pattern ____

2.    On average, I write ________ times per week.

3.    A place (or places) where I like to write is (are) :
________________________________________________________________________________________

4.    I am most comfortable writing :
Immediately upon rising _______  midmorning _________  in the afternoon ________

evening _______  after everyone else is in bed ___________  anytime __________

in the middle of the night __________

other (describe)______________________________

5.    I most like to write about ( Please list 3 or 4 favorite topics/people/places):

6.    My preferred form or genre of writing is (Check all that apply):

Poetry ___ Personal Essay/Memoir ___  Creative Nonfiction ___Short Fiction ___

Book-length nonfiction ____ Mystery ___ Fantasy  Magical Realism ___

Science Fiction ___ Children’s Books ___ History ___

Other (Describe): __________________

7.    The general locale I like to write about is:

_________________________________________

8.    The usual setting for my work is

________________________________________________________________________________________________.

9.    I am best at writing:

dialogue ___ plot or action ___ character description ___

place or setting description ___

Other (Decribe): _______________________________________

10.    Right now, I most need to work on (Use categories from #9 above,  or describe another area to work on) :

dialogue ___ plot or action ___ character description ___ place/setting description ___

Other (Describe):______________________________

11.       A common theme or thread in my work is :

______________________________________________________________

12.    I am actively seeking publication in journals or with publishers :
Yes ___ No ____  Not yet, but I am working toward it: ____

No? Join a Jane Circle to help you get your work out there!

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Responses

  1. Say, Glenda, how many very famous authors have said “Inconsistancy is the hobgoblin of small minds” or something similar? I believe Wilde and one of the classic English poets are two of them. Does it mean seeing a lot of it in my answers to your form is a good thing or a bad thing?

  2. It might mean you’re throwing a road block or two in your own path. Or maybe you need drama to thrive creatively. Question is, is it working for you?

    And I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

    ATTRIBUTION: Essays. First Series. Self-Reliance.
    BIOGRAPHY: Columbia Encyclopedia.

  3. I may be the most laid back drama-queen in the northern suburbs. I just wrote three stories as Christmas presents. Two flowed like wine and the last one was a deadline nightmare. Don’t like the stress, but it gets things done.

    The last story was just out of reach for so long, I just had to keep pressing. As a result, it has two great pages, then falls apart.

    As much as I’d like choose a few ongoing projects to address this year, I’m afraid that means I would have to ignore flashes of unrelated inspiration.

  4. So you need deadlines to complete a project? Me, too! I give them to myself but admit it works better if there’s someone else who will be disappointed at the end of the line.

    Why not think about drafting a simple plan for projects, with the understanding you’re always going to follow up on anything that turns up the temp for you?

    I find being in a writing group that expects me to bring them new work each time really helps. In fact. I’m in three groups right now, and the work is flowing.


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