The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a monthly bloghop where writers can share their doubts, fears and insecurities with each other. It’s a nice way to vent, but also to realize you’re not alone. If you’d like to sign up, click here.
You know, you’d think that starting fresh for the New Year would leave me fresh and renewed and at least a little less insecure than usual, but alas… No.
What’s the problem? Oh, it’s an old one. I have it frequently…
Namely, the sheer staggering amount of items I have on my to-do list. Except this year is worse. Why?
Last year, I kept track of my list with a diary and pens, which meant that I had at most 20 tasks on a given day. But I switched to Trello last year, which is the same thing, except digital, which means I can set myself an unlimited amount of tasks.
And it seems like my life has taken it upon itself to meet that challenge.
On January 1st, I cleaned up all my lists, starting from scratch with only my goals as a starting point.
Then I started adding the little tasks I have to do from day to day. And added… and added.
And in two days, my list of things I need to do today shot up from 0 to 30. Count them. 30 items.
*Cue maniacal laughter*
To be fair, I can shift a lot of them out to other days, but for some reason, I’m just not getting to the ones I deem to be essential, like having to spend at least 20 minutes today on editing my book. I literally can’t figure out where I’m going to squish that in yet.
And this is supposed to be a day off.
How are you doing? Do you also feel like 2018 is starting like an avalanche?
This blog post is part of my update for the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who are wondering, a bunch of us have set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and once a month, we post updates on our progress toward those goals. For more information or to join in the fun, click here.
In Part 1, I shared how I did with my 2017 goals, but today, I want to take a look at what I want to achieve in 2018.
I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around goals this year for some reason. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m hopelessly behind on everything, or maybe it’s because everything feels like it’s up in the air, which makes planning ahead for a year a bit difficult.
But… I do feel like I get more done if I do have a goal frame-work in my life, so I’m going to try.
Okay. So. My goal is to make a living as a writer (which also includes using my writing and publishing knowledge), but for that to work, I need to sort my life out in general. (Again. *Eye roll.*)
So I’m going to go back to categories this year.
Five-Year Goal: Make a Living Off My Writing
Technically I achieved this last year, but I’m going to keep the goal as is, because I’m still far from the number I want to reach. Also, I do want to change the way in which I’m reaching this goal.
So, my goals towards my Five-Year Goal are:
1) Earn $2,500 per month by the end of this year. 2) Change the profile of my earnings so a third of my income comes from publishing and/or selling my own work.
This brings me to the next break down of my goals:
First, I really need to write more, but I also really need to publish something. I can’t keep skipping publishing years.
1) Write or edit something of my own every day. 2) Finish and publish Wo6C3. 3) Publish the sequel to Endless and/or 4) Publish my historical romance.
This brings me to the next heading, since it’s no use to publish without marketing:
These are a bit more varied, but somewhat more involved than you’d think.
1) Update my website. Yes, I have a website, for which I pay hosting, but it’s so out of date, like before-I-split-with-my-publisher old, so I never link to it, which I find to be sad. 2) Create a newsletter. Finally have a big enough readership to justify this. 3) Update The Vanished Knight, The Heir’s Choice and Endless to reflect everything I’ve learned in the past two years. (Like better formatting, since I’m way more experienced now than I was when I started self-publishing.) 4) Be more active on my social networks. (Which includes figuring a content strategy I can actually stick to.) 5) Ramp up marketing for Wo6C3 as I prepare to publish it.
And then I have some more goals regarding my life, since being of sound mind and in good health actually helps me get more done.
1) Be more healthy. Yeah yeah I know this one always gets up there, but this one is always the first goal to go when the wheels fall off, so I need to sort my shit out here. I only have to lose like 66 pounds or something now. Sigh. 2) Read for at least 15 minutes every day. 3) Rest from computer screens from sunrise to sunset on at least one day a week. 4) Finish the needlepoint tapestry I started like two years ago. 5) Finish the oil painting I definitely started two years ago.
Okay those are the big ones I can think of right now. I’ll probably add and deduct goals as I go, depending on how my year goes, but I feel like I hit all the important things.
What about you? What goals did you set for 2018? Don’t forget to sign up if you want to join the Got Goals? Bloghop.
Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another update on the Got Goals Bloghop. For those of you unfamiliar with Update Day, a bunch of us set some crazy or just plain important goals and update each other on our progress once a month. If you would like more information or to just see who else is taking part, please click here.
PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE ALREADY A PARTICIPANT: The site hosting the linky sign-up is down, so please follow the link above to be taken to a blog post where you can leave your update link.
On 4 September, 2016, I had decided to reset my goals and approach writing as a full-time job, where I use my writing knowledge in various ways in order to make a sustainable income.
When I started out, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Heck. Some days, especially in November, I felt I was nuts.
But here I am.
I made it.
So I thought I’d share my thoughts on my progress.
I’ve been earning minimum wage pretty much consistently this year.
This is both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, the money I earned was enough to keep me and my family going during hard times.
On the bad, I would have liked to earn more by now.
The probable reason why I didn’t? When I had started out, I had planned to use the money I make to market my books to sell more of them, which would have generated extra income aside from the freelancing I now do.
But that money basically went into surviving for a large chunk of the year, and otherwise to keep my freelance side of the business afloat. So about 90% of my income is from freelancing, where I would have liked a more even split between my sources of income. And given that those other sources of income would have been passive, meaning I didn’t need to do much myself to earn the money, I fell short of where I wanted to be.
That said, the fact that I’ve been generating pretty much an even income every month means that I should be able to use my freelance work as a spine as I spend next year preparing to publish more books again.
I finally finished Book 3.
Ah yes. Book 3.
Number 1 reason why I didn’t publish anything this year: My life went to hell in a handbasket starting around February.
Number 2 reason: Book 3 itself. The War of Six Crowns is my major focus, writing-wise, so I’ve basically put all my available time into getting it publishing-ready. The problem is I completely underestimated the sheer size of this project.
A lot of times this year, Book 3 felt like a bottomless, endless pit and, it wasn’t only a case of not being able to finish it on schedule, but also the fact that I literally couldn’t work on anything else all year.
I finished rewriting Book 3 in August, about nine months after I had planned to publish it. Now I’m taking the approach of it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take, because after putting in this amount of work, I’m really not excited to rush it to market without being happy with the quality.
Getting something done is like opening a nesting doll.
Maybe it’s because of the way I look at things, but sometimes it feels like everything is connected to everything else. And sometimes, it can be hard to see what needs to be done first. Do I finish writing a book or do I update my website? Do I update my covers and interior or do I set up the newsletter so I can include the newsletter sign-up? Do I spend the morning freelancing so I can get this job out of the way, or do I spend it writing so I can actually make progress on my own work?
And so on.
And if I do manage to finish one thing, I take another look and see a thousand more. This often makes it feel like I’m not really making a lot of progress, but as I sit here, looking back, I’m awed.
And I know that I laid some groundwork for an astounding Year 2.
How are you doing? Do you have any major goals you’re working on?
Hey everyone! Yesterday was the last Friday of the month, which means it was time for another Update Day. Sadly for me, I was forced to miss updating in time because the Internet went down.
For those of you wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, a few of us writers are taking part in a bloghop hosted by me and Jen Garrett, where we set crazy or just seriously important goals, and then post updates on the last Friday of the month.
A lot of stuff has happened though, which has solidified my priorities, so bewarned, this is going to be a long post as I set out and explain my major goals for the next few weeks and months ahead. Ready?
Okay strap in.
So How Did I Do?
It was a bit of a mixed bag for me, with a lot of fails mixed in with my success.
The big thing is:
I finished drafting Book 3! *sparkly confetti*
Everything else… Meh.
Book 3 got done with about 20k words left to spare, and once I did that, I just couldn’t keep the momentum going on another project. Used to be that I could easily switch between projects, but I’m out of practice because Book 3 has basically been taking up all my creative mind space for the past two years.
So this Camp NaNo, despite me doing awesome for as long as I was writing, is going to be a lose for me. Oh well.
And as for my social media… I tried to update my blog once a week on Fridays, which I mostly succeeded at, but I skipped last week because I was drained from finishing Book 3. (I did the last chapters in an eight-thousand-word marathon.)
Because of this and a whole lot of other stuff I’ll get into in a bit, I also didn’t get around to vlogging. I have recorded a video, but didn’t edit it because I thought it would be better if my first update in a while was for this post… And then I got busy with this other thing and didn’t record the video.
I was active on twitter and I estimate I’ve gained close to 200 followers between my two accounts, so that’s a win.
Then, I also did two mammoth editing jobs for clients and am now working on a third, AND I’ve been working on the covers for The War of Six Crowns, the series. And man. The updated cover for The Vanished Knight is gorgeous. I think it might be my best yet, and the concept for the series of covers really has me excited, because it’s a major challenges.
Then I’ve also managed to do some reading.
AND! Once I’ve wrapped up Book 3, I’ve started kicking my unhealthy lifestyle to the curb.
Wow. Now that I’m listing everything I’ve achieved… I’ve actually had an epic month.
What Would I Like to Do in the Next Few Months?
Because Book 3 needs to rest, I’m going to work on something else. And some of you guys, who’ve beta’ed for me in the past, will possibly be glad to know I’ve decided to do some work on Eden’s Son, my Historical Romance.
I just really need a change of pace from Book 3, and I though it could be nice if I managed to wrap up ES1 and publish it this year, since it’s the second oldest story I’ve written and the oldest of my story concepts. (I’ve been working on various iterations of this story basically forever. In fact, the first novel I ever started to write is a book in this series, before I realized that there was a lot of story before that book that needed to be told first.)
Also, at the risk of sounding really cynical, it would be nice if I have a romance out to help stabilize my writing income. But I freaking love this story, so it’s going to be a pleasure to get it done after sixteen odd years.
Publishing and Marketing Stuff
There is soooooooooooo much I need to do that I haven’t gotten around to before. I just couldn’t focus on all this when I had Book 3 staring at me like a baleful child. But now it’s done, So I can at least to do the following:
1) Regular blog and vlog posts.
I at least want to get back to my Monday/Friday schedule, with Friday featuring a vlog post of some sort. For that, I’m probably going to start filming a whole lot of videos on writing topics that I can edit as needed so I have a bit more of a buffer for when I’m busy, and then I’m going to do my more personal vlog updates on the fly when I have the opportunity. I want my Monday blog posts to relate to my Friday posts in some way, so that’s also going to help me get some content done in time. Although I love being all nice and personal, I also realize that adding value is something I haven’t been able to do for years, so I need to fix that.
2) Continue with my graphic design self-study.
Believe it or not, I’ve gone from designing my own covers because it’s cheaper to designing my own covers because I love them more than I do when someone else designs for me. So to save myself the pain and tears of having to learn things the hard way, I’m doing a graphic design course so I can get a better concept of what’s going on and how to achieve what I want to achieve with my covers.
I’m a terrible boss to myself. My whole feeling is that if I’m going to self publish, all aspects of the production of my book needs to be better than what anyone else would have done for me. That means I’m learning some mad skills. Helps that my freelancing activities are basically paying me to learn stuff.
3) Update my website.
This is another thing where my graphic design is going to come in handy. My old author website is so out of date that I don’t even point people at it anymore. So that needs to be fixed. Before that can happen, though:
4) Update the cover to The Heir’s Choice.
I need to implement the ideas I have brewing for that cover and as a bonus, do a few fixes on the cover to Endless while I’m at it. Once those are done, I can get into building the new site. (Which is another skill I’m having to learn. Insane, but makes sense given my other job… More on this later.)
5) Set-up a newsletter (or three) with a signup page on my website.
I’ve resisted the newsletter thing for a while because I didn’t believe I had enough people interested in reading a newsletter. Thanks to Wattpad, this has now changed. The Vanished Knight now has close to 250k reads and a whole lot of people who keep contacting me for updates on Book 3.
6) Update the front and back-matter of my books to point to the website and newsletter.
And while I’m at it, I’m just going to reformat the whole shebang. I’ve learned a boatload of new stuff since self-publishing the first time. So I’m taking the books up to the next level.
You didn’t read that wrong. For the first time since I’ve finished my degree and started working for the family business, my mom’s let me be the boss.
I think I mentioned that we were working on another business thing where we had some investors interested in the project… Well… that concept underlying the business was my idea, so my mom and I agreed that I need to be in charge of it, although she’s the MD, which means she’s going to be the one to do the actual day-to-day running of the business once it’s up.
But basically, where we are requires a prototype of a site to be built for coders and also potential investors. And since this is a monster project and I hate people telling me “can’t do it,” we’re going to build the first prototype ourselves to help outsiders see what we’re envisaging.
Which is, again, where learning some site-building skills will come in. Fun fact, the site has so many working parts that I’m probably going to be able to build a seriously ambitious author site…as practice.
Depending on how much time I’m going to spend on the monster site, this is probably going to be the thing that gets a down-grade on my priority list. I’m going to try and not down-scale my freelancing in favor of my site because I still want to be a full-time writer (and the owner of a monster site.)
But. It it’s going to come down to a choice between my writing/publishing, the site, and the freelancing, I think you can see why the freelancing will be the first to give.
Hopefully, though, I’ll be able to get everything done. And the amazing amount of stuff I pulled off in July without feeling on the verge of collapse gives me hope.
Here’s something I haven’t really brought up in a while. Mostly because it’s embarrassing, how bad I am at taking care of myself.
Why? Because I know how bad certain foods are to me. I know how important it is, especially to me, not to just sit on my butt day-in and day-out. I know that eating healthily and exercising actually give me the energy I need to tackle major projects without getting drained. I know that sixteen-hour work days invariably come back to bite me in the butt at some point. In some really ugly ways. Especially when I’m not eating healthily or exercising.
But did that have any impact at all on my refined sugar intake, exercise habits, water consumption or work hours?
But when I finished up Book 3, I felt like I could rule the world, and then just kinda thought I could start by not screwing myself in the long run. I’d like to actually have a functional body when I’m old, so this is actually a bit of a priority.
No, I don’t mean this in the “starve-myself and get trim” kind of way. I’m talking about changing my diet permanently. Which means no refined carbs and sugars. I know a lot of people have a fit every time I mention not consuming carbs as a major part of my diet. But you know what? The only time I really feel normal, when I’m not feeling like I’m going to crash, or get a massive headache any moment now, or just feel like I don’t have the strength to do something, or even, for that matter, that I’m constantly hungry, even when I’m getting up from the table, is when I’m on a high-fat, low-carb diet. So that’s what I’m doing.
I’m not completely giving up carbs. I’m just getting mine in by consuming vegetables, fruit and honey instead of starch.
Yeah yeah, I’m beautiful as I am. Really I am. This isn’t a self-confidence thing as I was blessed with an ability to tie my confidence to issues other than my body.
Being at the heaviest weight I’ve ever been at the age of 28 is not good for my back, which is something I have injured in the past. (More on this in a bit.) Also, my family has a history of heart disease and diabetes, both of which are tied to unhealthy diets and obesity. And yes. I’m blessed with a body that evenly distributes fat when I gain weight, but I am, in fact obese.
So to save myself a lot of heartache and pain now, I’m going to get the weight down and keep it down. And so you know, I had just short of 40 kg (88 lb) to lose when I started on Sunday. So far this week, I’m 2.5 kg (5 lb 8 oz) down.
People always get told that they need 2 liters (half a gallon) of water a day, but did you know your requirement is actually determined by your weight? The heavier you are, the more water you require.
So when I decided to track my weight and fix my diet, I also got myself an app to track my intake and remind myself to drink water. This might seem extreme, but I tend to forget to drink water when I write. So now I don’t.
And just so you know, the goal for my current weight is 3.5 liters (7.4 liquid pints) per day. And if you think that’s impossible to do. It’s not.
As I mentioned before, I have injured my back in the past, so being overweight really doesn’t help. And the whole reason I got injured in the first place was because my core was weak. And all I’ve done in the years since is let my core weaken further.
I’ve signed up for an app called 30 Day Challenge. It has a variety of exercise challenges based on what you want to focus on and how fit you are. The exercises are really intensive, mostly body-weight-resistance exercises, which means that the five-minute sessions I’m currently on are really making a huge difference to my body.
One wouldn’t think that five minutes would help, but my core has gone from being able to support me for at most five seconds of plank to thirty seconds of plank in a week. And if you don’t think that’s impressive, I don’t think you’ve done the plank before.
The exercises never give me that “no-pain-no-gain” feeling, because they seem to be designed to be *just* enough to challenge the participant without demoralizing them. But every single day is just a little bit more challenging than the day before. And I assume that eventually, almost without noticing, I’ll be in a place where I’ll be able to do hours of exercise if I want without actually finding it to be daunting or impossible. (Which I do now.)
This is mostly weight training, though, so I’ve started dancing again to get some cardio in. This week, I went to my first ever line dancing class, but I have a huge hankering for ballroom again too, so I might take that as well.
5) My lifestyle in general.
Other than the eating, water drinking and exercise, I also really need to sort out a few other things. Firstly, my sleeping patterns. Because of my insane (and I don’t mean this as a self-compliment) work-ethic, I often work until 3 a.m. in the morning and start my day between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. I take almost no breaks from my computer once I sit down.
So. I have to institute a stricter work-hour rule, where I don’t pass a certain time, and where I then have to at least do something to rest in the evening. This can be reading or even some sort of craft. Or the dancing classes.
Point is, I know I’m going to burn out if I continue keeping the hours I’m keeping, so I’m going to adapt now before I’m forced to by my own exhaustion.
Balance is the thing I’m going for here, so I’m going to literally schedule in time to rest because otherwise I’m just going to forget. (Same way I forget to drink water.)
Whoa that’s a lot, so I’m going to stop here for now. But how did you do? Anyone feel like joining me on the 30 Day Challenge?
Yeah, I know today is supposed to be a vlog update, but alas, everything is running late for me. (Refer to Wednesday’s post for a deeper understanding.)
As it is, the fact that I had to shoot late meant that I had to do some heavy editing to make the video look good, which also means it’s taking longer to render the edited video. Then I planned to upload render and upload early this morning, but Windows decided to update, which meant I’m now still waiting for the video to render. Sigh.
Anyhoodles. I thought I’d get some news and admin out of the way instead.
YouTube Posting Schedule for This Week
As a result of the delay, the YouTube post will go live for my Patreon patrons today, and everyone else tomorrow night. The blog post that includes the script will go live on Monday.
I Am Planning to Bring Before and After Back
For those of you wondering what the hay I’m talking about… Last year, I had a bit of a short-lived blog post series featuring me picking images and then turning them into something awesome using Photoshop, something like a cover image, excerpt banner or whatever. The idea originally was to post Before and Afters regularly in order to keep learning new things and also to keep my skills sharp, but then I thought… Why don’t I open this up a little more?
So this is what I’m thinking. Send me an email at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com and tell me what you want me to do. For example:
Cover Image for a [insert genre here] book. It’s about… [insert description here] and I’m thinking [insert what you think would look cool]. And then let me know what you want written on it.
Then (and this is the cool bit), I will put a price on the image and you can mail me to buy it with up to three adjustments. The price will be determined mostly by the cost of the images and partially by the amount of work I did, but my vision for now is to keep it more in line with pre-made cover costs than custom costs.
Yes, that means you will get a custom cover in the pre-made price range. And if you buy it, it’s yours. If not, I’m probably putting it on a pre-made list somewhere.
My vlog post from last week has gotten me thinking a lot about why I almost always have to get to the point of burning out before I feel “okay” with taking a break.
In a lot of ways, I think it comes down to this whole mentality of Keep Calm and Carry On.
Don’t get me wrong. Yes, carrying on despite adversity is often the best thing we can do. But sometimes, I think we’re carrying on a little bit too far. And this is why:
1) Forcing ourselves to keep going despite exhaustion only exhausts us more.
Yeah yeah I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious. Obviously doing things when you’re already tired makes the tiredness worse. It’s common sense.
And yet, we ignore this common sense all the time.
What’s more, people expect it from us. They even praise use for doing it. Think I’m crazy? Take a look around at people who are positively bragging about the fact that they’re living off of coffee and pulling all-nighter after all-nighter. And then see the comments. Only a few “buzzkills” will think to say, “Five nights in a row already? This is really bad for you. Please go get some sleep.”
And sometimes, that’s fine. We often do need to push through exhaustion, because we quite simply are exhausted all the time. So if we don’t push ourselves, we wouldn’t get anywhere.
But as with my five-all-nighters-in-a-row example, there are limits, and we’re all but ignoring them all the time.
2) There’s so much more to exhaustion than being tired.
So let me tell you a little story. I committed to writing because it was my lifeline after I had proverbially drowned myself in a study course I’d hated.
I knew in the first week of my studies (in 2007) that I wasn’t enjoying the course, but the Keep Calm and Carry On thing struck again. And I carried on. And on. Often giving up my sleep—all-nighters for the win, right? The faculty acted as if this wasn’t only normal, but to be expected as a prerequisite for success.
Half way through 2008, I seriously considered throwing myself in front of a car to be a valid alternative to going to class.
It wasn’t even that I was suicidal. I don’t think. But I was exhausted. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. And by ignoring my exhaustion for about 18 months, I had lost the capacity for normal emotions about a class. I had lost most of the capacity to think straight. I say “most,” because in the moment I was about to take that step, something in my mind went “WTF ARE YOU DOING?????!!!!!!!” and I had a moment of clarity.
I crossed the street and skipped class. Instead I went to administration and changed my degree.
But here’s the thing. The damage was done.
3) Medium term exhaustion leads to long term damage.
So I had taken myself out of the nightmare degree and made sure to get more sleep. Did that make me feel better?
No more than quitting smoking after being diagnosed cures lung cancer.
My mom not-so-secretly thought I was taking drugs because, simply put, I was broken more than a year after leaving that degree.
I literally can’t remember the second semester of my second year (2008). I know I passed most of my subjects, but the one I failed… It’s like a hole in my brain. I can’t even remember sitting for the exam.
I had issues at fencing practice in 2009. Why? Because parrying and self-defense is important if you want to win. And my self-preservation instincts had been all but destroyed. I could literally see the hits coming in, but my brain just wouldn’t react defensively.
My short term memory was blown.
And worse, I, a trivia queen, couldn’t recall whole chunks of the knowledge I’ve gathered over my entire life.
In the end, the only thing that stopped me from being clinically diagnosed with depression in 2010 (I think. Kinda hazy on the date there.) was the fact that I had 3D awareness in the psychologist’s test.
Everything else was blown to hell, as a direct result of my exhaustion.
I knew something was wrong, but didn’t realize how bad it was until the psychologist gave me a four digit phrase that I couldn’t repeat back five seconds after I’d heard it.
When did I start to feel normal? 2013.
As in a whole five years after I had quit exhausting myself. 18 months of damage, five years of recovery.
4) Exhaustion is like boiling a frog.
Yeah, I know quite a few of you might be thinking Oh this would never be as bad for me. I’m in total control.
The thing is, pushing yourself through exhaustion isn’t a once-off. It’s cumulative. You know the analogy of boiling frogs, right?
Toss a frog into boiling water and it jumps out. Put it in cold water and then put it to boil.
It’s the same thing with exhaustion. Every time we push through, we’re tiring ourselves out just a little bit more.
And you might be thinking Huh. This isn’t that bad. But that’s just you acclimating yourself to your new normal of exhaustion.
If there isn’t a finite, certain end to the causes of your exhaustion, your new normal might end up being the complete destruction of your health and mind.
So when it’s looking like the crap that’s exhausting you just isn’t ending, the logical reaction isn’t to carry on.
It’s to pace yourself. To take a step back and pare back to the absolute minimum so that you can get to the end with most of yourself intact. Life is hard enough as a marathon, without you doing repeated 100m sprints as you go.
What about you? Do you have a tendency to push yourself too far? How do you deal with exhaustion?