What to Write Today That Will Change Your Life Tomorrow

Carol Tice

JoyAre you worried that your freelance writing career won’t turn out the way you want?

We’re going to do a quick writing exercise today to help you with that.

But first, I want to share a bit about the person who inspired this post.

One of the speakers at last week’s World Domination Summit was 84-year-old Bob Moore, of the wildly successful natural-foods company Bob’s Red Mill. Bob is a local hero in Oregon because he gave his company to the employees in a stock-ownership plan. And he still hasn’t retired.

One of the things Bob said struck me as critical for freelance writers.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day crises of running your business. But you have to stay on track and make sure you’re guiding things in the direction you want. How do you do that?

“Have a ‘major direction’ list,” he said.

Where are you going?

As soon as he said it, I felt sort of bad.

I’m good at making to-do lists for tomorrow or this week, but feel like I’m not so good at keeping track of the overall direction of my career.

Having a big-picture list is a powerful way to keep focused on what really matters.

Recently, when I looked at my writer website, I realized it was sadly out of sync with my current goals. It was still focused on finding article-writing gigs, when my primary writing goals now are:

I’ve updated my site now, so seeing it reminds me that I need to say “no” to gigs that don’t fit my goals.

As I recently noted in my letter to myself as a new freelance writer, it all goes by so fast. And if you don’t keep a focus on the big picture of where you want this all to end up, you probably won’t get there.

How to clarify your goals

What if you’re not sure where you want to go?

Here’s one thing I do when I’m trying to get a perspective on my major direction — I read obituaries in the newspaper.

Especially if they’re someone around my age. Or a child.

Some are sad stories of lives half-lived. Others are amazing tales that seem like they’d make a good novel!

I’ve also written a few obits as a journalist, and there is no tougher assignment than summing up a life in a few words.

Our lives are of varying lengths, and we never know how long they’ll be. So it’s important to move in the right direction.

Before time runs out.

People are always asking me what it’s like to have ‘made it’ as a writer, but I don’t feel like I have. Really, there is no arriving, no destination except for the one place we’re all going.

The place where someone else is opening the paper and reading our obituary. Before that, it’s all a journey.

Reading obituaries leads me to so many questions about my own life that help shape my direction list:

  • What are my notable accomplishments, if you had to sum them up in a few short sentences?
  • Have I been the best wife and mom I could be?
  • Am I making a positive difference in this world?
  • Does the way I spend my time now lead me in the direction I want to go?

Look back on your writing life from the perspective of the end of your life. Imagine what you’ll see.

Is that what you want? If not, it’s time to change course.

What’s on your major direction list? Write in the comments and share it with us. Or try writing your obituary. How would you like to be remembered?




  1. Zoe Uwem

    And I know exactly what more you can do. First, you’ve got to know that life is spiritual (if you know what I mean) and of course, death is also spiritual. Your physical life is based primarily on yuor spiritual life, in other words, the spiritual controls the physical.So, if you take charge of the spiritual, you can control the physical and determine what happens in your life. Life must first be created spiritually before the physical ccreation and I know exactly how and what to use in creating life.

  2. Zoe

    Hi Carol,
    This is a thought-provoking post. I’ve been reading your blog (and other writing blogs) for months now and this is actually my first time of commenting on a blog post and I choose to comment on your blog. Talking about goals, I’m currently working on setting up my own blog and establishing a freelance writing career-just starting.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Zoe — congrats on making your first blog comment! I was on a trip or I definitely would have commented sooner.

      When you think about starting your blog, keep your end goals in mind. What are you trying to accomplish with it? It’s easy to ramble around with a blog, so use your Major Direction list to keep it focused.

  3. D Kendra Francesco

    A few weeks ago, the local paper ran an article about Red Gililand, a cancer survivor. One of the things he says keeps him going is asking himself, “What have you done today to get you where you want to be tomorrow?”

  4. Rhonda

    Thanks for the helpful post. I try to remember to check my long-term goals every so often to make sure I’m on track. However, they have changed greatly over the last few months, so it is still easy to get distracted.

    Here’s some that I’m working on
    Long-term: help disadvantaged students thrive in university or trade school through the new business I am starting up
    – earn a comfortable income freelance writing and editing – mostly because I love doing this and am so happy that I have the chance to do so

    Mid-term (end of summer): get my opt-in incentive for the student site up and running
    – find some good writing and editing clients

    Short-term: get over my nerves about putting my name ‘out there’

    Short-term: send out my LOIs to trade mags. I have the experience to write for the construction and accounting trades. So, it’s time to let them know I am here
    – finish the two pitch ideas that I came up with over the weekend, find markets, and send them out
    – send out guest post pitches – really, it’s very silly of me to let my nervousness stop me from getting this done!

    • Carol Tice

      Nice list — I patched it back together from your multiple posts. 😉

      And yes, just do it. The nerves don’t really go away…you just learn to ignore them.

  5. Sue Campbell

    I’m thinking this would be a terrific once a year exercise.

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