It's that time of year again, when I sit down and look at everything that I had set out to do for 2021 and assess what I can do to influence my successes in the coming year. More often than not, I'm reminded of something that was a massive step forward that I had completely forgotten about in the wake of all the negative.
Between COVID-Delta and the constant stream of lockdowns, the crazy of copyright laws, the push for increasing diversity, and all crazy that has ensued in my personal life, there is only one thing that I can do: focus on what I can control and breathe. (Okay, that's two things.)
And my biggest lesson in 2021 is that I need to learn how to say "No."
Today's post is long, but it is what it is.
Review of 2021
I don't think anyone would argue with me when I say that 2021 was yet another negative year on a global scale, filled with confusion and uncertainty. COVID-Delta has spread like wildfire in some parts of the world. Various COVID vaccines have come to market, and no one really knows what the long-term effects will be. There have been massive disruptions on international postage, and supply shortages have turned some of the creature comforts into a luxury. Meanwhile, we do the best we can to find some sort of normalcy… and fail.
Within New Zealand, it has been lockdown after lockdown, because COVID somehow gets into the Auckland community… and the rest of the country is confused about what to do.
COVID is now in the community in Christchurch, but surprisingly, we're still living under Level 2 lockdown conditions. That could change at any moment. In the meantime, I do what I can to enjoy the freedoms that I have.
I can say with certainty that I hate Level 2 lockdown conditions. I don't like wearing a mask to go to the store, and I hate being funneled into tight spaces at the checkout in the grocery store. I despise the supply shortages. And the speed of post in the country has been driving me batty. All goods coming into the country have to go through Auckland, but because of the lockdown conditions in Auckland, everything takes so long to filter to the rest of the country, if at all. There have been some packages that have been stuck in Auckland (being shipped by Auckland-based companies) that have been stuck in Auckland at the courier dispatcher's office for three weeks. And I'm not the only one complaining about it.
Not that there's anything that we can do about it, except try to be patient.
In October 2021, an article was released about a NZ artist who had to relinquish 50% of her copyright on her artwork to her ex-husband as part of her divorce. The writing community was all up in arms about it, but the woman's art was a marital asset. There was no other way to look at it.
I totally understand the woman's heartbreak, but her experience has highlighted yet another worry that creative types (artists, musicians, and writers) all have to think about.
But NZ is not the only country in the world that has seen developments on the front of copyright law. In February 2021, the US courts had to make a decision as to who actually owned the copyright to the character of Jack Ryan (the one from Tom Clancy's books). It all came down to a mistake that Tom Clancy made when he signed his first publication contract; it was never fully sorted while he was alive.
So, now writers need to think about the copyrights on their characters, not just their manuscripts.
And the head starts to hurt.
Call for Diversity
The publishing industry has taken a funny twist, making it even more difficult than it was before for a debut writer to break in. At times, it feels like one needs to check at least one of the diversity checkboxes, but if you can check more than just the one, then the chances of getting your foot in the door is that much better.
I have done my best to stay silent on those arguments, because nothing I say (or not say) is safe. For or against, and you get attacked from both sides. So, I try to fly under the radar the best I can.
Is that the best thing to do? Stay silent? Go unnoticed?
Damned if I do, and damned if I don't. There are no winners.
But the rejections keep coming. It is a massive downer when you get told by multiple agents that you're clearly talented and have a good story, but they still reject you.
I understand it, I really do. They need to feel passionate about the story, because they're going to be working on it without getting paid for some time, but how does one move forward when all you get is "it didn't resonate with me."
Well, the only thing in the query process that I can control is the number of queries I send out and who I send them to. So, just pushing forward on this front the best I can.
The daughter's concussion and the doctor who did nothing
On the personal side, my daughter managed to bang on her head on a fire sprinkler back in May 2021. How exactly she managed to hit her head on a fire sprinkler is beyond me—it is certainly something that only CJ could do—but the incident led to a concussion—and a nightmare with the doctors.
When it first happened, it was just a matter of keeping an eye on her. By day three, with the symptoms not going away, it was a trip to the doctor's office. Well…
"You have a concussion. Here's some ibuprofen. Go home and come back tomorrow." (I found out months later that ibuprofen is the last drug she should have been prescribed. The Mayo Clinic advises against ibuprofen for concussions.)
Minutes later, she's vomiting in the doctor's office. (Her parting gift to them!)
The next day… "Well, you've missed your appointment and we don't have time to fit you in. So, you'll have to come back on Monday."
My response was nice and simple: "We won't be back." I went home and immediately started looking for a new doctor.
Come the Monday, with symptoms still not easing, it was off to the emergency doctors, and finally someone who would explain to my daughter what was happening. (I tried to explain it, but sometimes, teenagers need to hear it from a medical professional.)
My daughter and I moved doctors' clinics, and on the first visit with the new doctor, my daughter gets a referral to the concussion clinic, only to discover that the original doctor never wrote it down in the notes that my daughter had a concussion. It was a verbal diagnosis. And because of that one stuff up, we had to jump through extra hoops… hoops that we were still jumping through until a month ago. GAH!
And the old doctor wonders why we left his clinic.
Thankfully, CJ is at the tail-end of the concussion, but talk about your medical nightmares.
(The new doctor is great, btw, and I would recommend her to anyone.)
The spreading of mom's ashes
Back in April, the extended family finally managed to get together to say our final farewells to my mother. We went to one of the beaches in Timaru, following the laws here in NZ, and the day was filled with laughter.
Mom had a massive collection of shells and feathers that she had collected over her many walks along the beach, so we decided to send them all back to where they came from—the ocean.
A seagull literally dropped dead and fell out of the sky. We're not sure what sort of omen that was, but talk about creepy.
And when it came time to spread her ashes, she had turned into a solid lump and wouldn't come out of the bag. I won the coin toss for the privilege of stomping on her ashes. Yeah, I know exactly how bad that sounds, but trust me, someone had to do it.
But even after the massive cleanup of her things, we are still finding hidden messages that pull at our heartstrings.
The woman was questioning what the next phase of her life was, trying to decide who she was without the job. She wanted to reclaim herself.
It was one message that I heard loud and clear. I have to follow my own passions and can't let others dictate my path for me. It's just gutting to know that I had the tools she needed to examine her goals and determine her own path, but because of my own fears and insecurities, I hadn't shared them publicly. Mom's death was the kick up the backside I needed to make it happen, releasing my first online course. (More on that below.)
Following through on my goals set 12 months ago
Goal 1: Online courses
I released my first online course back in June 2020.
The Writer in You is all about understanding your own hopes and dreams and devising routines that work based on our unique personalities.
While launching the course, I learned so many things about the process, so the next course should go a lot more smoothly. (I'll get to the next course below.)
Goal 2: First draft of a new novel by Dec 31, 2021
Yeah, that isn't going to happen. It really came down to the fact that I feel like I'm in limbo, uncertain what is happening within the query process.
The story I've been working is the sequel to one of the novels that I'm querying, and I'm consciously aware that when I finally sell the first book, there could be something that an editor asks me to change that has a ripple effect on the sequel. It's meant that my brain has been resistant to work on this manuscript.
So, I've made a decision to finish the project to the point where I have a working synopsis, then put the manuscript in the metaphorical drawer until such time the fate of Book 1 is known.
Goal 3: Learn more about marketing…
It didn't help that this wasn't a SMART goal. So, I have no measurable here. I just know that my knowledge about marketing sucks.
Goal 4: Stop spreading myself too thin
Work in progress.
This will be a lifelong struggle for me. I am getting better, and I'm learning to delegate more. And I'm learning how to say "No."
Goals for 2022
Okay… Here goes. Putting it out there, so my writing buddies and faithful readers can hold me accountable to my goals for 2022. Please hold me accountable!
Goal 1: Online Course—MailerLite
Specifics: Release the next course (using MailerLite as a writer) on Udemy
Measurables: Like the previous course I did, this will have multiple modules and handouts. Progress will be measured by the completion of each module.
Attainable: Yep, definitely attainable, and development (and video recording) is already underway.
Relevant: This is all part of my shift to being more of a writing coach, expanding on the Black Wolf Editorial business model.
Timely: I want to launch the course in the first quarter of 2022. Ideally, launch by end of January. But I also know how much work has to go into editing videos. To avoid putting too much pressure on myself, I'm setting a latest launch date of March 31, 2022.
Goal 2: Online Course—Craft-based
Specifics: Develop another course to be released by the end of 2022. This course is to be on writing craft. I know the topic, but I don't want to make the topic public just yet.
Measurables: Like the other courses, this will have multiple modules and handouts. Progress will be measured by the completion of each module.
Attainable: Yep, definitely attainable. Though I still need to outline the course.
Relevant: This is all part of my shift to being more of a writing coach, expanding on the Black Wolf Editorial business model.
Timely: The aim is to launch the course before the end of 2022. Ideally, launch before October next year, but until I have the course fully drafted, I won't know what work is required to make that happen.
Goal 3: Write a new novel by Dec 31st, 2022
Specifics: First step is to decide on which of the five manuscript ideas is calling to me the most. (I'm fairly confident that I know what the manuscript will be, because the past week it has been coming to me in waves.) I'll be starting properly on whichever manuscript it is come December 2021. Then it's write and edit. I'm aiming for a query-ready and beta reader level for the manuscript. (My writing buddies know what I mean by that—at least what that means to me, because other writers might have a different standard for that level.)
Measurables: I'm wanting the barf draft done by Valantine's Day 2022 (full plot), with the first draft fully developed by midyear (100,000 words or thereabouts), with editing and rewriting progressing for the remainder of the year.
Attainable: Butt in the chair, focusing. It won't be connected to any other manuscript, so I shouldn't have the same hangups that I've had for the past two years.
Relevant: I'm a writer, and writers are only as good as their last manuscript.
Timely: I've learned a lot about my own process and my own brain, so I'm confident that I can to this. Three months to barf the entire plot on paper, with an additional three months to write. Then six months to rewrite and edit based on comments and feedback. I can do this!
Connected Goal: Continue to query the other two manuscripts, with new queries going out every time I get another rejection. There are a lot of agents out there. One of them has to like my writing and be willing to take me on.
Goal 4: Continue to monitor my workload
Specifics: Refine the routines that I put in place during 2021 and tweak them so I can increase my productivity without burning out. Continue to delegate to others when possible.
Measurables: I now have a database tracking system that tracks my time spent on productive projects and how much I'm procrastinating. I will continue to use this, striving to hit a minimum number of productive hours from week to week (target chosen based on other activities within the week).
Attainable: That's sort of what this goal is about—making sure that I don't set monthly and weekly targets that are beyond my reach.
Relevant: I need to find a way to manage my workload, or I'll face other issues in the future.
Timely: There is no real deadline on this goal, because this will be a lifetime struggle.
I have other goals too, but these are all 100% in my control and are the things that I want others to hold me accountable to.
So, for 2022, what SMART goals have you set for yourself? What would you like me to hold you accountable to?