As 2014 winds down, people everywhere will be making New Year’s resolutions. How about you? What are your writing goals for the year ahead? Here are a few do-able ideas to help you make 2015 your most productive writing year yet.
1. Earn More.Resolve that 2015 will be the year you make more money with your writing. Do you have unfinished projects or unrealized ideas? What can you complete and publish in the year ahead? Review your contracts and make sure you’re being fairly compensated for your work—especially digital products, which tend to be more profitable for publishers.
If you've been freelancing for a publication at the same rate all year, ask for a pay increase. Do you write for a magazine on a sporadic basis? Ask for a regular gig. Paid by the word for your online articles? Ask for more per word. If your editor can't budge on your fee, ask if your expenses can be reimbursed; long distance telephone calls and mileage are good candidates. Suppose you ask every outlet for which you write to pay you 25% more, and a third of them agree. You've just given yourself an eight percent raise, which you surely deserve to cover inflation and pay for your increasing skills as a writer.
2. Learn More.Mark Twain said, "Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing you can do is keep your mind young." Plan now for at least one robust educational experience during the year, whether you attend a writers’ conference, take an online class or join a writers’ group. The most successful writers never stop studying the craft and learning.
3. Prepare for Inspiration.I don't know about you, but I've discovered that my memory is a highly unreliable tool. Instead, develop the habit of faithfully jotting down those random ideas and writing thoughts. Keep a notebook handy or use the "notepad" feature on your smartphone to capture funny expressions, bits of conversation, news stories, plots, and interesting words. Soon you'll have a fount of ideas and quirky details to use in your writing.
4. Stock Up.Make a list of the supplies that you use regularly: ink cartridges, paper, toner, staples, paper clips, pencils, labels, packing tape, envelopes, and so forth. Invest in a back-up stock of those items and you'll never again have to stop working mid-project to go buy an ink cartridge. Keep a running office supply list so that you never run out of essentials.
5. Back Up.Let this be the year you make sure to have a foolproof back-up system so you never lose the work you have labored so hard to create. An automatic back-up system that copies your files to the "cloud" will protect your work in most emergency scenarios. Also, if you don't have a back-up battery for the inevitable power outage, now is the time; a decent one costs about $80, and the peace of mind you gain will be worth every penny.
6. Lasso Social Media and E-Mail.Social media and e-mail can be devious distractions for writers. We’re expected to have a “platform,” but in the midst of posting a link to an interesting interview we suddenly discover we’ve whiled away an hour clicking BuzzFeed articles. The solution is to make a posting schedule and stick to it. Regularly evaluate your social media activities, and eliminate those that aren’t bearing fruit or leading to solid reader connections. For a saner approach to social media, be sure to read Dr. Suzana Flores’ book FACEHOOKED.
What about the familiar ringing tone that announces a new e-mail—could it be your agent with good news? Your old college flame? Or a Nigerian businessman with a banking proposition? Eliminate the temptation to constantly check by disabling the ‘play sound when new e-mails arrive’ option, and review your inbox at specific times just once or twice during the day.
7. Don't Forget Your Heart.It's easy to get so focused on earning a living and selling our work, we can forget why we write in the first place. I speak from experience; during one year-end review I realized I'd written a slate of published business articles and dozens of press releases, but I hadn’t spent much time working on personal writing. When I lamented about the situation to another author, he shared his remedy: pay yourself first. Spend the first 30 minutes of every day working on the projects that really matter to you.
Whatever you want to accomplish in the new year, may your 2015 be fruitful, successful and meaningful.
–ElizaEliza Cross is the author of seven books including her latest, 101 Things To Do With a Pickle. She blogs at HappySimpleLiving.com and ButteryChardonnay.com and is the founder of the bacon enthusiast society BENSA, which—unlike Mensa—welcomes members of all intelligence levels. She is currently working on her second novel.