I really love cycles. It’s one of the reasons I find so much satisfaction in being an academic by day. The knowledge that there’s always a new, fresh semester around the corner fills me with tons of creativity and adds wind to my sails all throughout the year.
Self-care resolutions at new year’s, the burgeoning potential at the start of a new academic year, even the organization of a fiscal year … it all helps keep my life on track.
That’s why I was surprised to realize that despite the fact that I’m getting close to the one-year anniversary of my self-publication journey as a romance writer, I haven’t yet created a cycle or a calendar for that particular piece of my life.
And thus, I began to think about a “Making Year.” What would it look like? What would its rhythms and rituals entail? Here’s what I came up with.
Deciding when to kick off a new “Making Year”
In my world, June is a wonderful time for some housekeeping, organizing and visioning on the creative front. My academic year has wound down, the summer break stretches before me with some added flex time, and there typically aren’t other aspects of my life that are peaking during that time (re: demanding my attention.) So for me, I decided that it made the most sense for my “Making Year” to run from June to May.
Relatedly, I took the time to think about what the rhythms of my year are, between my day job, my creative work and my family of six. No two years are ever going to be exactly the same, but I’ve definitely learned about myself in the last year. For instance, my creative work more easily aligns with my day job in the fall semester than in the spring semester. The months that semesters end are not a time that it makes sense for me to have a new book coming out. My spirit’s a bit lower in the deep winter months of January and February, and creative work feels a bit more like, well, work during that time. All of these considerations went into how I choose to structure my “Making Year.”
Reflecting and Envisioning
Part of my inspiration for this new practice came from a session that bestselling author Skye Warren led at this year’s NEC-RWA conference, in which she encouraged us to be very honest about what was happening in our careers: document exactly what you’ve made, how many units you’ve moved, how much money you earned, and then decide if you’re satisfied. If not, it’s time to recalibrate and set some concrete goals.
Sitting in the audience, scribbling furiously, I realized that I really hadn’t done this, nor did I have a plan for when to do so as my publishing career continues. To be honest, all of my goals have been primarily based on my current work in progress: just get the book out, and in as good as shape as possible!
Inspired to create more structure around my reflections about the past year and my vision for the year to come, I created a Reflecting and Envisioning worksheet for myself, focused on the following categories of questions to reflect on at the start of a new “Making Year”:
- What did I make in the last 12 months, and when?
- What do I want to make in the next 12 months, and what are my tentatively publication dates?
Units and Profits
- What did I actually sell in the last 12 months? Total number of print books? E-books? Page reads? What did I actually earn last year? And how did this break down by product?
- Looking ahead, how many books and e-books do I want to sell in the next 12 months? Per release? How much profit do I hope to make in the next 12 months? What other metrics might be useful to set as goals (i.e. trying for a bestseller, aiming to qualify for certain brackets of professional memberships, etc.)?
Marketing and social media
- What went well in marketing and social media last year? What spaces felt the most productive for me? The least productive? Why might that be? Are there spaces where I should be, but am not currently? Are there spaces I am currently active in that aren’t serving me well?
- What social media platforms and marketing strategies do I want to prioritize in the next 12 months ? What are realistic goals for what it means to do those things well/effectively?
- Where did I make genuine connections with other professionals in my field in the last 12 months? What are some connections that I could have better maximized? How?
- Which people, groups, or organizations would I like to better connect with in the next 12 months? What might facilitate this?
- Where did I learn the most about my craft, or about marketing in the last year?
- What educational or professional development resources do I already have that I’d like to better use in the next 12 months? What books, podcasts, websites, or articles do I want to incorporate into my creative year in order continue growing in my craft?
What are three right-sized goals or resolutions I commit to for my next Making Year?
- A small, no-excuses goal
- A reasonable, mid-sized goal
- A dreamy stretch goal that scares me a bit
- As I reflect back in my last making year, what are 10 lessons I’ve learned that will help set me up for even more success in the year ahead?
These reflections have been very illuminating, and I’m excited to be going into my next Making Year with a bit more structure and intentionality. If the questions feel useful to you, too, feel free to download the reflecting and envisioning worksheet here as a PDF or a Word doc you can edit to your specific considerations.
And in the meantime, happy making!
Jess Vonn is the author of the Love by The Series books. Her first two books, A Time to Fall and Warm Me in Winter, are available on Amazon. The third book publishes in June 2018. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.