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Week that Was: Pulling my Weight

Today’s ‘week that was’ post is going to be a little bit different. Last week, I wrote that I hadn’t met my goals, and to be honest, I haven’t this week either.

Blogging about the goals I haven’t reached ain’t gonna make anything better, so I’m shifting the focus. I’m just going to tell you what’s been on my mind this week, which has had me in major reflection mode.

A big chunk of said reflection has been thinking about should-isms, and about what I really truly want to do; what my purpose is, you might say.

One of my should-isms is that I should be working full-time, defined as a 40-hour week, to be considered a functioning and contributing adult who is pulling her own weight in society. So, in today’s morning pages (basically journalling first thing in the morning, popularised by Julia Cameron) I calculated out the number of hours I work in a week. I tutor at Kip McGrath from Mon-Sat, and I included hours I spend planning lessons and undertaking professional development, to give me a total of 30-ish hours per week.

In terms of my writing, I include fiction writing and editing, blogging, market research, critiquing and social media, as these are all things that contribute to my indie writing business, therefore counting as ‘work’. This works out to 3+ hours each weekday, and I usually spend half of Sunday on my business as well. This adds up to an extra 20+ hours each week, which gives a grand total of 50 hours working.

I also teach guitar (and now maths) on a voluntary basis every Saturday afternoon, and I haven’t even considered all the time I spend THINKING about my writing, my business, and my wonderful cast of characters.

So there we have it – I am more than pulling my weight!

The other is that I should be doing something that contributes to society. I seem to have this block about whether a career in art (whatever media or form that may be) isn’t a noble enough profession. I am solidly working on undoing this terrible way of looking at art, and it’s one reason (not the only reason) I’m a teacher – teaching feels like more of an acceptable profession than an artist or writer or musician. 

This is pure bollocks, obviously.

I’ve realised that what gives me the most pleasure and satisfaction boils down to two things:

Firstly, making other people happy, and seeing them learn and grow and progress. This is the main reason I love teaching, and seeing my students begin to believe in their own ability is bread and butter for my soul.

Secondly: creating. I need to get the thoughts out of my head, and into something tangible; to express my emotion and allow it to resonate with others, which makes me feel good, as well as those it resonates with. (Yolanda wrote a great post on this in terms of the art of poetry. It’s well worth a read: To All Poets. Read the comments as well.) Sometimes, it’s just about making something fun, or silly, or beautiful. 

And if all else fails, I shall drink tea and watch some anime!

I realise today’s post has been a bit of a rambling rant, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. What should-isms do you struggle with? How do you deal with it? What keeps you going?

WRITING

Work in Progress Blog Challenge: Lucy’s Story

I was invited by author Vashti Quiroz-Vega  to participate in the ‘Work-In-Progress Blog Challenge,’ and I accepted. Vashti is an avid blogger, and author of The Basement, a suspense / thriller for young adults.

It’s an exciting one – the rules are to post the first line from each of the first three chapters in my work-in-process (WIP), and select four other writers to do the same.

 

I’ve chosen to take lines from Lucy’s Story: The End of the World for this challenge. It’s in its first draft now, and not many people know what happens in this one. It’s the direct sequel to The Caretaker of Imagination, which is in revision stages now, and will (hopefully) be published in December. Special thanks to Paul Taylor at AfterWork Productions for feeding me the apocalypse story idea.

Introduction:

She was too old to believe in them now, but Lucy still loved listening to her uncle’s stories.

Chapter One:

‘The End of the World’ was all Lucy had time to write before her mum rudely interrupted, stared pointedly at the clock on the wall, and informed Lucy it was well past her bedtime.

Chapter Two:

The tears choked out of her in spluttering sobs, turning into steam the instant they hit the earth below her.

Chapter Three:

Could they mean her?

I’m tagging the following writers, and can’t wait to see their chapter lines!

Click on their name to visit their blog:

Christine Campbell

Emma Lindhagen

Jon Simmonds

Amanda Staley

 

cornwall park

The Week that Wasn’t

So last week, I achieved almost none of the goals I had set for myself. The only one I did manage was to go for a long walk. I’ve also started walking to work twice a week, on the days that I am at a centre 15 minutes away from me (I work at different centres all over Auckland – it keeps me on my toes!). So it’s been the week that wasn’t, and my goals will all be shifted forward a week, which is absolutely okay.

Having said that, walking was probably the most important goal, because it gave me fresh air, sunshine, exercise and those all-important endorphins. The second most important goal was to catch up on my beta reading, because that is a commitment to other people. I started doing that with some of my Wattpad library last night, and I am reading the rest of Catherine Mede’s novel today. I do want to do justice with my feedback, and low energy doesn’t translate well to good feedback.

I’ll hopefully be meeting up with artist friend Jane Thorne this weekend to discuss cover art and illustration options.

I’ve also started taking B-Vitamins, which are working fantastically (even if that’s just a placebo effect, I’m happy). I’m drinking less coffee and black tea, which is giving me headaches, but also drinking more St John’s Wort (mild anti-depressent) and Ginseng (energising) tea, as well as more water. I’m using Healtheries range of teas, which you can find here. They work a treat. (Health binges don’t seem to work with me, but I’m making small changes that will stick with me.)

Most of the lack of goal-reaching has come down to two things: energy and self-perception. I’m battling the energy problem through the vitamins, tea, and walks (I think the biggest factor is the lack of exercise in my lifestyle at the moment), as well as well as trying to eat more veggies and less sugar. As for the self-perception, some of it is about feeling like a bad friend, a bad teacher, a bad writer and just generally a worthless person. Having said that, I’m in a place where I can recognise that these are thoughts, not truths, so I have made much progress in the last year or so in this area. Go me!

 

I’m working on my self-worth through visualisations, listing things I am grateful for, and reflecting on the things I have achieved that were only goals a few years ago. I mean, I’m a writer! That’s something that – even in my dreams – was just a possibility.

Life is good, I just need to remind my brain of that sometimes. How do you deal with self-worth or motivation issues?

 

The state of Education: Pre-election.

A friend asked me for a teacher’s perspective on this article. I got into rant mode, but it’s bullet-pointed, easy-to-read rant mode, so I thought I’d share it here as well.

I’m interested in hearing (or rather, reading) your thoughts, both from New Zealanders, and comparisons to other countries. These are children we’re talking about. Education affects all of us.

The article:

Education: The battle for marks, minds and money

My response:

1. How do you judge a ‘good’ teacher? Frankly, 99% of teachers in New Zealand are fantastic.

2. Lower class sizes is a good, common-sense idea. Better for students and teachers, and creates more jobs.

3. NCEA is a good assessment system – but it is an ASSESSMENT system. Our school curriculum is separate to this (but linked).

4. Having national standards for core subjects is not a bad thing. It’s a straightforward tool for how well a student is doing. However, it does not (necessarily) show the progress a child has made. All it is doing at the moment is upping the anxiety level of learners who are underachieving.

5. The statement at the end sums it all up: “It’s not one-size-fits-all.

6. Mental health / self-esteem is a huge factor in all of this. Students who are underachieving do not think highly of themselves, and I can say with absolute confidence that this is one of the biggest factors in their achievement. One more thing PISA results (as referred to in the article) showed is that student anxiety has risen in the last 5 years.
If I could change one thing about the schooling system, it would be mental health facilities. Students need good counsellors, self-confidence, and self-esteem. They need to know they are capable of far more than they think they are.

Making Money / Making Art

As I habitually scrolled through Facebook this morning, I found an uber-inspirational and rather practical quote. It’s from brainpickings.org, one of my favourite websites for advice, inspiration, and thought-fodder.

The full article can be found here: Art, Inc.: A Field Guide to the Psychology and Practicalities of Becoming a Successful Artist.

Number three, in particular, resonates with me, as it’s something I’ve thought about a lot as I tossed up my publishing options. (If you’re interested in my reasons for self-publishing, you can read about them here and here).

Are you a starving artist, or a thriving one?

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cornwall park

Week that Was: Walking and Talking

So last week I got a bit of writing done, and lots of reading! I did a little bit of catchup on my beta reading (which I am thoroughly enjoying, but need to be able to focus on when I am doing it).

I started taking B vitamins, and drinking ginseng and St John’s Wort teas, to up the energy levels. It’s partly just winter and a lack of sunshine – not that I don’t love winter, but my brain needs some Vitamin D!

So, last week, I achieved:

  • A long walk round Cornwall Park. Bliss + hayfever.
  • A bit of writing on Lucy’s Story, and a bit on Finding Anna.
  • Making new friends on Wattpad.
  • (Almost) daily affirmations, but didn’t get round to my next Living Moxie course.
  • Lots of guitar and uke practice, as well as playing with others, which I’ve missed.
  • Bought Anne Weiss’ vocal training CD to help with my singing – Singing for the Vocally Challenged, Curious, Confident or Cacophonous
  • Three blog posts – yay!

This week, I will:

  • Actually do 3ish yoga sessions!
  • Another long walk.
  • Actually complete Lucy’s Story.
  • Catchup on all my beta reading.
  • Daily affirmations, and my next Living Moxie course (which I shall blog about).
  • Three blog posts.
  • Choose and organise a cover artist.

Writing my Indie Author Business Plan: Part Two

First off, if you haven’t read part one yet, read it here: Part One. It covered the following topics:

  1. The Dream
  2. Five Year Goal
  3. Books and Audience
  4. Success Stories
  5. I will succeed because…
  6. Obstacles 

In this part, we’ll look at:

  1. Writing & Promotions Schedule
  2. Secondary Goals
  3. A Promise to Myself

Writing and Promotions Schedule

I’ll be honest. I left this one for the last because it felt like a big job! In the end, I decided that the most straightforward way for me to tackle this section was to split it up into daily / monthly / yearly.

In some ways, I have weekly covered with my ‘week that was‘ posts. 

You’ll notice, if you read my excerpt below, that I don’t have a huge daily output in writing, but I intend to publish 4-6 books per year. My books are SHORT. They’re between 10 – 12 thousand words, which is about half of the average Roald Dahl novel.

You’ll also notice that socialising and exercise are part of my daily goals. Without them, I end up in the place I’m now, which is not a good place by any stretch of the imagination. It is very, very important to look after ourselves!

Daily

  • 1000 words or more
  • Revision / editing
  • Review goals to accommodate new marketing ideas, current progress etc.
  • Catch up with friends, online and offline.
  • Watch an indie author interview / read an informative blog.
  • Read fiction
  • Exercise

Monthly

  • One or more school / library visit
  • One book’s illustrations
  • One book’s revisions

Yearly

  • 4-6 chapter books per year

  • One or more picture books per year

  • One or more anthologies per year

Secondary Goals

This is a fun section! Here you get to write all the other things you want to achieve, because these are important as well. 

Secondary Goals

Beta read for books within and outside of my genre – about one per month.

Study counselling.

Professional Development

Do a writer’s retreat once a year, whether that be with other people or on my own, spending time reviewing my long term goals.

Keep up to date with publishing trends by following key blogs (like David Gaughran, Joy Findlay, and Lindsay Buroker).

Read at least one book on craft per month.

Take advantage of writing / teaching courses and workshops.

A Promise to Myself

Write a sentence in which you promise yourself what you will be in five years time. Be reasonable, but aim high!

Also, list your priorities.

In five years time, I will be an established author with a loyal fan base, and have published roughly 20 books.

My priorities are:

  • To be a confident, creative, and successful novelist.
  • To write stories I am proud of, by taking my work seriously, and paying for professional help where deemed necessary.
  • To promote my books, online through my website and in person through author talks and book fairs, as well as experimenting with new ideas.
  • To develop other areas of my career as an author, including teaching, and to constantly develop my craft.
  • To work hard.

What would you add to your business plan that isn’t mentioned here?

Writing my Indie Author Business Plan: Part One

This post will look at the big ideas, the market, and your strengths and weaknesses. Tomorrow’s post will look at Promotions, Platform, and Operations, and wrap up this ‘series’.

Told ya to watch this space ;-)

(This is a longer post than usual, so feel free to skim straight down to the nitty gritty stuff)

When I started writing, I had the pipedream version of what an author is in my head. A lot of that still rings true. I still want to live (at least mostly, because I’m a teacher as much as a writer) off my writing, I still want a house on a beach (or on a mountain), and I am absolutely enjoying an arty farty lifestyle of writing, painting, and music.

I’m a lucky lady to have a lot of this already.

The fact is, I am at the beginning of my writing career. Actually, I’m near the beginning of my teaching career, too – I only graduated from my BEd about four years ago. Now is the best time to plan, to experiment, and to take risks. I figure that even if I waste the next five years of my life (which I won’t) I’ll still only be 30. It’s all go!

Now, to business:

I used the template from wordbitches.com to write mine, but have altered it slightly. What I’m going to write will be based on the way I interpreted their ideas. I will also use examples from my own business plan to guide you. Please support their greatness and visit their site.

Why write a business plan?

Um, why not? If you’re self-publishing you are a business, so you better get business minded! Having said that, going back to my business plan every day helps me refocus on my goals, and feel like I am prepared for the journey – and the hard yakka – that I’m signing myself up for. I think it’s even more important if you haven’t published yet, as you’re one step ahead of yourself.

I find it really  motivating as well.

The Dream

This is the biggie. What do you want? Envision yourself 10-20 years from now as a successful author. What does that mean to you?

I wrote down short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals:

In the short term, I aim to build readership.

In the mid term, I aim to complement my income.

In the long term, I aim for writing to be my primary income.

My primary goal is to inspire children to go out and believe that anything is possible, while supporting myself financially.

Five Year Goal

I think the title is pretty self-explanatory. For this, I’ve included Year 0 (from May 2014 – April 2015), and the five years thereafter, as well as an over-arching blurb. My five year goals are below, though it is important to note I will review them regularly and adapt to the situation as needed. I’ve made my goals specific, challenging, and doable.

Year 0 – Gain loyal readers, publish several works, gain confidence, and build public profile. WRITE LOTS.

Year 1 – Establish readership, confidence, body of work, public profile, and work Mon-Fri, <15 sessions ~ 50 sales / month.

Year 2 – Build readership, interactivity, expand my platform /public profile, and work <12 sessions ~ 250 sales / month

Year 3 – Maintain & expand readership, body of work, artwork, and public profile, working <10 sessions ~ 500 sales / month

Year 4 – As above, establishing expertise as a writer and illustrator in NZ, working <10 sessions ~ 800 sales / month

Year 5 – As above, teaching creative writing to children and young adults, working <10 sessions ~ 1200 sales / month

Books and Audience

List titles and brief descriptions if you can, or at least the genre and age group.

For target audiences, list primary and secondary audiences. Note their reading preferences, like thus:

Children 8-14, who like adventure, fantasy, escapism, and the possibility of fiction. Also children who want to improve their writing.

Chn 8-11 read mostly paperpack, and rely on parents and librarians. Chn 13+ read eBooks & wattpad as well.

Success Stories

In the wordbitches article, they call this step ‘Competitor Analysis’. I’ve decided it’s more useful for me to find people who are a few steps ahead of me and analyse what they do. In all honesty, I haven’t done this step in-depth yet, but I have chosen the authors I am using for my inspiration. Next to each author, I’ve listed how many books they’ve published, when they started publishing, and an overview of some of their marketing strategies. This also helps me keep things in perspective!

I’ve chosen to only look at self-published authors:

 David Hayden, Hugh Howey, Lindsay Buroker, Catherine Mede, Julian Roasado-Machain, Richard Parry, Christine Campbell.

I will succeed because:

This is also fairly self-explanatory. I’ll just give my example:

I take my work seriously and create a (flexible) schedule and business plan to guide my actions.

I have a loyal social media following, and am building my platform as a children’s author.

I have excellent critique partners, and pay for professional services when necessary.

I continuously improve my craft and my knowledge of narrative.

I have a great imagination, with which I can create weird, lovable characters, interesting worlds, and gripping plots.

I have friends and family who support my career choice, and believe in my ability.

I keep up to date with the publishing industry and marketing strategies.

I experiment with ways to market my books.

Obstacles & How I will Overcome Them

Think carefully about your weaknesses, and your constraints. I know, I know, you’re perfect, right? Wrong. You’re human. Here are mine in a nutshell:

Finances & Time – I can support myself through Kip McGrath part-time, and only reduce hours when I am confident that my novel income stream is steady. I will not quit completely, but reduce teaching sessions.

Motivation & Accountability – I will regularly review my goals, do a weekly goals post once a week, see writing as my primary career, and talk to other writers / artists.

Mental Health & Energy – I will look after myself by putting myself first, exercising regularly, eating well, saying positive affirmations, reading / listening to self-improvement courses, and building on my friendships.

 

Any questions? Anything to add? Do you have a business plan? Are you going to write one?

Leave your thoughts below.

 

 

 

Week that was: Craving Energy

I’ve felt a huge lack of energy and motivation, and my people-pleasing side has been pulled in a million different directions, so my focus is to regroup.

I want to say a little shout out to Cassie, who gave me some great resources for writing my indie author business plan (which I mentioned last week, but will be writing about in depth this week – watch this space). It’s given me something to go back to and remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing, and what my goals are. It’s a great tool for regrouping and refocussing. So glad I did it.

Last week I achieved:

  • More work published on Wattpad, which I am absolutely enjoying, and starting to gain some traction with.
  • Did one-and-a-half sessions of yoga.
  • Did a tiny little bit of beta reading.
  • Began to research cover design .
  • A lot of self talk re: what I want vs. what society tells me.

This week I will:

  • Do 3 sessions of yoga.
  • The next Moxie Living session.
  • My morning affirmations.
  • At least one walk this week.
  • Complete Lucy’s Story.
  • Finish beta reading.

 

The Pressure of Success

Not saying I’m successful, but saying I sometimes feel lots of pressure to be successful. What if my stories aren’t absolute masterpieces? What if they’re not original? What if they’re good but I’m just crap at marketing them?

Basically, what if I’m not perfect?

And the pressure’s coming from me. I have no one else to blame. Well – I suppose I could blame media, or society, or my parents… but really, when it comes down to it I am the only one who really has responsibility for how I feel.

My partner told me a story about a man who sat near the bottom of the stairs to the Great Wall of China. Every day, he would come out and play on his guitar – terribly. Every day, he would sing his heart out – terribly. 

And everyday, he would have a terribly infectious grin on his face. He was happy.

Does anything else really matter? Well, yes lol. I believe we should be contributing to society, in some way or form, and helping make the world a better place every day. But is that not what this man was doing? He was creating smiles, and laughter, and he’s certainly made me re-think success.

Success is having a lifestyle I am happy with, contributing to society, and being able to give myself 100% to the people and projects in my life.

What does success mean to you?