Often, at the end of the year, we writers start strategizing about our plans for the New Year. That’s why I’ve been running this series of blog posts on strategic planning. It’s important. Time is precious, demands on our time are numerous, and we want great results in our efforts to improve as a writer in the least amount of time.
At least I do. I hate wasting time. I try to make the most out of every minute I spend on my career, whether it is researching, writing, attending conferences, teaching, or brainstorming. I can’t rush my ideas, and sometimes it takes me months to pull a novel together in my head before I’m ready to write. But I can be efficient with all the other aspects of my writing life.
Over the years I’ve attended a lot of writers’ conferences. I’ve also attended some intensive one-day and one-week writing workshops. I always learn a lot at conferences, but, hands down, I learn the most at intensive events. Also what I learn at those focused intensive workshops made the greatest impact on my skills as a writer.
This is what led me to put together my own writing retreats. I’ve taught a number of retreats that cover a lot of general novel-writing topics, such as character and plot development, theme, and all those key novel elements. But when I started holding writing boot camps, I saw a huge difference.
What stands out to me when I hold boot camps is the amazing progess attendees make in three days. There is so much knowledge going into their brains, but they aren’t just sitting around taking notes; they’re working. A boot camp is work. You come prepared to dig into your story and flesh it out. You work on your scenes and you plot out your entire novel.
And with a small group of other writers, giving support and ideas and feedback, you can see how a lot of progress can be made.
I started teaching one plotting boot camp the first year. Now, in 2019, my co-instructors and I will be holding 7 boot camps around northern California! Two Plotting Madness camps, one Self-Publishing Boot Camp, and four Scene Mastery Boot Camps.
All are going to be held in gorgeous locations and venues, all to inspire creativity, focus, and a relaxed and nonjudgmental ambiance.
If time is precious to you, if you’re serious about your writing and your career as an author, and if you want to make huge progress in your project, take a few minutes and look at the 8 reasons you should consider attending one of our boot camps.
You leave behind your normal life with all its demands and dedicate the time to really working on your craft (or online presence, if taking the Self-Publishing Boot Camp).
You don’t have to do any chores, clean floors, wash clothes, go shopping. It is done for you (well, you can make your bed if you really want to).
You get to take advantage of the creativity and generosity of a small group of dedicated writers who will help you troubleshoot, plot, brainstorm, and rework your ideas, scenes, and other material (when do you ever get a support system like that?).
You get fed meals. You don’t have to cook. If you stay at one of the houses we rent and where we hold some of the boot camps, you also get a gourmet breakfast each morning. And, of course, there is always tons of coffee at hand!
You don’t get to procrastinate or give in to your excuses to avoid working. Yes, we all have those, and we all do it. If you want to be a successful author, you must learn to hack through those walls.
You get inspired by listening to others’ ideas and projects, as well as hearing their struggles and victories in this writing life. It’s hard to go it alone. And just yakking with people online is not the same as hanging out in person with other humans in corporeal form.
You get to pick the brains of your instructor(s) and have personalized attention on your project. Usually this kind of consultation can run anywhere from $100-300/hr. But over the course of three days, you get hours of free help (well, you pay for the boot camp, but that cost would only get you maybe two hours of personal assistance on your project). There is a wealth of knowledge at hand for you to draw from.
You make lifelong friends. Believe it. Even if you’re somewhat antisocial and an introvert, spending three intense days (especially if you’re staying in the house with other attendees and dodging the fox on the way to the hot tub together) with other writers creates a bond that you don’t get attending a big conference in a hotel, where you always go back to your lonely room.
And don’t forget that you get to take a vacation! Our boot camps are set in places that should be on everyone’s bucket list!
We’ve launched our new website, Writing for Life Workshops, an event site that handles all our boot camps (and will also list other workshops I’ll be teaching during the year). There, you can read about all seven boot camps, the venues, and the locations. You can book and pay and get your space locked in.
Here are the boot camps and dates for 2019:
Nevada City, CA (heart of the Gold Rush country!) ~ May 5-8 (Scene Mastery)
Geyserville, CA (Wine Country! Yes, we’ll be wine-tasting!) ~ June 9-12 (Scene Mastery)
Mendocino Coast, CA (just about the most beautiful stretch of rugged coastline anywhere!) ~ August 4-7 (Plotting Madness)
South Lake Tahoe, CA ~ Sept. 22-Oct. 3 (Scene Mastery, Plotting Madness, and Self-Publishing)
Monterey/Carmel, CA (more gorgeous coastline!) ~ Nov. 3-6 (Scene Mastery)
If you want to come to our Tahoe boot camps, which are our premiere events, be sure to book right away. We rent a gorgeous “mansion” for eleven days (three boot camps back to back), and you can stay for any or all of them!
If you book before January 31, and you come for either two or three of the boot camps, you will get HALF OFF your boot camp costs and 20% off your room rate. Be sure to read all about the boot camps on the South Lake Tahoe Boot Camp page.
Want us to hold a boot camp in your area for your writers? Get at least 15 participants committed to attending and let’s talk!
Any questions? Make 2019 the year you fast-track to success! And if you aren’t on my mailing list and want to get free writing craft books and lots of great offers and writing tips, sign up HERE! You’ll get two free ebooks the first week. And you can enter to win ebooks every month in my Rafflecopter contest.
In continuation from last week’s post reviewing the key points of strategic planning, we’re going to look at how to formulate a simple, approachable strategy to help you reach those writing goals and big dreams you have for your career.
We took a look at what a writing vision considers: what you want to be, what you want to have, and what you want to do. If you haven’t laid down that vision, come up with sample statements similar to the ones in that post.
Now that you have listed all those things you hope to achieve by the end of 2019, you’ll want to come up with a clear game plan so you can reach those goals. Set up benchmarks for the various steps you need to take to get to the finish line. Once you figure out the steps, you can then decide how long it will take you to complete each step.
One great way to figure this all out is to brainstorm all your ideas. I have numerous posts on ways writers can brainstorm using mind maps, so consider using it for strategic planning as well!
Get out that big piece of tag board and your markers and start listing all the dreams and goals you have. You can then draw lines (as discussed in the previous posts) to the milestones you need to reach to get to each goal. And with each milestone, you can connect all the little tasks you have to accomplish to make that milestone.
Just break this all down into bite-sized pieces. For example, let’s say one of your goals is to write a novel by the end of the year. Since it’s a historical novel, you need to do some research. And maybe you want to spend some time studying one or two great novels that are similar to what you hope to write.
On your mind map, you can put “write novel” in the center. From there, connect to all the tasks you come up with that you need to do to get that novel finished. You will have a line to “research locale and era” and another to “create a timeline” and maybe another called “deconstruct novel A.”
You will, of course, have lots of other things, including marketing plan, hiring a cover designer (and possibly an interior book designer), etc. And all these tasks you’ve now listed will have spokes going outward toward the smaller components that will make up reaching each of these milestones.
Connected to your research task might be things like “find similar books on this era and study, take notes” and “find three historical characters and events to include in the novel.” Some tasks connected to your task called “find cover designer” might be “research the top ten best sellers in genre and find out who the cover designer is” and “email cover designers for price and availability.”
Solve the Mystery of Your Writing Goals
You can tell I love using mind mapping for just about everything, and hopefully you can see how helpful this is. Think about those dry-erase boards you see in detective TV shows on which the cops brainstorm by writing down all the clues and evidence they have so far on a crime. This is the same thing. Your objective or goal is akin to solving a mystery.
How do you do that? With laying out all the necessary information, then executing a plan. That’s what we’re doing here. It’s basic problem solving using a visual method to help see the big picture.
It’s very satisfying to solve a mystery. And without strategic planning, a writer’s career and goals feel like one of those unsolved crimes that no one can make sense of. Trust me—if you brainstorm all your goals for 2019 and then use this method to note all the steps you need to get to those goals, your plan will come into focus.
Transfer Tasks from Map to Timeline
From your chart, you can create a strategic timeline. Figure out how long and when you plan to implement each task. Break it down by month, then week. On your mind map (using a different color for each month), circle all the tasks you need to do first, in January, then transfer it to a timeline.
When I decided to execute my big novel experiment some summers ago, I set a tough goal for myself. I gave myself three months to get from idea to publication of a lengthy Historical Western Romance—a genre I had never read or written before. I had a lot of steps I had to do to get to the finish line.
Some of the first tasks I listed for myself was to 1) deconstruct some best-selling novels I wanted to emulate (only structure, not plot), 2) nail down a cover designer, so I could match the look for this genre, 3) begin research on the era and town, 4) start plotting the novel, 5) find some authors in that genre willing to give me advice and also test read for me, and 6) contact and schedule my interior book designer to make sure she could get the print cover done by my Nov. 1 release date. That was just “week one.”
With careful planning, even while working full-time as a copyeditor and keeping up with my blog, I managed to write and edit this 125,000-word novel, and publish and market it on my planned date of November 1. All that planning paid off, as the book came out exactly the way I’d hoped, and within two weeks Colorado Promise was hitting top lists on Amazon.
Find the Balance In Order to Make Progress
Now, my goals are going to be different from yours, and my timeline as well. Not a whole lot of writers are going to feel comfortable setting such short time constraints on a huge goal like this. So the key is to find a balance between being reasonable and pushing yourself a bit.
If you are too lax and allowing way too much time to reach those milestones, you may never get a momentum, and may find it hard to get things done.
Push yourself too hard and you’ll get frustrated and discouraged when you keep failing to reach those smaller goals within the time you’ve allotted.
Remember, though, you can tweak your timeline as the months go by. Cross off the tasks you’ve finished, and then reassess if you can make the next ones in time, or even sooner. It helps if your timeline is on your computer in some software program. Or if you are using paper, work with a pencil so you can erase and add and move your milestones around.
I hope this is getting you excited to start charting out your course as a writer for 2019!
Share some of the goals you have, and some thoughts on strategic planning. Do you have any planning tips you can give other writers? Let’s hear them!
We’re continuing our re-visitation of some posts I wrote years ago on strategic planning for writers. I highly recommend that, at the end of every year, you assess and reassess your writing career. Look at how far you’ve come, what goals and milestones you’ve reached, and what goals still lie ahead.
To reach your ultimate goals that speak of a successful writing career, you have to break the process down into chunks.
In the last two posts (start here) I introduced the components writers need in order to formulate a practical, usable strategic plan for their writing career. Instead of wandering aimlessly, writers can envision what they want their careers to look like in a year, two years, even five years, and reach a specific destination: the realization of their vision.
Last week I looked at the first element needed to consider in strategic planning: the vision itself. Hopefully you filled in the blanks for all those vision statements and now are ready to tackle the next step: creating your strategy. I’m also going to touch on milestones a bit here and continue on in next week’s post.
Once you have a vision for your writing career, it’s not all that hard to create a strategy to reach it. But you want to be realistic when it comes to meeting your goals. Let’s say you wrote down that by the end of 2019 you want to have self-published three novels as ebooks.
Now, the benchmarks you need in order to reach that goal have to be practical. If you haven’t even started writing any of those three books, do you really believe you can have three done, edited, polished, formatted with cover design, and uploaded all in those twelve months? Maybe you can. Maybe you don’t have to work a day job, and you’ve written a number of novels already and know how long, realistically, it takes you to do this.
If that’s the case, you might set your benchmarks like this:
Write one book completed by April 1st. Send out for editing while writing book 2. Hire cover designer to create cover for book 1. Write back cover copy, ad copy, etc.
Have book 2 done by July 1. At that date, send out for editing. Polish/rewrite book 1. Upload and start selling book 1 when ready. Write back cover copy, ad copy, etc., for book 2. Hire cover designer to create book 2 cover.
Write book 3 and complete by Oct 1. Send out book 3 for editing. Polish/rewrite book 2. Upload book 2 for sale online. Have designer start cover design for book 3.
Polish/rewrite book 3 by Dec 15. Upload and sell book 3.
There may be a number of other benchmarks to tie in with this for your marketing, launches, and promo as well. All those are good things to set benchmarks for, such as determining how many free and paid sites you will advertise on, how much money you will spend promoting each book, where you will promote your books, how many interviews you will do, and the list can go on and on.
Dream Big but Be Realistic
However, if you have never even written a complete novel, would it be wise to set that same goal for yourself–to have three ebooks uploaded and for sale by the end of 2019?
Probably not. Maybe you will put that at the end of your five-year goal. If so, you may set these same above goals but spread them out over a more doable time period.
If you know it takes you about a year to write a rough draft of a novel while you work full-time and raise three small children, then set the milestone at the date on your five-year timeline that is realistic. For your one-year plan, you may just want to have “finish one novel, rough draft” by the end of the year.
The best way to set these benchmarks is to work backward. If your ultimate goal is to write three great novels in the next five years and get them published, you want to first picture what that looks like at the end of five years.
Are you publishing these yourself? Do you already have an agent and maybe one novel already selling? Are you determined to first get an agent and then a publishing contract?
Since you can’t control just when you might get things that are out of your hands (agent and publishing contracts), you plan what you can. You can write three great books in the next five years. You can send them out for professional critiques and editing, and polish them up. You can write query letters and synopses, go to writing conferences to pitch your books and improve your craft, do some rewriting based on the feedback you get, query agents. All these things should be on your strategic plan.
Reposition Your Milestones As You Go Along
Maybe your goal is to land an agent contract by the end of 2013. What if you achieve that sooner? Then perhaps some of the milestones you have set need to be adjusted accordingly. This would also be the case if you don’t land that agent. Maybe after two years of failing to get an agent, you have gotten great encouragement about your book. Maybe many professionals have suggested you go ahead and self-publish it and build your fan base rather than wait years until you might land an agent.
The face of publishing is changing daily, so be flexible with your plan and your milestones. These milestones may sound like they are set in stone (seeing as the word stone is rather evident), so maybe they should be called mile markers instead. You can pull a wooden marker out of the ground and haul it a few miles ahead with little effort, then pound it into a new spot along your road to the town of Vision.
Keep your printed strategic plan on the wall by your desk so you’ll be reminded each day, and if you need to, you can just rework the document a bit to make the adjustments, then print out the new version and pin it up on your wall. Be sure to use that yellow highlighter to mark when you’ve reached a milestone (or marker, which goes nicely with the yellow marker, right?).
How great will you feel if, at the end of 2019, your strategic plan for the year is all lit up in yellow ink? I can tell you now, you will feel terrific!
So think about your vision, then start brainstorming mile markers and figuring out how long it may take to reach those. I’ll talk some more on markers next week. In the meantime, happy planning!
As 2018 winds up, I’m revisiting an in-depth look at strategic planning for writers that I published six years ago. It’s all still perfectly relevant. In last week’s post, I introduced the four things we need to look at when planning our writing careers: vision, strategy, tactics, and action. Rather than have a nebulous idea of what we want to achieve as writers, it’s helpful and wise to think about the goals we want to reach.
Then we want to take our vague vision and form it into something not only specific but laid out with reasonable milestones to reach at certain steps along the way.
By transforming our vision into doable steps, we can measure our success, reevaluate the milestones and goals as we go along, and hone that vision into a reality with its resultant rewards.
The first thing we need to explore regarding strategic planning is our vision. That equates to a clear mental picture of what you want your career to look like by a certain date, such as the end of one year, two years, and even five years. If you don’t have any long-range goals for your career, then you may not achieve much, and your efforts to succeed as a writer may be haphazard and scatter-shot
Rather than using the shotgun approach to your very important writing journey, think sniper scope. You want to hit those targets dead-on.
So Let’s Break It Down
Your vision is made up of three components or goals:
Things you want to HAVE
Things you want to DO
Things you want to BE
Last week I encouraged you to freewrite some of your dreams—imagine what your ideal successful writing career looks like in specifics. When you take time to dream, you can be as ambitious, outrageous, or ridiculous as you want. This is your dream. We all know the truth of these famous quotes:
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” (Walt Disney)
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)
“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” (Robert Kennedy)
In other words, don’t censor yourself when you dream. Don’t have that little cartoon devil on your shoulder whispering in your ear and telling you you are stupid or fooling yourself thinking you deserve success or will see your greatest writing dreams realized. I mean, think about it. If Walt Disney hadn’t envisioned Disneyland, we never would have had all those fun rides!
Seriously, some of humankind’s (maybe all?) greatest achievements started as an outrageous dream in someone’s mind (Take a spaceship to the moon? Are you crazy?).
So write down your vision of what you think your career should look like by the end of 2013. Write down some ideas for two years and five years. Where do you see yourself? What do you see yourself doing? We generally overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, but often underestimate what we can do in five.
Honing Your Vision
Now, fill in these blanks by answering this question (compliments from Randy Ingermanson, who has such great resources at his blog www.advancedfictionwriting.com): In ____ years this is what I want my life to look like: (Do this for each period of time for which you are setting up your vision.)
I will be having a wonderful time writing ___________________________________________ (What do you want to be writing about/what kind of writing?)
I will be earning $____________ from my day job each month, working _________ hours per week doing ____________.
I will be earning $____________ from my writing job, working _________ hours per week.
I will also be doing these fun or cool or worthwhile things: ______________________________________________________ (because you also have a life and other things are important too).
If you are going the indie publishing route, you will want to add these:
I will have ___________ ebooks for sale by this benchmark date.
Each ebook will be selling ____________ copies per month and earning me $______________ per month.
If you are looking to get traditionally published (or have more books published via this channel), you may need something like this in your vision:
I will have landed an agent contract by this benchmark date.
I will have gotten a publishing contract for this novel ______________ or this many novels ___________________.
I will be selling _________________ copies per months of my published books and will have earned $ ________________ royalties by the end of this benchmark date.
Yes, Be Specific!
Do you see how specific your vision must be? In order to create a strategy to reach your goals, you have to get that vision set up so it is the destination you are striving for (remember my last post about saddling up your horse and heading to that town you drew at the edge of your map?)
If you look up at that list of three things your vision entails, you see by filling in those blanks you are clarifying what you want to do and what you want to have, which in turn paints a picture of what you want to be.
Once you have all this worked out, remember this is not set in stone. You are not making a blood pact that inflicts torture or shame if you fail to reach your vision by the benchmark dates (hmm, maybe it’s not a good idea, then, to picture those as tombstones with R.I.P. on them). You should look at this more as your lens focus, helping you hone in on your writing career goals in a practical way.
So spend some time and think about these particulars and next week we will discuss just how to put together a practical, manageable strategy to help you get there—by setting milestones along the way. Till then, dream big.
Share some of the things you want to have, be, and do in 2019!
As the end of the year looms large, we writers should be thinking about strategic planning. I know—it sounds like work. Boring work. But, honestly, if you don’t plan your writing career, you won’t achieve as much as you hope. Any savvy business owner or entrepreneur will tell you—you have to have a strong, viable business plan. Writers need one too!
I’m going to reprint some of my posts from years back that discuss ways to plan your writing career strategically. This is what I do every year, at the beginning of the year. I sometimes go into great detail. Othertimes I just make a list of what I plan to accomplish for the year.
For me, that can often be enough. But I’ve been executing my writing goals and plans for many years now, averaging about three published books a year for the last ten or so years, along with things like online courses, translations of my books, audiobooks, workshops and retreats, and teaching at conferences.
I always need to lay out my objectives and goals for the New Year, pushing myself to excel, learn, reach new heights, and learn new things. We writers (humans, in general) should strive to learn new things continually. And while we can have an open mind to learning at every turn, being open to life’s lessons, there is something to be said about planning strategically.
That said, let’s spend some weeks in wrapping up 2018 discussing strategic planning of your writing career.
Many of us start looking ahead to a new year with hope, anticipation, and uncertainty. Some of you are probably groaning, for planning sounds a lot like plotting or marketing or promoting—just another thing that times time, effort, and yes—thought! Strategic planning sounds “corporate” to me—all business and no fun. Certainly not as much fun as just winging it with my writing in a creative flair without caring what the future holds.
But most of us have some goals for our writing life. Maybe they’re a bit vague, like we want to become best-selling authors, or we want a lot of fans. I’d like to propose that in order to really succeed in your writing career, though, you really need to get a little more specific.
So, I’m going to delve into some very specific things regarding strategic planning that have helped me a lot, and much of what I’m going to share with you was provided for me by the wonderful Randy Ingermanson, who has the popular blog Advanced Fiction Writing (which you should absolutely subscribe to).
I believe that’s why so many novelists don’t want to put on their marketing hat. There is just too much. . . well, strategic planning needed to execute a plan that is time-efficient, productive, and practical. We don’t want to be bothered; we just want to hole up in our little office corner and write great books.
Your Strategic Plan Is Like Taking a Trip
But, just a little planning isn’t all that painful. In fact, once I got into it, I had a lot of fun dreaming up all the milestones I wanted to reach and allowing myself to envision in specific detail what my “success” will look like a year from now. That’s kind of like writing fiction, right? So try this and see if it helps you. I believe it will—on many levels.
For one thing, if you have a clear plan in place, you can set very specific practical tasks to do each week to reach those goals. And as you reach them, it’s very satisfying. Like when you go on a road trip to a faraway place and you’re checking the map for landmarks and towns along the way, or roadside attractions you want to see.
So when you get to each place you are aiming for, you can cross it off your list and explore and have fun while you’re there. Strategic planning is just like that but without the corny T-shirt you buy at the souvenir stand.
For another thing, it will take much of the mystery and confusion out of your journey, as you have some clear destinations you are striving toward, and that can reduce stress (that and massive amounts of chocolate).
The Four Things That Lead to Success
So all you need are four (yes, just four) basic things in order to succeed in your writing career: vision, strategy, tactics, and action. Here’s a simple explanation of each of these key components of your fabulous strategic plan:
Vision: You need to have a clear idea of what you want your career to look like in 1, 2, and 5 years. If you want to just plan next year because thinking too far ahead gives you hives, just focus on that.
Strategy: All this really means is you create a road map you will use to get to that town called “Vision” you just described. If it helps, get out your crayons and paper and draw a neat little Western town called “Vision” on the far right side of a map and draw a long road leading to it. That road is the highway we call “Strategy.” (Or if you want to really get into this metaphor, call it a wagon trail.)
Tactics: Tactics are the specific methods and skills you will use to achieve various milestones, each by a certain deadline (the word deadline sounds good in here, right?). Draw a bunch of humpy things that look like tombstones in intervals along the road (Okay, you can write R. I.P. on some of them, but don’t pay any mind to the circling buzzards overhead).
Action: Yep, you actually have to saddle up your horse and ride the long road to get to each of those milestones and then finally to the town you aim to end up in. You are going to have an idea how long it will take you to get to each one of those milestones (where you can water your horse and maybe get some grub). You see how this is like a planned trip with a destination in mind? Don’t forget your Winchester for the pesky rattlers!
Don’t ask me how I got started on this cowboy thing. Must be because my husband and I just watched True Grit again (the new remake, not the old one). But I hope a picture is beginning to form.
Let the Dreams Come
So next week, we will take a long, good look at what your vision might entail and why it’s important to have a very specific one—not just a vague idea. If you are going to plan that trip to “Vision,” you really want to know what’s there that’s so enticing and worth the trip. In the meantime, think a little about where you are in your writing career, maybe just brainstorm a bit with those nifty crayons, and throw around some ideas of where you’d like to be, as a writer, in the next year or two.
What does that writing career look like a year from now? What do you see yourself doing? Write down whatever comes to mind, however outrageous or trivial. Hang on to that piece of paper for next week, when we dig in and shape and color that vision a bit . . . pardner.
Today’s guest post is by therapist Hayley Watkins.
Immersion is often a wonderful experience. It’s a particular state of mental involvement that many of us, as writers, find deeply comforting and satisfying, and it’s quite likely that it’s what draws you back again and again for more.
But like so many things, immersion is a double-edged sword. On the plus side it gives you the cocoon-like sense of protection from everything but the world you’ve created on paper. It’s also intense enough that when you withdraw from your writing you walk away feeling satisfied.
Both of these feelings offer big psychological benefits. After all, everybody needs to feel safe. When we feel safe, we feel ready to meet the demands life throws at us.
Satisfaction is the other side of that coin and can be described as a feeling of fulfilment of our desires or needs that we indulge in to avoid boredom or frustration. Safety protects (but may limit) us, while the pursuit of satisfaction stretches us. So far so good.
The problem with immersion is that a tight focus also means detail-oriented or small-picture thinking. That works well when we’re researching something for our story or thinking about which extras will be present in a scene or designing some element of world-building, but it doesn’t serve us so well when we reach the point where we want to promote our work.
The Perils of Promotion
Promoting your work can be hard, especially if you don’t have helpful contacts and a ready-made audience. I’m not going to talk about the business of taking your writings to market here because there’s already a lot of information online about that. Instead I want to focus on you. In particular, I want to talk about how you look after your own mental and emotional health while you’re doing what needs to be done to get noticed.
I said earlier that immersion is about deep mental involvement. That means that when you’re immersed, there’s no room in your mind for anything else. There’s another word for that: focus, and I’m going to guess that focus is one of your key strengths.
The problem with focus is that when you focus on a task, you neglect to keep an eye on that task in context of your other tasks, so it doesn’t help you notice when you have done as much as you need to, to get noticed as a writer. There’s always one more guest blog you could approach, or one more article to read that might have that key bit of information (or information presented in the right way) to click. Focus can lead you down a rabbit hole with little or no awareness of how far you’ve come.
Even when you do come back out into the proverbial fresh air from a self-promotion binge, it’s likely you still think about how your promotion efforts are going. You might think about it while shopping, walking the dog, or picking the kids up from school. That isn’t good for you. You’re well-adapted to focus, but focus is an extreme mental activity, and after a while it will wear on you. To borrow a simile from the world of sports: focus is meant for sprinting, not marathons.
So my message to you is this: be kind to yourself, or, more specifically, be attuned and alert to yourself. The first time you’re likely to notice that you’re overusing your talent for focus is when your body starts telling you so by mirroring the tension in your mind.
Assessing Your Body Feelings
Take a moment just to feel. How do you feel at the moment? Is your scalp tense or relaxed? Is your neck flexible or tight? Do your shoulders hurt? Your cheeks, brows, or eyes? How deep are you breathing, or how deep a breath do you feel like you can take? How does your belly feel?
Are you clenching anything—your jaw or toes, perhaps? How well have you been sleeping lately? Has your appetite changed? The signals your body is giving you can be easy to ignore, but there is no better way to gauge your state of mind.
There are a few antidotes to being unhelpfully detail-orientated, and you can find them by researching “big picture thinking.” It’s very much a corporate management term, but it does have wisdom to impart for us. For example, Fast Company suggests here that we should allocate time to think. For us writers, that means to walk away from our computer, notebook, lists, or whatever it is we use to organise our promotion campaign, and think about what the overall project needs. (Here is another post to help you straddle your detail-orientated self and your big picture one.)
Is talking to your current gaggle of fans helping enough? It’s engaging with your audience, which is great, but would the time be better spent writing pitches instead?
The article has other suggestions, such as talking about the project with a buddy, and that can be an immensely valuable thing to do because it will force you to put all of those unverbalized feelings, worries, and focus points into words. As a trainee therapist, I’m all about encouraging people to feel, but words have a wonderful way of clarifying things.
Keep in mind that you are the one completely indispensable element of your writing. Without you the writing doesn’t happen, and it certainly doesn’t reach an audience. It is too easy to flog yourself in your efforts to get the job done, but I urge you not to. You are your own best writing tool. Look after you, and you look after your writing career.
Hayley Watkins has been a creative writer since childhood and is now an advanced trainee specializing in Transactional Analysis, working towards accreditation. Connect with Hayley on Twitter.