Who conducts a writer's annual review?

“But what single mom in her right mind quits a job in a bad economy?” I asked my coach (yes, I have one), sniffing a bit, I’m sure.

“Who in her right mind quits a career in a bad economy?” She countered, referring to the fact that my low paying job with the ever-alluring benefits was gobbling up all my writing time and energy. I’d written next to nothing since I’d started the job a year earlier.

A few months later, I quit the job and began my career as a freelancer. That was two years ago last month, and I’m still alive with food in the fridge and health benefits I buy myself. Big girl! And while it’s all going pretty well (I could be making more money. I could have a better idea where the next check is coming from.), what I do find is that now that the initial terror has subsided, there’s a bit of a lackluster feel to working alone.  The lows are shared with no one who is directly impacted by them, and the highs are rare and mostly shared on Facebook (please forgive my fb bragging; i have NO coworkers). Sometimes, I feel like all I do is work.  And conversely, sometimes I feel like I’m not doing anything but drinking coffee and writing emails.

I’ve been feeling a lot like the latter lately.  I’m behind on my projected word count for the book Writing Is My Drink. I don’t blog enough. I could be selling more articles. Blah, blah, blah. Then–avoiding real work this morning —I read an excellent post about burnout on Allison’s Winn Scotch’s terrific blog. And then, I remembered: It’s time for my annual review!

Last year–at the one-year anniversary of quitting my job–I did an annual review, and I realized how much I had, in fact, accomplished in my first year sans steady paycheck.  So, I did that again this morning, and yet again I was surprised at how much had happened since last Halloween. I encourage all you writers to do something like this for yourself.  Make sure you look at all the aspects of your career and list everything (even if it seems small) you’ve accomplished.  List the “negatives” too. For example, I listed one of my “accomplishments” this year as bouncing back after a book proposal didn’t sell.

Why do the review?  Because we need to treat ourselves as employees. We are self-employed, so the feedback that every employee needs and deserves can only come from the self.

Here are some questions to consider as you conduct your review:

What have you written this year?

How have you pushed yourself as a writer? What risks have you taken?

What have you done in terms of professional development this year?

How have you networked with other writers and other industry professionals?

How have you supported other writers?  When did you ask for support?

What have you done to prevent burnout?  How have you celebrated your accomplishements?

What have you done to nurture your creativity?

How did you promote your work?

What did you do to build your online presence this year?

Did you make any tough choices or do anything truly scary to further your career this year?

If you wrote for free, was that writing supporting another part of your career?

Where did you go to support your career?  Conferences, retreats?

What is your biggest accomplishment of the year?

Where did you fall short of your expectations this year?

How much money did you earn?  Is that up or down from the year before?  How much would you like to earn next year?

What are your goals for your writing career for the coming year?

What’s one thing you can do today towards accomplishing one of those goals?

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