Answers to GDR Questions for 2014:
Because it was a difficult year, these answers make me feel very exposed.
What makes you happy?
Working with the National Marine Life Center and the Cape Cod Writers Center
Learning new things (such as the continuing education courses I’ve been taking)
Walking on the local beaches and in the nature preserves
Spending time at libraries, bookstores, and archives
Teaching makes me happy, when the students actually commit to the work; when they can’t be bothered to commit or flake out, I get very, very angry and frustrated, because it’s such a sign of disrespect to themselves, the craft, me, and their fellow students.
What growth have you seen in your writing in the past 12 months?
I’m going deeper. Even the genre fiction is getting more universal. I’m also getting back to script writing, both for stage and screen. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.
How did your progress exceed your expectations?
It didn’t. I fell short in most ways.
The only ways I exceeded any sort of expectation for myself was taking on more responsibility by becoming the Secretary on the Cape Cod Writers Center Board of Directors and joining the Board of Directors for the National Marine Life Center.
I also went back to school, and was certified in Sustainability, Greek and Roman Mythology (end of 2012, actually), Climate Literacy, Basic Archaeology, and Neuro-ethics. That was invigorating and inspiring.
I did, however, receive a small grant to write a new play, and the organization with whom I’m working with on the play also received a small grant towards it.
I guess, in some ways, I did exceed expectations.
Where did you fall short?
I wasn’t as organized as I wanted to be, and I didn’t get as much done in the arenas I wanted. Financially, I fell short.
Why did the shortfalls happen and how can you avoid them in the future?
I had a rash of unreliable clients who paid late, didn’t pay at all, or flaked out on contracts. I need to tighten the contracts so that I’m paid even when they are unreliable. Even some of the deposits bounced, and that caused all kinds of problems. Also, people booking time and then not showing up. I need to move up to the next tier in freelance clients, people who are actually professionals and want to hire a professional, instead of dilettantes and wannabes.
How did your goals and expectations change?
I got caught in a maelstrom of having to scramble financially when the douchebags flaked. Yes, I can be criticized for criticizing clients, but I’m not naming names, and anyone who reads this and gets offended probably fits the definition. Sometimes you just have to burn a few bridges to save the island. It became about paying the next bill, not finding the best match or doing the best work, and that was soul-killing. I didn’t descend into content mill work, but some of the clients were content-mill level clients, and those are the ones I need to avoid.
On the positive side, I landed a literary agent and am preparing for a series of meetings with some other types of agents early in 2014.
What new and different directions did you try in your writing this year? Were you happy with the outcome?
I spent too much time scrambling, and not enough doing new things, although my course work is turning out to inspire new and better writing.
A new writing skill I acquired was learning how to script video games. Hopefully, I can parlay that into paid assignments in 2014.
What new direction do you want to try next year?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I want to learn how to write about food without it sounding like soft-core porn, and I want to land more environmentally-based assignments.
What direction do you want to explore more deeply?
Environmental and activist work, and I want to do more script writing, script coverage, script editing, and script doctoring work. I enjoy it and I’m good at it.
What direction do you want to leave behind, at least for the moment?
I’m in the process of dropping my lowest-paying clients and replacing them with higher-paying, more reliable clients. I don’t want to work under market rate any more. The quality of client, in most cases, isn’t worth it. I want to work with people who respect writers, not those who think “anyone” can write.
What did you decide no longer served your writing life and how did you remove it? Was it the right choice for now, or do you miss it?
Unfortunately, due to the financial scramble, I dropped things that were important to me instead of what no longer served me. I am changing that.
How do you want to reframe your commitment to your writing in the coming year?
My own writing comes first. Always.
What new non-writing experience do you want to add to your life in the coming months?
I’m signed up for courses in Environmental Law and Policy, and another in Computational Neuro-science, which should be interesting.
Looking ahead, what do you want to achieve in your writing in the coming year? Remember to keep it within what you can control (which is the writing and editing, not sales or publishing). List your goals, and three active steps you can take for each:
–Complete packet for February agent meetings
Steps needed: Work on it every day, stay on schedule, make sure it’s sharp and clean.
–Draft three novel manuscripts
Write every day and stay focused. Make specific choices as to what makes the most sense to work on, instead of drifting back and forth.
–Write two plays
One of them already has a grant in place; the other is still an idea spinning. Stick to the writing/production schedule of the first one, while developing the second one. Don’t get distracted.
–Write a half a dozen short stories
Actually, I’d like to write one per month, but don’t know if that is realistic. I tend to batch short stories, but I wonder if I can streamline it better.
–Release at least one Topic Workbook per quarter
Polish the material; learn how to do the covers properly; format, release, promote.
–Land an assignment that’s at least partially on-site.
Find the right fit; pitch and land. I’m spending too much time working from home and need to land something that’s away from home a few hours a week.
–Catch up on backlog and get it out
Put aside big blocks of time once a week or once a month; really focus on each project and take the time to find the right fit; decide which projects should be retired.
List three dreams you have for your life, including your writing or separate from it. How do they feed into your goals and how are they different? What steps will you take to start turning your dreams into reality?
I have one dream which I am not ready yet to share publicly, but all the above writing goals will feed into it.
The year has been so discouraging that I am rather dream-free right now, and that needs to change.
I guess the other dream would be to take an actual vacation this year, but that is entirely dependent on finances.
List three resolutions that you make for yourself, regarding your life as a whole.
–Always put my own writing first.
–Spend more time on my yoga and meditation practice.
–Say “no” to projects that don’t fit my vision of my career.