New Year, New Focus

AThGet Something Down

As you launch into 2018, I wish you plenty of energy, time and resources to pursue your dreams to the utmost. May 2018 be for you a year of breakthroughs and satisfaction, of positive challenge and solid growth.

The new year is a wonderful opportunity for doubling down or an exciting time of reinvention. For me, 2018 is both!

The Next Chapter Begins

I start this year as a rookie free agent. I’ve retired from my career as a school counsellor, so it’s truly a new chapter of my life. With no salary or built-in support system, I have to imagine and create my own way to income, fulfilment and community.

I spent today, the first day of the new year, brainstorming possibilities. I uncapped my pristine .38 gel pens and created a colourful opportunity mindmap. I went wild and dreamed up all kinds of sources of income. Then, I shifted gears (and changed to my spiffy new Japanese dual highlighters) and picked out the themes and priorities.

Creactivity?

Finding the theme was easy with two focus points jumping off the page: Greater Creativity and Regular Activity. My previous job with its heavy emotional load affected my energy levels and took a toll on my health, but now I find myself in a blessed place where I can build energy, improve my fitness and develop creatively.

My mindmapping exercise led me to another conclusion: in order to generate an income, I have to have goods to sell. The more stock, the better the trade. Because of the demands on my time in the past, I have few finished, market-ready projects but oodles of inklings and half-formed ideas.

So Priority Number One for 2018 is to generate products. I must convert my notebooks full of ideas into tangible goods – namely manuscripts, stories, articles, and content.

Getting Things Down

I set my intention with Julia Cameron’s quote (above): “Art isn’t about thinking things up; it’s about getting things down.” My task for the early part of the year is cut out for me:

  • Outline and draft new manuscripts
  • Complete and submit current manuscripts
  • Research, write and pitch magazine articles
  • Pursue alternative writing-related income streams

Over to You

Do you have any tips to share about setting off on the full-time freelance path? Please leave a comment to inspire me!

You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November

November 2017 might now be history, but a lot happened, the least of which was acquiring new blogging and marketing techniques, including how to write click-baity blog titles, like “You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November”.

But to clear the air, let me start with what I DIDN’T do in November.

I didn’t memorise November’s poem for #MyEpicPoeticOdyssey. ‘The Author to Her Book’ was both longer than the previous months’ poems and written in Seventeenth Century English. I chose that poem in honour of NaNoWriMo, November’s international novel-writing event.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo: I did NaNoReWriMo instead. I wrote (unwrote and rewrote) way more than 50,000 words, but I can’t prove it, so I didn’t bother verifying on 30 November. No NaNo badge for me. Bummer.

More importantly though, I didn’t finish my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time as I’d hoped. I got tangled in a plot snag towards the end so I still have another 20% to go. Wish me luck!

I also didn’t blog here because I was (or rather wasn’t) doing all of the above. (I did blog here though.)

So if I wasn’t blogging here or verifying or finishing or memorising, what did I do?

I retired. Retired!

I know, right?!

After much soul-searching and hand-wringing, I closed the chapter on a 12-year career at a wonderful school. For most of that time, I was a school counsellor, a job that was both rewarding and challenging.

The school allowed me to establish a healthy balance by taking on all kinds of creative asides that utilised my writing skills.

  • I created a comprehensive life skills curriculum for six grades. It addressed the standard social-emotional wellbeing and resilience, but for the higher grades I incorporated real-world skills, things the kids will need when they graduate, like money smarts, relationship wisdom, media savvy, personal safety, and knowledge to battle stigma against mental illness. I wove in skills for clear, logical thinking so students could recognise and refute fallacies and fake news.
  • When the college took on 1:1 learning with iPads, I spearheaded a digital wellbeing education program for secondary students and their parents. To do it, I first had to overcome my own technophobia and ignorance by developing tech skills and embracing the digital life. It was life changing, and I am so glad I did it. I built and started e-Quipped, a digital parenting website and its accompanying Facebook page.
  • I wrote magazine and webzine articles featuring the school’s forward thinking in digital education.
  • I ran a personal development program for fifth and seventh grade girls. It was a huge joy and honour to stomp on society’s negative preconceptions and fears about women’s bodies and instead present them as God-created things of wonder and mystery, beauty and strength.
  • I was an invited author guest in the Junior School’s Book Week festivities and senior English classes when the students were working on short stories. I also got to mentor budding authors in the Challenge-Based Learning program and through my initiative, Inklings, a co-curricular writing group. I cherished all of these writerly opportunities.

In the final 18 months of my employment, I reduced my counselling hours to fill a void in the Marketing & Communications office while the college recruited a new M&C manager. After about 15 weeks, they finally found Agnese, a whiz-woman and all-round wonderful person. The things Ags taught me will be so valuable in my freelance career:

  • Branding – from font to front office
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • copywriting – “Think benefits, not features.”
  • managing social media
  • slick email campaigns
  • creating grabby headlines
  • salvaging poor photographs with Photoshop
  • the value of good photography
  • where to find fantastic high-res stock images
  • how to modify images so they look classy (one font only (…maybe two))

When she hired Leonie, graphic designer extraordinaire, to rebrand, I learned about colours, fonts, paper quality and choosing the right style of photograph. Watching a pro work with Photoshop and other Adobe tools is like watching a magic show. I also got to work with teaching colleagues Roz, a talented photographer, and Ming, creator of award-winning videos. I rubbed shoulders with talent and greatness on a daily basis.

I got to work on all kinds of publications: monthly newsletters, email campaigns, website content, heaps of brochures, media releases, a prospectus, and two beautiful yearbooks—my pride and joy. In the midst of writing gazillions of words for the college, I co-created and published two books!

I’m so grateful to be entering my new writing career well equipped. I can thank my school (Leighton, June, Fiona and Paul) and Agnese for giving me both experience and confidence.

Chapter Next

I am thrilled to take on the role of coordinator of the Sunshine Coast sub-branch of SCBWI-Queensland (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I’m looking forward to serving and collaborating with the kidlit creators in my region. I’ve already met so many talented and vibrant creatives!

December’s work is finishing my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time with my ASA (Australian Society of Authors) mentor Catherine Bateson. I’ll write about that wonderful experience in January. Again, I’ve learned so much.

Once I put ToLT to bed, I’ll open my notebook of ideas and start to play. I have been stockpiling stories and business ideas for such a time as this. It’s my time to create.

Let’s ride!

Over to You

Do you have any advice for me as I transition to full-time writing? Please leave me a message in the comments!

 

Image Credits

Photo by michele spinnato on Unsplash, modified by Ali

Photo by FORREST CAVALE on Unsplash