Posted by: devonellington | January 1, 2013

January 1, 2013: Answers to the GDR Questions

Here we go!  It’s time to take the questions we’ve been thinking about and articulate what we want in the coming year.
I discovered I had to release quite a bit to make room for what I need.  My daily yoga/meditation/tarot card pull has become a very important part of preparing myself for the day.

Also, although it is not mentioned here on or on tomorrow’s To-Do list, I plan to take time each evening, in my meditation before bed, to give thanks for the many good, often small and overlooked, moments in the day.

Below are my answers.  Tomorrow, we post our To-Do Lists for January.

My GDR Answers

Here are my answers.  I was surprised by how much anger I’d stored up from choices that, ultimately, are my own responsibility.  I was far too reactive in many situations, instead of pro-active, and that will change.

What makes you happy?
Writing
My home, family, friends, cats
Working with the National Marine Life Center
Working in the garden
Learning (including the courses I’m taking and the research on upcoming books)

What growth have you seen in your writing over the past twelve months?
It’s deepening, getting more complex and connected.

How did your progress exceed your expectations?
The quality is definitely improving.

Where did you fall short?
I spent too much time on other people’s projects and not enough time on my own.

Too much teaching cost me too much financially, creatively, and emotionally.  Because of the time I spent with my students, I was limited in how much other work I could accept.  When the financial commitment on the part of the hiring organization was not met, it set off a downward spiral that nearly destroyed last year for me.

Why did the shortfalls happen, and how can you avoid them in the future?
I had to accept my portion of the responsibility in remaining in situations that were unhealthy for me, and let go of the utter fury I felt towards several organizations and  individuals.  I also have to really look at each offer, to make sure I don’t get mired in the same situation, just because it’s familiar.

I can also only accept teaching assignments where the money meets the time ratio.  No more underpriced classes, especially where the hiring organization keeps 50% and does squat.  No more waiting for weeks for payment after doing a class.  I am paid either on the first day or the last day of class.

I will still do one class per year for free.  Whoever books me first gets me, and the rest is all “no.” Unlike many of the teachers I’ve experienced, who only give theoretical teasers for free and then, if the student wants actual practical information, they have to pay for it, if I teach a class, it’s full out.  I realize that money is tight, and I don’t want anyone to be denied a class because of money; however, I also have bills to pay, and I have skills that are worth money, and the amount of individual attention students get is worth the money.   A normal class of 2- 10 students takes 30 hours or more of work per week. A class of 30 takes much, much more, especially when a high percentage don’t meet deadlines. That doesn’t count prep time — generally, I spend nearly 60 hours prepping a class.  It has to pay in ratio to that.  If I don’t value my own time and skills — part of which is charging appropriately and cutting away those who don’t  value my time and energy — no one else has any reason to, either.

The first steps towards lowering the resentment was writing “along with” class assignments.  Not only did it help me see if any snags were inherent in the assignments (even in classes that have run before), but it kept my own creativity fresh and on the move.

Ultimately, the short answer is that I have to cut back on teaching == fewer classes at higher prices that are harder to get into.  A current employer who has students pay in advance and does not give refunds when they flake out is the first step.  Another client pays me the same for one day as I made in 2-3 months with last year’s main employer — for fewer, more committed students who are doing astonishingly good work.

I WANT them to outgrow me and go off and be successful.  I do not want to encourage dependency (as many teachers do).  Even though that means less money for me in the long run, as those committed students no longer need classes, and there aren’t a lot of committed students around to take their place.  Over the next few years, I will probably phase out teaching completely, and that’s okay.

So, as students outgrow me (as they should), I need to also have other sources of income in place that are not teaching-dependent.  I have some, but they need to be strengthened.  And I put far too much of my own writing on hold this year in order to give the student work the time it needed.  That’s MY fault, but it fed into the negative cycle.  If it’s not written, it can’t be out there earning its keep, and even with writing 1K a day first thing in the morning, I couldn’t get enough of my own writing done.

As far as non-teaching freelance work, it’s time to move up a tier in client and payment.  I wasted too much time and energy on small clients who dragged their feet in payment.  It’s time for me to move up.  That means expanding networking and marketing efforts, new brochures, more Chamber of Commerce interaction, promotion, etc.

How did your goals and expectations evolve and change over the course of the year?
The anger and resentment about poor choices grew exponentially.  Especially when I had to take a financial hit for other people’s choices.  Although I believe in seeing commitments through, now that many of them are fulfilled, it is up to me not to put myself into the same position this year.

I need to get over the misplaced loyalty of meeting my own standards in a breeched commitment.  When the other side breaks the contract, it is broken.  I am no longer obligated to see my side of it through, especially not without adequate compensation.

What new and different direction did you try in your writing this year?  Were you happy with the outcome?
I went back to mystery, and started playing more in romance.  I am thrilled with the possibilities in the aviation mystery and in the sustainability mysteries set in a marine life hospital.

What new direction do you want to try next year?
I want to delve further into steampunk.  Also, the science-based courses I’ve been taking are giving me confidence to delver further into actual science fiction and high fantasy that has logical roots in solid world-building.

What direction do you want to explore more deeply?
I want to keep exploring ensemble stories with more complexity, no matter what the genre.  It’s tough to do in mystery, because you have to keep it streamlined, but I should be able to do it in both steampunk and high fantasy.

What direction do you want to leave behind, at least for the moment?
I’m winding up what I have to say in urban fantasy, I think.  I’ve still got the rest of the Jain Lazarus books, my harpy trilogy, and ANGEL HUNT. That’s about a 2-3 year commitment of writing, a little longer for publishing.  And then, I think I’ve said it.  I might have changed my mind in three years, but that’s what it feels like now.

What did you decide no longer served your writing life, and how did you remove it?
A lot of it came down to time/money ratio on the work.  You see what you do.  You break it down into time/money ratio.

I am still in the process of removing the clients that don’t meet the ratio.

I love what I do; I also deserve to be paid a living wage for it.  I have bills to pay and have to keep a roof over my head.  Therefore, if it doesn’t meet that criteria, for now, it has to go.

I often say, I’m not a flasher.  I don’t need “exposure.”

Also, over the course of the year, I stopped being available so much.  I am usually not online at night; I am offline at least one day per week (usually Sundays).  Everyone has the right to time off, including me.  I am not giving up evenings, weekends, holidays, especially when someone else is late on a deadline.

I am not a service organization, not in teaching mode.  I offer an apprenticeship model, along that of old-style Guilds. I teach specific tools that require work and practice in order to be useful.  As a freelance contractor, I offer services within the scope of the contract, not within the scope of a private secretary or a domestic servant.

Was that the right choice for now, or do you miss it?
Too early to say.

How do you want to reframe your commitment to writing over the next year?
Put my own writing first more ruthlessly, and it may well have to be more than that first 1K per day.

Rearrange my time management.  Be more respectful of my own time, and the time I need away from being online.

What new non-writing experience do you want to add to your life in the coming months?

This is tied in to the aviation book, but I want to get more of a handle on the way planes worked in the last 1940s.

I also want to continue learning about marine life stewardship.

I want to work closely with my elected representatives on legislation to make things better for EVERYONE, not just special interests looking to make a profit.

I miss pottery — I hope I can find a class that’s focused on slab work.  I don’t want to do wheel work right now, and it’s hard to find anyone teaching slab rather than wheel.

I want to delve further into herbal studies and gardening.

I would like to get the Cerridwen’s Cottage website back on track.

Looking ahead, what do you want to achieve in your writing over the next year?  Remember, you cannot control when something is PUBLISHED, unless you self-publish.  You can only control what you complete and submit.  Keep it in terms of what’s in YOUR jurisdiction.
List your goals, and three steps you commit to take in order to achieve them.

Meet the goals on the promised manuscripts
–figure out a realistic schedule
–break it down into daily bites
–meet that every day

Expand my client base into a higher tiered market
–new brochure
–more interaction with Chamber of Commerce
–continue with the courses I’m taking to expand my knowledge in environmental sciences, etc.
–better follow-up

Land a handful of regular, well-paid writing gigs (such as columns, etc.)
–Research
–Network at conferences, et al
–Write some kick-ass proposals

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 the dreams into reality?

Get on a more stable financial platform
–move into a higher-paid writing tier
–say “no” to lower-paid jobs
–continue to improve my craft, making leaps, not steps

Contribute to the community
–continue my work with the National Marine Life Center
–dig in to my work on the Board of Directors of the Cape Cod Writers Center
–evolve my work with Centerville Beautification Committee & MA Audubon
–work closely with my elected officials on ideas to build a stronger, safer, more environmentally sustainable community

Keep learning
–Try new things
–Keep taking the Coursera classes the interest me
–Take the material I create within coursework and use it in viable ways in the rest of my work.

List three resolutions that you make for yourself, regarding your life as a whole.
–Put my own writing first and build everything else around it
–Stay fit in body as well as mind
–Get more involved in the community WITHOUT interfering with my writing time

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Responses

  1. […] then, join me over on Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions, where I have the answers to the questions I posed back in August. I have no doubt it will ruffle […]

  2. What makes you happy?
    Family. Being creative. Learning. Discovery.

    What growth have you seen in your writing over the past twelve months?

    I went from being clueless pantser writing blindly to a more confident writer with a grasp of story structure, character arcs, themes, settings and so forth. I’m also more confident with editing and proofreading my writings on tight deadlines—thanks to Devon’s classes.

    I went from being paralyzed at the thought of writing one blog post to doing a blogtour

    How did your progress exceed your expectations?
    I learned that I’m a better writer than I thought I was, and that I could write under pressure, meet deadlines, continue learning the craft while doing publicity for debut novel, and keep my sanity and my humor.

    Where did you fall short?

    Not being able to deep edit and submit a story I completed in 2011. Though, I suspected a big part of the problem was the research I needed to do for the genre required a time commitment and brain space I didn’t have. Plus, I think the more distance I get from a project, the better the story will be when I finally tackle it again.

    Not being able to be integrate, organize and compartmentalize the various tasks/aspects of a writing life and a mother without feeling overwhelmed and dropping balls on a few occasions.

    Why did the shortfalls happen, and how can you avoid them in the future?

    Lack of experience, organization. Over-scheduled. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being too fearful.

    How did your goals and expectations evolve and change over the course of the year?

    Year end, I gained a more realistic views of what I was capable of instead of what I wished to accomplish.

    What new and different direction did you try in your writing this year? 

    Writing blogs for book’s blogtour. Writing short stories in different genres.

    Were you happy with the outcome?
    Yes.

    What new direction do you want to try next year?
    Writing a mystery.

    What direction do you want to explore more deeply?
    Theme in stories.

    What direction do you want to leave behind, at least for the moment?

    Less time spent collecting information from writing classes, more time processing what I’ve learned.

    What did you decide no longer served your writing life, and how did you remove it? 

    Life’s too short. I have shorter patience. Stepped away from a few collaborative situations which were energy draining.

    Was that the right choice for now, or do you miss it?
    Yes.

    How do you want to reframe your commitment to writing over the next year?

    Instead of feeling pressured to be on the fast train to publish or perish, I’m going to step back and recharge my creativity—write down to the bones. Get the joy of discovery again.

    What new non-writing experience do you want to add to your life in the coming months?
    Try to train for 5K run or half marathon. Do personal training!
    Make another quilt.

    Looking ahead, what do you want to achieve in your writing over the next year? 
    Research, write and finish a draft of a historical mystery by year-end—new learning project, along with finishing current projects.

    List your goals, and three steps you commit to take in order to achieve them.
    Become physically stronger. (Continue exercise, start personal training, add meditation?)

    No more technophobe! Become more tech savvy! Evernote. Genius bar. Icloud.

    Master social media. Make friends with FB, Twitter, Pininterest.

    List three dreams you have for your life.

    My children become healthy, happy adults and do what they love in life.
    Travel and do community work abroad.
    Never running out of things I want to discover and learn, in writing or otherwise.

    List three resolutions that you make for yourself, regarding your life as a whole.
    Be a model of a healthy, fearless adult for my children.
    Always feed the creative beast.
    Always be kind to myself.

    Thanks, Devon, for this set of questions. As always, you’ve made me think about what I’m doing. I also wrote a longer, more detailed and more personal version of this in my journal.

  3. Yeah, my posted version is edited, too! 😉

    Great stuff, Nina, as always.

    I’m getting back into mystery this year, too, so we can cheerlead each other on the journey.

    Best wishes.

  4. Thanks, Devon! I’ll be Miss Marple and you’ll be kick-ass somebody, I’m sure. 😉

    Btw, I am now mom to two 1 y.o cats. Talk about guilt. They sit there and stare at me with big eyes begging me to play with them. Always.

  5. Get your hands on some kinetic toys. It’s a big help. Also, balls with bells in them — they’ll start playing together with them, and you’ll always know where they are, even when you’re working. It’s like with kids — the mom radar kicks in when they’re not around.

  6. […] the answers to my questions (and those were hard to answer both honestly and compassionately) are here and my To-Do list for January is here. I’ve even managed to knock a few things off the […]

  7. What a great assessment, Devon. Really honest and a superb exercise. I’ll shoot you a link in this week’s blog, but I think I’ll sit down later today and work through these questions myself.

  8. Lori, glad you found it useful. I have a longer version that I worked on for myself, really breaking down the frustrations into detail. I didn’t want to post something that sounded like blame when it was me working through what didn’t work for me and finding my own threads of responsibility, so I kept working on it, but I also wanted to keep it honest.

  9. I love these questions, Devon. I went through your list and answered them all–too much to type though 🙂 What a fantastic way to start the new year. Thank you.

  10. Yeah, it can get pretty intense. Just share what you’re comfortable with — it’s very relaxed here!


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