So to recap, 2018 was challenging. I had a lot come up in non-author life that made author life a tad more difficult. Despite that, I managed to publish six novels and three novella/short stories between my name and my pen name. It’s nothing to sneeze at. I’m annoyed, however, because it was not what I wanted. LOL, you know, in that way where we get kind of snitty that what we wanted didn’t happen.

The fact that I didn’t DO the things… well, that is beside the point. Details, schmetails.

I do recognize this fact – that one must do the things. I started my personal evaluation after Thanksgiving, to see where I could improve. And I’ve come up with a few things. I want to share them with you, because I learn a lot by reading what others have gone through.

1. Decide what is important. 

For me, I have to balance my author life with non-author life. I’d love to go hide away in a cabin in the woods in permanent mild winter with consistent grocery delivery, but that is not going to happen. My non-author life has a prominent place in my life, in how important it is to me, and all the things I need to do in my non-author roles. Complaining is NOT going to get the job done.

What does that mean for my author life? It means I need to use the time I have when non-author life is at a lull. That means, when school is in session. I need to maximize that time. I’ve laid out what needs to happen for my author life. That way, once it’s time for Mom/Wife/Taxi driver/Keeper of the Keys/etc. to take over, I can, and not be bitter about the fact that I still have more things to do.

I’m always going to have more things to do. I have so many ideas I want to write, I can barely keep up with them all. I have them listed on a page close to my desk. So that I don’t forget them. I add to the list as inspiration strikes. I am not going to run out of ideas. I’m not even getting into the publisher side of being an author. I’m still working on fitting that in.

Nor is my non-author life going to slow down. I’ve got a number of years before the family things become less prominent.

I’ve chosen to divide my day. My life is smoother when I manage all my bits while people are in school, so that’s what I’m going to do. Deciding to accept that was tough. But I have, and so my days are more settled. I also decided that I am not going to work on the weekends. When I planned out how much I want to write, I did so on a five-day week. And I took off a couple of weeks for holidays.

I’ve also been practicing since I began making these decisions. It’s not easy but I know I can do it. It’s a matter of sticking to the things that have to get done. I managed it during my practice time. I can do this moving forward.

2. Decide what is NOT important.

I love learning about my business. I could talk aspects of business until I fell over blue in the face. I find my business fascinating. However, trying to learn all the things that all my colleagues do all the time – that doesn’t allow for the most important thing, which is to write. I looked at the courses and classes I took, to see which brought value, and what I put into practice.

I’ve streamlined my courses and learning for 2019. I have one big course I am working through, and I will go from there. Sometimes, I think we get in our own way. That may not be true for everyone. I know people that can juggle a college course load of classes while still writing. I’ve had to accept I am not one of them. Until I make it through this big course I’m doing, I’m not going to take on anymore. Trust me, that is HARD. I LOVE courses. But there is finite time, and I have a goal to meet. Which is more important?

Take a look at what you’ve been doing to help further your business. Has it helped? Did you learn something valuable to you? Was it worth the time invested? If any of those are a ‘no’, or even a ‘maybe not’, you need to re-evaluate whether you need so much learning. Particularly if it’s at the expense of your craft.

And I know this is not for everyone. If this is not you, ignore this piece on courses – but take a good look at what is important in your life. Look at your goals. Are the things you are doing helping, or hurting? For me, I know I need to stay the heck off Facebook. I read a lot while messing around on it, and that needs to slow way down for me.

Be honest. Not only about what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it. It’s okay to love to do something. There’s nothing wrong with you  doing things you love. But if you’re trying to manage a creative’s schedule, be honest about the things you add to it. (I get twenty minutes to read on Facebook at night, LOL. That’s my compromise.)

3. Narrow down your goals.

Boy, am I guilty of this one. I have ALLLLL the goals. ALLLLL of them. I want them ALLLLL.

Totally unrealistic. I cannot achieve them all yesterday. I made a list of what was important, from most to least. To me, these goals are all important but I had an honest debate with myself about which were more important. Now I know which I need to attain sooner rather than later.

For example, I have a word count goal for 2019. I’m working on it today, right after I finish this post. That is finite, doable, and a goal that will be met within a year. Within that goal, I have daily, weekly, and monthly word counts. This keeps me on track, and focused. I have a small, medium, and larger goal. This is also one I’ve been practicing, and I’m finding that breaking the elephant of my monster word goal into daily numbers allows me to take one bite at a time from the goal. At the end of the year, I expect to meet my goal, if not exceed it.

There is also a goal for something I want to do for my family. I have three to five years to attain that goal. I can make progress every year, but I don’t have to get it done tomorrow. It’s a goal that will be met by me meeting the smaller goals.

Finally, I have a ten year goal. I know where I want things to be for me as an author in ten years, and I need to make progress each year to that goal. At the end of 2019, I’ll take a look at my goals, and see what I did in 2019 to meet them. Then I evaluate what needs to change to get closer to them. I also plan to look down the list to see what might be able to be achieved as I’m rolling along.

LOL, can you tell I love lists? They help me to organize my thinking. Lord knows I need it.

The point is, make a list of your goals. Be honest about what you can achieve during a certain time period. And be okay with some taking longer than others. I personally believe that as long as you are making progress toward them, you are doing well.

4. Take time for yourself.

This is a big one for me. I do not take personal, lazy, no-scheduled time for myself. I’ve been working on doing something to feed my artistic side weekly, AND IT IS TOUGH.  When you wear many hats, personal time usually doesn’t get one. But it’s time to make a personal time hat, and insist that not only other people, but YOU honor it. I will be honest – forcing myself to do the things I have set up for myself has been the hardest part about “personal time.”

Self-care is also included in this. I started working out this year, and it has not been easy. Part of it is taking the time for yourself (see above) and part of it is dragging your ass to whatever it is you’ve scheduled. I’ve been going to a gym regularly now for four months, and I am seeing the payoff from it. I feel it – I feel better. I’m sleeping better – and that makes SOOOO many things work better. Now I just need to eat less crap. I’m an avowed junk food junkie. I stopped drinking my diet soda for the umpteenth time, but this time, I’m sticking to it.

Take care of yourself. If you’re an author, you spend a lot of time with butt in chair. It’s easy to grow roots. But do something for you, for your health – just one little thing a day. Like one less soda. Or take a side of vegetables instead of the fries. Go for a bike ride, or even a walk around the block. Something.

We only have one body. In spite of the threats of AI taking over the world, you can’t easily get another one.

5. Learn to say NO.

In loud tones. We do not have to do all the things for all the organizations and all the people who ask. I don’t like saying no. I prefer to say yes, and be a part of helping others to get to a goal. (It’s much easier to focus on the goals of others than our own….) I like helping other solve problems. I’m a volunteer. I’m a doer.

But toward the end of 2018, I realized that I was saying yes to others more than I was saying yes to myself. While that makes me a heck of a helper, it doesn’t help me help myself. I don’t mean you need to turn into Scrooge here, and bah-humbug everyone that comes near you. What I mean is being honest about what you are being asked to do.

Does it take from my creative time?

Does it take from my family time?

Does it take from my me time?

If yes to any of the above, how much? Can you spare it? If you can, and saying yes to others gives you something positive, then go for it.

If you find yourself thinking about your art, your family, your self-care – you need to reassess if this is a good investment in your time. We cannot be everything to everyone. We just can’t. And you sure can’t if you are not being everything to yourself.

For me, for right now, I need to put me first. I already have a lot of demands on my time with my non-author life. I only have a certain, designated time for me to be creative, to make my art. So if I’m going to take away from that, it has to hit a lot of marks for me. I’ll tell you honestly, this was the hardest piece of this post to write. No one wants to be seen as a stingy miser – not with money, not with time. And I sort of felt like that. But I pushed through. I need to speak for me, and my time. If I don’t, no one else will.

Before you say yes again – ask yourself the three questions above. Weigh as to whether it gives you enough in return to give up from those pieces of your time. If it does not, say NO.  And don’t feel bad.

I hope this helps you all. Putting this post together really helped me, and it’s helping me to not only focus on my creative time to write, but the time with my family. It’s allowing me to take care of ME.

And that is the best way to start a new year. Peace and love to you all.

~Lisa