2016 has sucked. Big time, and for nearly everyone I know. I am so ready to be shot of it I can’t even tell you. But even after a good year, I wind down with my pre-New Year’s rituals to help me get set and focused for the coming year.
As an author, I have a few things I do to clear out the clutter and stress I’ve accumulated over the last 12 months, and try (often futilely) to get organized and work out some kind of system to keep me on track for the next year. Last year I broke down and purchased a fancy planner that everyone was raving about. It cost like $130 after it was all said and done. It was rigid and tough and good quality. If I was just doing the traditional 9-5 job thing, it would have been perfect. But by July, it had fallen by the wayside (literally, it fell in the crack between my desk and the wall and I didn’t even notice for almost a month becasue I was NEVER using it). It just didn’t fit my needs. I know many people who love them, but still have to use a separate planner for their ‘work’ life, in whatever shape that may take.
Authors have it even worse. Not only do we have to keep track of real life stuff, we also have to juggle marketing, launches, word counts, and travel. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you are also tracking your social media presence (and you should be), are trying to grow your audience (and you should be) and/or working on several projects at once (side eye), then you need more. You need something better. I was lamenting this to the wonderful owner over at Author Branding Essentials a few weeks back, and she offered to design a planner especially for (my) an author’s needs. We sat down and looked at everything I track and the goals I try to set, and she came up with something that is nothing short of a miracle. Mine arrived last week, and I love it. If you are looking for something along those lines, she has (with some encouragement from yours truly) offered them for sale to the public. You can check them out here.
Now, whatever your planner preference, I think a successful year has to begin with a strategy. So get your planner and whatever you’re going to use to track your author brand stuff, and sit down. Make your goals–on paper not just in your head. Look at where you are at right now and where you want to be by this time next year. How many books do you want to have written, how many released? How much do you want to allot to your marketing budget? (FYI, I’m doing a guest post about setting a marketing budget for the new year HERE complete with worksheets/checklists. That will be up December 30th.) How many blog posts do you want to do, how many articles or short stories do you want to produce? Think over the past year, what did you try, want to try, or want to try again?
Once your goals are set, take a look at your writing space. Whether you have a dedicated office or just steal hours at the kitchen table, you are going to want to change it up. Why? Because stagnation is bad for creativity. Your brain loves to fall into lulls and by keeping the same old space, not only do you run the risk of falling into the same old bad habits you might have gotten into last year, but your brain is unexcited by it. This is a huge reason why every year I like to shake it up. I move furniture, paint a wall, switch out decor, shuffle things around. It creates a fresh, exciting space to work in, and gets me excited for the process of working in my ‘new’ space. Try it. I promise you will be amazed by how rejuvenated you feel.
Another thing you are going to want to do before the new year is gather your financial crap. Like, receipts, travel documents, whatever author/book related stuff you did last year that you want to have on hand for taxes in early 2017. It’s boring and a chore and no body likes it, but if you get all that organized NOW, then it doesn’t have to weigh on you come February. Nothing makes you feel quite as good as being AHEAD of the game come tax time. If you’re curious what you can and can’t claim, I have a post about author taxes you can find here.
Finally, set your office hours. Again, whether it’s just an hour a night in the dining room or 9-5 in your hope office, decide what your writing schedule is going to be and MAKE IT SACRED. Make a pretty sign with your hours and hang it up. Treat your work AS work, and you’ll be amazed how much more productive you can be. I actually broke down and purchased one of those “hours of operation” signs you can get at Office Max and hung it on the door to my office. It’s my signal to myself (and well-meaning others) that this is my JOB and that they (and I) need to respect that.
Do you have any tips for prepping for the new year as a writer? I’d love to hear them in the comments below! Until next year, my friends.