I swore I wasn’t even going to mention New Year resolutions in this blog post, but that was before I read a post by Annabel Candy, in her blog Get in the Hot Spot. Inspired by blogger Chris Guillebeau in his post ‘2014 Annual Review,’ Annabel also reviewed 2014, compiling a list of what went well and what didn’t go so well, both personal and professional. Then in her next blog she outlined her goals for 2015, bravely calling it her Grand Plan for 2015.
Both Annabel and Chris were very frank and upfront in their posts, particularly when describing what hadn’t worked as well as they’d hoped, and even though I don’t know either of them personally, I found both these posts very illuminating for two reasons:
It demonstrated that no matter how successful you are, no-one’s year is perfect. Everyone’s year is a combination of high and low points, and if you’re lucky, the highs outweigh the lows.
Secondly, this exercise added an extra dimension of warmth and humanity to two people whom I only know online. Both Annabel and Chris are successful and award winning bloggers with thousands of subscribers, yet after reading their posts, I felt as if I could sit down with either of them and have a friendly yarn over a cup of coffee.
I decided that compiling these lists would be a useful exercise to do myself, with one small variation. Instead of ‘things that didn’t go so well,’ I’ve named that list ‘things I could have improved.’ It’s not to deny that some things didn’t go well, it’s about mindset – by thinking in terms of improvement, I’m already in a more positive mindset of finding solutions and taking action. Obviously, this only applies to situations over which you have control. In the case of deaths of family or friends and other such circumstances, you cope as best you can, but fortunately none of those happened for me last year.
So here we go:
WHAT WENT WELL IN 2014
- I confronted my lifelong fear of public speaking and undertook three author talks at local libraries, proving to myself that not only can I give a pretty reasonable presentation, but I can also sound as if I’ve been doing it all my life, even as I’m quaking in my high-heeled sandals!
- I started a 10 minute a day meditation practice in the evenings after dinner, before I sit down to start writing. This helps me to clear my mind of the day’s events and become more focused on the task at hand. I have to confess that this routine went completely out the window over the Christmas break, but I’m now back into it again. Perhaps I may even increase it to 15 minutes this year!
- My partner and I had a relaxing back to nature holiday after Easter on Fraser Island, off the Queensland Coast. For us, back to nature doesn’t mean sharing a tent with millions of creepy crawly insects, it’s staying in a comfy eco-resort with a swimming pool and cocktails to come home to after our canoeing and bushwalking. This was instead of our usual annual overseas holiday, as we’re saving up for a big one this year. (more about that later).
- My daughter (and oldest child) became engaged to her long term boyfriend and they’ll be married in September. So I’ll be a mother in law. (Not sure I like that title, with all its negative connotations).
- I found out the cause of my longstanding digestive problems – I was diagnosed as having a low functioning gallbladder. Although I was eating pretty well before, I have overhauled my diet and am now on the Paleo regime, with a couple of modifications. And guess what? No nausea, bloating or indigestion pains since I started it two months ago.
- As well as our usual fitness regime of regular gym attendance, my partner and I bought hiking gear and started doing some long bushwalks in training for our big adventure this year – the Camino Frances pilgrimage across northern Spain.
- Reading fiction in a variety of genres has been just as beneficial to me as a writer as attending workshops and seminars, and in keeping with this philosophy I read some great novels last year. Here are three of my favourites, with links to my reviews on book review site Goodreads. This House of Grief by Helen Garner, Bitter Wash Road by Gary Disher and Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer. And I’m also going to sneak in crime novella Ronne and Rita by Deborah Sheldon because even though I read it in December 2013, I didn’t write the review until January 2014. It deserves a special mention because this gripping and tautly written novella is one of the best I’ve read.
THINGS I COULD HAVE IMPROVED
- After publishing my two novels How Not To Commit Murder and Perfect Sex in 2013, I planned to begin my next novel in 2014. But while I did a variety of other types of writing – marketing material for my partner’s business, editing for a couple of magazines and some short stories, I couldn’t seem to work up the inspiration or motivation to start a new novel.
- Inconsistent book marketing. I had no marketing plan for my novels so it was done on very much an ad hoc basis, including my social media engagement. Often days would go by in between social media posts and weeks in between any particular marketing efforts. There were two main reasons for this:
- I was over-committed. Besides the writing work mentioned above and my part-time job, I was (and still am) on the committee of my local writers’ association, which has resulted in a monumental amount of work, and the combined effort of all these commitments meant I simply didn’t have the time or energy to commit to a marketing plan.
- And secondly, being honest, I can’t totally blame being over-committed – I was also guilty of poor time management (eg getting sidetracked on the internet) and the scourge of all writers – procrastination.
- Because I had so much on my plate, I ended up with burnout by the end of the year, when I simply didn’t have the inclination or energy to do anything at all.
- Being mindful in my everyday life is something I’m always striving to improve. I’m a daydreamer by nature and consequently I’m often somewhere else in my head instead of being in the moment. ( I have to admit, though, that daydreaming is sometimes more enjoyable than being in the present – eg office meetings).
And now (drum roll) here are my goals for 2015, in the spirit of Annabel’s Grand Plan.
MY MAGNIFICENT PLAN.
- Finish the first draft of my next work of fiction by the time we go to Spain in mid-September. Considering I’m aiming to write a novella (maximum 40 000 words), I’m hoping it will be doable, taking into account my part-time job and other commitments..
- Complete the 795 kilometres of the Camino Frances pilgrimage. We will be in Spain for 2 months and plan to complete the trek in 6 weeks (that’s allowing for plenty of rest breaks – if we finish the trek sooner, all the better), then fly to the South of Spain for a well-earned holiday before returning home.
- Practise more efficient time management and stick to the tasks in my weekly planner. It’s sitting on my desk right on front of me, but I’m pretty good at ignoring it when it suits me, or putting off today’s tasks until tomorrow. But no more! This year my weekly planner will get the attention it so rightfully deserves. Time management will be essential in completing goal number one.
- Compile a book marketing plan and set aside a certain amount of time each week to carry it out. Even 30 minutes of consistent effort each week is better than long periods of time doing nothing.
- Take myself on an artist date each week. This is a concept created by writer Julia Cameron in her bestselling book The Artist’s Way. It essentially means taking time each week to do something by yourself which will replenish your creative well and recharge your batteries. This will be vital if I am to prevent another end of year burnout.
- Divest myself of my commitment to my local writers’ organisation – for various reasons I’m unable to do that before the annual general meeting in August, but once I do, this will free up a lot more time.
- Continue my health/fitness/meditation practices. Just because this is last on my list doesn’t meant it’s last in importance. It should really be top of the list, because if you’re not in good health and looking after your body, all the other goals are so much harder to achieve.
What about you? Have you made a Grand/Magnificent Plan for 2015? Or perhaps a Modest/Unremarkable Plan?