365 WP #8: Writing and Grad School Goals

Today’s 365 Days of Writing Prompt: Ebb and Flow –  Our blogs morph over time, as interests shift and life happens. Write a post for your blog — but three years in the future.


Image by Karen Creftor, from Goal Setting, Achieving Goals.

Yesterday I was planning on skipping today’s prompt in favor of getting grad school work done, but I read ahead and realized this was an important prompt. I’m supposed to have a five year plan for grad school (in which I have three years left) so what’s my five-year plan for this blog? Or for writing?

Knowledge time! My field of study is school psychology (mini-rant: It’s one of the oldest areas of psychology and yet no one knows about it). We’re the ones that give IQ tests, among other things. One of those other things we study is motivation and goal attainment. I recently worked on a project that focused on Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions (MCII). There are two parts to MCII. The first, mental contrasting, involves thinking positively about a goal you want to achieve it, how you will achieve it, and the realistic obstacles you will face. Pretty standard goal-setting stuff. The second part, implementation intentions, involves creating If-Then plans where you describe precisely what you’ll do (the Where, When, How) in order to overcome those obstacles. Studies have show that MCII is far more effective at helping people achieve their goals than only positively thinking about goals and the potential obstacles.

What’s my point with that lecture? First of all, I don’t think psychologists do enough to get all their great research findings out to the public, so I just thought I’d do my little part in putting MCII out there. Secondly, 5-year plans are important, and ideally they should be paired with realistic ways to systematically overcome any obstacles you will face.

I’m going to forego writing a post from three years in the future, in favor of developing a three-year MCII plan. Some of these If-Then statements are kind of awkward, but whatever. That’s the way you’re supposed to word them and they get the job done:

Goals to attain by 2017:

  • Receive my Ph.D in School Psychology
    • Possible obstacle – not having the time to complete my dissertation
    • If my schedule becomes insane and I struggle with writing and researching my dissertation, then I’ll work with my adviser to create a weekly/bi-weekly check-in schedule so he can hold me accountable for doing my work
  • Secure a job as a school psychologist near Baltimore City (no more insane commutes!)
    • Possible obstacle – no jobs near to where I currently live
    • If there are no school psychology jobs with the Baltimore City or Baltimore County school districts, then I will 1) also look into possible non-traditional jobs (e.g. NPOs) in Baltimore City or County, and 2) look for positions open in the surrounding counties where my commute would still be tolerable.
  • Have a literary agent
    • Possible obstacle – getting discouraged from hoards of rejection letters (hopefully it won’t be hoards! ;____;)
    • If I find myself receiving many rejection letters, I will 1) commiserate with my writer’s group to keep my spirits up, and 2) re-vamp my query letter (e.g. asking for critiques from writer’s group peeps) because clearly something is wrong.
  • Publish a novel
    • This one is a lofty goal. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll have the energy or focus to traditionally publishing my novel until after my dissertation is out of the way (from what I’ve seen and heard, dissertations are beasts). I’ve mulled over self-publishing because my novel is almost 100% ready to go, but my instinct is to be patient and pursue a traditional publisher.
    • Possible obstacle – no literary agent
    • If after three years I have no literary agent to help me shop my novel to publishers, I will 1) start seriously considering self-publishing by investigating the cost, avenues for self-promotion, and comparing available self-publishing platforms, and 2) increase the amount of network (e.g. writer’s conferences?) that I’m doing since I’ll be out of grad school.

My MCII plan has given me two questions:

The main reason I’m hesitant to go the self-publishing route is I don’t know anyone who’s done it successfully. Has anyone self published, and would you be interested in sharing your story in the comments?

How valuable are writer’s conferences? Every now and then I get emails about one or see information about an upcoming event on sites like Writer’s Digest, but I don’t have the time/money to attend right now. Am I missing out on something important?



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