A Writing Life Update

A Writing Life Update

[You can watch me planning out my goals to go with the above picture on my latest IGTV video]

During the last third of 2018 I was a writing, blogging and video-making machine. I set up a Patreon account, a book club on Instagram and started vlogging - all whilst bringing a new puppy into the household and teaching her not to use the kitchen floor as a toilet or eat the contents of the field.

It was a busy time and I was delighted with everything I achieved. I felt I’d laid foundations and that 2019 was going to be the year I built upwards. I decided to make my goal for the year a money goal. I’m not afraid to admit that, we all have to make money to eat and pay our bills, and I filmed videos for YouTube and spoke about how I was intending to do this. For example my Goals & Projects for 2019 and How am I doing one month into the year?

The year started well. I had some quality instagram sponsored posts which I was pleased with, I travelled to London to take part in a campaign for Kate Atkinson’s new book, and whilst they weren’t enormous three figure sums at all, they did look good in the IN column of my earnings spreadsheet. I also published my second, third and fourth essays on Patreon. Again, not enormous sums, I actually would feel uncomfortable charging more for my essays, but again I felt like I had achieved something because I’d made a bit of an income from my writing.

Then I had a bit of a quandary which I spoke about in my fourth essay. I ran out of ‘oomph’. Not because I was burnt out, but because I felt I’d taken the wrong road.

This is what I wrote in my essay:

It’s taken me a while to work out why I had come to a sudden stop but it wasn’t because I needed a holiday. It was because my unconscious thoughts were way ahead of my conscious ones. My creativity-car hadn’t run out of fuel. Rather, it was questioning the road I was taking.

Stop, it said, quietly. You’ve come to a fork in the road. You have two options. Both ways are the right road, going in the right direction, but this route that you’re currently on will take you so much longer and will include lots of distractions along the way that won’t actually add to the enjoyment of the journey. 

So - why not reverse a little and take another road? This road might be harder, steeper to climb, but it’ll be more rewarding, more picturesque and make you happy and fulfilled. 

Woah, I thought. Where did that come from? 

I thought I’d been on the right road for a while. I was happy, I was creating what I wanted to create and I had a vision. The New Year where I reassessed my goals was only a few months ago and I was working towards these goals every day. How could I be on the wrong road? How can it be that I’m not now fulfilled?

The obvious ways where I could make money, the sponsored posts, even the affiliate links, went against what I wanted to do as a writer. The sponsored posts took my time away from my own work, my own writing, and meant I was promoting someone else’s writing instead of my own, and the affiliate links meant I was trying to come up with ideas for blog posts where I could mention products that people would want to buy. I use one notebook that I buy over and over and a basic pen. There’s not much else I can write about product-wise!

The other way I thought I could make money was by writing and recording videos for a course on Skillshare. This is still something I want to do but I’m not completely clear on a) what I can offer knowledge-wise and b) we entered GCSE revision time for my son and he needed my help. My time available for projects was dramatically reduced.

The other way I thought I could make money was via YouTube adsense. I thought I needed 1000 subscribers in order to start getting paid. Turns out you not only need more than 1000 subscribers (at time of writing) but you also need 4000 public watch hours in 12 months. Turns out that I have 1191 hours watched in the last year. I still have some way to go. When I found this out I had a bit of a wobble; thinking there was no way I could do this. Gaining your first 1000 subscribers is SO hard and takes a long time. (I’m currently on 691 subscribers). (Do subscribe!)

I still have my Patreon, but again this is hard to grow and takes time.. And at around £35 per essay (after fees and converting from dollars) this is not going to pay off the mortgage.

My goal - to make an income - and how I was comfortable making it was proving to be an issue. I still want to make an income from my writing but these short-term opportunities were no longer for me. Instead I needed to go back to the drawing board and get back to my writing, to my longer term projects. Projects that, in the past, have scared me and daunted me.

This was a massive change in my strategy. The blogging machine that I was last year disappeared. I even stopped making videos for a while just because I felt a bit lost. Even though I knew what I needed to do, HOW I was going to do it and HOW I was going to plan my days was a bit of a question. I even stopped writing my essay (funnily enough - on the subject of procrastination).

I couldn’t focus, I had massive imposter syndrome, I couldn’t convert how I was feeling into words and had no-one to talk to about it. I felt like I was at the bottom of a huge mountain and I just didn’t have the right kit, the right mindset or the right body for the climb.

At the same time my Instagram followers were (are) in decline. Then I lost a few Patrons. Then my confidence in my abilities disappeared soon after.

So I focused on my son and his GCSEs. I immersed myself in To Kill a Mockingbird, Macbeth and A View from a Bridge plus all the poetry in his anthology.

It was a relief to have a different focus. But now he is slap-bang in the middle of his exams (physics today - I did not, could not, help him with that one!). His first English Literature exam is done, his second is tomorrow, and I’m itching to get back to writing and working and to having a purpose again.

So my goals are shifting. Ever so slightly. I have two goals and they are going to be my goals for the next four months - so taking us to the end of September.

At this stage I need to thank Sarra Cannon for her Heart Breathings channel where she has videos on self-publishing and setting writing and business goals. This was something I did years ago but made it over complicated and it tailed off - Sarra has a much more efficient system.

Goal No. 1 - is to be published. (Self or traditionally published. And I know this may not happen in four months but it’s what I am working towards.)

Goal No. 2 - is to grow my YouTube channel with quality and consistent content so I can start earning an income (however small in the beginning!) from it.

But I’m not just going to throw my goals out there and leave it at that. I am going to get strategic. You know how I love my notebook for planning my weeks and months. Well, I’m going to take it further and work out a system - thanks to Sarra - where I detail the projects within the goals and then set tasks in the projects. I am also going to start time-blocking. Not to this extent (where she blocks off every hour of every day) but for the days I am working.

Why four months? Well - that’ll take me to the end of the third quarter of the year and I can start the fourth quarter on October 1st. I’ve put my goal planning video up on IGTV and it’'ll also be included in the YouTube video but note I am not giving myself too much to do in each month. I wanted to do eight videos a month but I’ve actually put 6-8.

I’m excited to see how I get on. One of my biggest problems is coming into my office in the morning and not knowing what I’m doing. I get distracted, and have no focus and end up wasting so much time. With this method I’m hoping to be in my office less but producing more. I’ll definitely let you know how I’m getting on - but will be charting it all on Instagram Stories on a daily basis.