Friday Fun – What does it mean to “make it” as a writer?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Success can mean very different things to different people. What does success as a writer look like (and feel like!) to you? Do you believe you can ever truly “make it” as a writer, and – if so – what does that mean, exactly?

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: Ok, I’ll dive in on this one. I am a successful writer when words I’ve written impact someone else either positively or in a way that makes them consider an alternate perspective.

I am a successful writer. People have commented on pieces that I’ve written for the Boston Globe, our local newspaper and even things I’ve read at our annual school board meeting. People seek me out when they need to craft a message to convey information to their audience in a way that the audience will understand.  I’ve “made it” in my local sphere.

There is always room for growth and improvement, now, I want to “make it” in a larger sphere. I’m working on a romantic fiction novel. When that’s published and someone says to me “thanks for the enjoyable read”. I’ll know I’ve made it in that sphere.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I knew I “made it” as a writer when I completed my first year as a freelancer. I made my living as a writer. I’m now on year 10 and each year is better than the last. I’ve been published in fiction and non-fiction; seen my byline and ghostwritten. I write for fun. I write for money. I write because it’s what I do. I’ve “made it” and will keep “making it” as long as I can and in a variety of ways!

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace:  Reading the other responses, I realize that this is a more complex question than I realized. There are as many ways to define and measure success as there are kinds of writing.

For instance, though I have attained a certain level of success as a freelance content writer (I support myself and my daughter with my writing and have earned the respect and referrals of many great clients), I have not (yet!) given myself the opportunity to seriously pursue success as a fiction writer (I dabble, but don’t submit). Also, though they are not paying gigs, I consider my bi-weekly column in my local paper and my role  here on Live to Write – Write to Live to be writing successes. I may not be financially compensated for this work, but it gives me great satisfaction and the joy of connecting with others.

Would I ultimately like to earn a good living writing fiction? Yes. Do I consider myself a failure as a writer until I’ve accomplished that goal? Definitely not. I like to think of my “writer status” as a work in progress. Today, I’m a successful content writer, practicing essayist, and aspiring fiction writer. Someday (in the not-too-distant future) I plan to be a published author and someday after that, a profitable novelist. Until then, I’m going to do my best to savor all my successes – small and large – in all the parts of my writing life.

photo of Julianne HolmesJulie Hennrikus: The goal post keeps moving, doesn’t it? I do think that publication is a benchmark, but does that mean “making it”? I suspect that, for me, making it will be to continue to write, and to get better at my craft. Add to the publications. Perhaps, one day, to be able to support myself as a writer? Not sure, but I’m in for figuring this out!

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I like Julie’s image of a moving goalpost – and I’ve been guilty in the past of moving the goal further out as soon as I’ve scored. But no longer. I also used to measure myself exclusively by how much I earned with my pen, but now know that money is only one, limited, measure of success. Both these traits – moving the goal and measuring success only by income – breed chronic dissatisfaction, which can still the pen. I now believe that success is a series of achievements, from writing daily to reaching an audience. By that measure, I’m increasingly successful: writing, publishing, earning, and reaching a growing audience.

Friday Fun – Were you always good at writing?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: So, you’re a writer now, but were you always good at writing? Were you a straight-A student in English class? Did you study writing in college? Or, were you a late bloomer who never expected to learn to love this crazy craft?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I always loved reading and writing and I did well in English class–I love grammar. In college, I took more science classes than English classes, but I read all the books my roommate brought home to read for her classes–she was an English major. Between college and medical school I helped edit a textbook (Nadas’ Pediatric Cardiology) while working at Boston Children’s Hospital, then got a job editing articles and books at the Orthopedic Research Lab at Columbia, in NYC. Then I went to medical school and I stopped writing, except in my journal. While I read and studied medicine, I never gave up reading for pleasure, even if it was for 5 minutes before bed or during a 10 minute subway ride.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30’s that I started writing again, and realized I still carried my childhood dream of being a writer. I started very slowly, and I’m still not writing full-time, but it’s a part of my daily life and I’m so grateful. I plan to keep reading and writing and learning for as long as I can.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I started writing at a young age, with those cute diaries with small locks and keys. I wrote my own stories during grade school and got ‘validation’ in 5th grade when a story I wrote won some type of contest that allowed me to attend a college campus for a day. That was so thrilling. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a writer and in high school I wrote for the high school paper. Writing wasn’t a career supported by my family, so I dove into business classes, but always wrote on the side – I even loved creating my own business case studies, and when I started working I always rewrote processes (because they needed to be improved!)

I didn’t major or focus on English classes until I was going after my second master’s degree – that’s when I focused on literature and writing – where I hoped to narrow my writing interests down to one genre. That idea backfired and I found new genres I enjoyed – TV scriptwriting, writing for children, news writing,, technical writing, poetry…every writing class I took would have me saying “Oh, wow, I love this!”

I journal every day, but my fiction has taken a back burner and my muse it getting quite agitated, so that will change quite soon! I can’t live comfortably when the muse is constantly pushing at my gray matter.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

I’m an only daughter with three brothers, and I started writing in order to be heard. Because I had so little voice at the dinner table, I learned to articulate my thoughts on paper. Over a life-time, I’ve become better and better at this.



JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I have loved stories, reading, and writing for as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest memories are of whole days spent squirreled away somewhere with a book. Whether my hideaway was a blanket fort, a nook at the foot of my childhood bed, or the boughs of a tree, I loved getting lost in other worlds, exploring a boundless world of possibilities simply by reading ink on a page.

Though I didn’t think of myself as a “writer” until much later in life, I began journaling at the age of seven. I also recorded my dreams and wrote really bad poetry. I never had any real inhibitions about either writing or sharing my writing. It was always just a natural part of being me. I carried notebooks around and scribbled my thoughts about everything and nothing. In school, I didn’t stand out as the “class writer” or anything like that, but I had an aptitude for the language arts that earned me praise and encouragement from my teachers.

My one year at Boston College did not include any writing classes. In fact, I almost went to a visual arts college – Parsons in New York. My creative focus in those early years was more on illustration and photography. Writing had, I think, become such an integral part of my identity that it kind of disappeared … fell off my conscious radar. It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my fourteen-year marriage at the age of thirty-eight that I extended my journal writing (which I’d kept up all those thirty some odd years) into a blog. That was when I began to realize that maybe I was, actually, a writer.

It’s funny the way our paths wind through life on such a circuitous route, but inevitably take us to the place we were headed to all along. I sometimes wonder if my writing life would be different (read: “better,” whatever that means) if I’d pursued it more directly earlier in life, if I’d been more aware, consistent, and dedicated from the start. I’ll never know now, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is not the words I didn’t write yesterday, but the words I write today.

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: I was one of those kids who always wrote stories. Fortunately, I showed a little bit of talent and I had teachers who encouraged me (that was HUGE!)

In the fourth grade, I won first place in a poetry contest with my poem that started off with:

EL Blanco was a pony wild and free

His mother was a stallion, the same as he.

Clearly at that point, biology wasn’t my strong suit.

I always seemed to take an outside view of any assignment. When given an assignment in 6th grade to write about war, I wrote about the personal agony of the pilot who (in my story anyway) unknowingly dropped the atom bomb on Japan. I had him struggling with his guilt by smoking cigarettes, drinking, and being in a depression (although at the time, I didn’t understand that’s what I was describing.)

A Christmas assignment had me writing from the abandoned-on-the-curve-no-longer-needed Christmas tree’s point of view.

I’m not sure I was any more talented as a writer than my peers, but I did seem to have a knack for writing outside the box and THANK GOD my teachers saw that as something to be applauded instead of something that needed to be squelched.

A Cure for Marketing and Its Discontents

icons-419200_640It’s now a month since I launched my redesigned website, started blogging, re-branded my author page on Facebook, updated my LinkedIn profile and joined Twitter.

I wish I could say that the result has been an unequivocal success with hundreds of site visits, subscribers, friends, connections and followers.

Mostly, I feel as if I’m crawling up the steep and jagged learning curve on bloody hands and scraped knees. I keep looking ahead, at how much higher I have to go to reach – what? What, exactly, am I aiming for?

I had several clear goals in mind at the outset: update my website, start a blog, clarify my branding, build audience and increase my use of social media.

I’m doing all these. But I want more.

cakes-489849_640I’m like a glutton at a banquet, scanning the buffet for what to eat next while wolfing down what’s already heaped on my plate. Instead of counting my new followers, I’m looking to see how many more I need to reach 500. Instead of remembering that a month ago I didn’t have any subscribers to my blog – I didn’t even have a blog! – I’m disappointed to see how few people have signed up. I look at my numbers and want more subscribers, more followers, more, more, more!

I’ve caught a bad case of Marketing Disease, an ailment whose main symptoms are insatiability and discontent. And I’m working on a self-cure.

The first line of treatment is to look at the hard data of before and after.

  • Before, I had a website that was five years old, outdated with an average of 57 visitors a day;
    • now, I have a website that is current and attracting an average of 157 visitors a day, which is about 125 more people than I actually know.
  • Before I did not have a blog of my own;
    • now I’m posting weekly, on Wednesdays.
  • Before, I had no subscribers;
    • now, I have twenty-one, eleven of whom I don’t know. Of the other ten, only three are blood relatives and one’s my husband. (Full disclosure: I signed him up.)
  • Before, I had a Facebook Page for Into the Wilderness with 335 likes;
    • now I have a page for Deborah Lee Luskin, Author, with 410.
  • Before I wasn’t on Twitter;
    • now I am both a follower and followed.

There are other benefits, too.

  • While I blundering my way around  Twitter, I’m stumbling across a lot of good articles, blogs and news items I probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen. I’m learning a lot.
  • I’ve had three queries for paid work through my website, which means my marketing is working and my website’s effective. I’ve also had a modest bump in book sales.
  • Best of all, I’m writing more. In addition to this blog, my blog, and my Vermont Public Radio commentaries, I have a new, monthly column coming out in the Rutland Herald this week, about middle age.

Speaking my mind and reaching an audience sustains me as I embark on the arduous task of starting a new novel, tentatively titled Seasons of Grace.

When I measure how far I’ve come in a month, I can see my progress and feel good. When I only look ahead at how many followers other people have, I feel hopeless, like a failure.

I much prefer to feel good, so I’m tracking the hard data – and keeping my pen to the page.

photo by M. Shafer

photo by M. Shafer

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, educator, and public speaker. She lives in southern Vermont.

Learning from Failure

Papers to be FiledLong-time readers of this blog know that I’ve spent the last three years researching, writing and rewriting Ellen, a novel. I showed it to my agent twice along the way, and knew she had reservations about the premise, main character, time period and tone. I wrote the book anyway, and I turned it in. To say my agent didn’t like it is an understatement. She hates it. It’s not a novel she can represent.

I’m very proud of how I listened to her objections. I can see the validity of all her points, and I can’t argue her into liking something she doesn’t, so I didn’t even try. Besides, I agree: the book’s flawed.

Before we were off the phone, I started to think about the next book I’ve been circling around for some time, and I experienced a momentary euphoria at being able to start something new. Then the shock of that phone call wore off and I wept.

I peered into the abyss of despair and considered diving into a tailspin, but that’s so predictable. So I stepped away from the edge and began cleaning my house. Specifically, I started to clean the room that was once my study and is now simply a mess.

Before I had my studio, and when I was teaching all over the state, this room was where I dumped my books, papers, correspondence, short stories, essays, contracts, scripts, receipts, reading lists and the kids’ letters from their gap years abroad. The youngest has been home for five years and is now out of college. Clearly, it’s time to clean up.

Aside from the therapeutic effects of creating order where there was none, I’m deriving pleasure from finally tackling a long-delayed project, surprise at just how productive I’ve been, and resignation at how hopeless I am about maintaining order.

Sorting through several years of past work reminds me of all that I’ve done – in addition to writing a flawed novel. Letters from friends, former editors, previous employers – all these artifacts of a productive life remind me that I haven’t always lived in self-imposed seclusion, and that I do have marketable skills and significant successes.

Every day I spend sifting through the stacks of papers and piles of books, I also consider how, exactly, I’m going to go on. Put another way, what can I learn from this failure?

A lot, it turns out. Including: the world hasn’t ended; my imagination hasn’t dried up; I haven’t run out of paper or ink or pixels or RAM or even things to say. So onward, with spirit!

Wishing good words and wide audiences to writers everywhere.

photo by M. Shafer

photo by M. Shafer

 Deborah Lee Luskin writes Living In Place from her home in southern Vermont.

Measuring Success

ITW with IPPY           I initially launched my website as a marketing tool, when Into the Wilderness, my first novel, was published in 2010. The site was incredibly useful during the first year the book was out and I was traveling to bookstores and libraries, giving readings. I posted my schedule of upcoming events on my landing page, uploaded reviews, and directed event coordinators to my media kit, where they could download my author photo and templates for posters and a press release. There was even a bio they could use to introduce me. Slick.

I also tried to see beyond the publication of a single novel; I wanted the site to be a marketing tool for a career. So I included information about some of the other work I do: Visiting Scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council, Commentator for Vermont Public Radio, and free-lance teacher and talking head willing to take on any interesting challenge. The “Contact Me” page has been the most surprising and wonderful element of the site.

At first, I heard from event planners, contacting me to read from the book; then readers emailed “just to say hello.” Strangers poured out praise; some asked for advice; many told me their own stories of migration or of finding unbidden love. More recently, people have been emailing me to speak, to write, and to teach.

These emails always arrive via cyberspace as a surprise. I’m so focused on the novel I’m writing that it’s easy for me to lose sight of the bigger picture – the whole me. Because it takes me a long time to write a novel, and because I measure my writing success almost entirely as a novelist, my sense of success often takes a hit, something I realized when an email “to teach” crossed my screen.

The email was from a Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of Vermont, Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He wondered if I’d be willing to talk with a high school junior who was possibly interested in writing career. If we clicked, would I tutor the student over the summer? You bet I would! This is just the sort of work I adore, and I’m looking forward to meeting the young man later this week.coal-miner-mallet-1

But what really boosted me out of the word-mine where I’ve been toiling so long and so lonely, was something the rehabilitation counselor said over the phone. “You’re a successful writer who can give our client some insight.”

I’m a successful writer? Really?

Because I’ve only been measuring my success as a novelist, I’d lost sight of other ways to measure my writing career. Lately, my self-appraisal has been plummeting toward failure. So this was a wake-up call to readjust how I think of success. Clearly, I’ve discounted all the other ways that I’m a writer in the world. This cold call reminds me that I’ve been writing a long time, I’ve put a lot of words out in print, and I’ve touched many lives with my words. If that isn’t writing success, I don’t know what is.

How do you measure success as a writer?

dll2013_124x186In addition to writing, Deborah Lee Luskin raises bees, vegetables, chickens and daughters in southern Vermont.


Be Your Own Cheerleader to Push to the Next Level

Do you find yourself unmotivated or drained when you look around and no one is cheering you on to achieve your goals? Does lack of support make you question your dream?

If you find yourself here, stop, take a breath, and perform a reality check.

Here’s a secret: You and only you have the power to meet and exceed your goals and turn your dreams into everyday life.

Yes, I know sometimes it’s difficult to get on the rah-rah-let’s-go train, but, honestly, does it really matter what Friend A, B, or C thinks about your dreams?

We’re each unique and need to share ourselves with the world in a manner that is true to us, individually.

The only person we need to impress is ourself. If we end up surprising family or friends, it’s a bonus. But when we can prove to ourselves our dreams and goals are achievable, well, it’s euphoric.

In my working life, I seek out writing opportunities that push me to learn more — it’s the only way I can grow. And when I nail a project, well, I do a happy dance to celebrate.

Similarly, in my personal life, I’m focused on being a better runner. Running is still new to me, but I enter races, I show up, and I cross the finish lines. I’m not first, I’m not last, but I do my best in that moment. Kudos and cheers at the end are fabulous, but what puts the biggest smile on my face is knowing what it took me to get there — and actually getting there.

Lisa 2014 Millenium Mile

You, like me, may always work (or run) with other people, but it’s our own thoughts that keep the forward momentum going — that get us to the end of the project (or finish line).

If you keep moving toward your goals, step by step, little by little, day by day — no matter what others think or say — you will achieve what it is that you want to achieve.

Believe in yourself.

Repeat after me: “I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Oh, yeah, I totally have this. YEAH!”

Now, go on and get this week started!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She just crossed her 4th runner’s finish line in 2014 and danced on her way back to her car to celebrate the victory. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

My business writing year in review

Earlier this month, the NHWN bloggers met via Google Hangout. Lee has a nice summary of the evening here. One topic was to share our achievements for 2013 and share some 2014 goals.

The new year brings new opportunities and I’m excited with how 2013 has ended, and inspired for 2014.

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Here’s a high-level look at my writing year, my 7th as an independent writer and editor. Some achievements include:

  • Financially, I blew my own mind by achieving 6 figures — my highest annual income ever. ‘Freelancing’ doesn’t have to equate to living on a tight budget (although my frugality is still well in place). Many happy dances and loud “Woo Hoo” shouts have echoed through the walls here, especially this month as the goal was realized!
  • 3 prior clients came back for more projects. I love building lasting relationships!
  • I wrote about small business ownership for American Express at their request. 
  • I published 4 NH-related travel articles in  a regional monthly magazine I loved. (It closed its doors in August, even though it was successful.)
  • I blogged here on NHWN weekly for most of the year.
  • I converted my website over to WordPress.
  • I have a business logo designed.
  • I joined a business mastermind group.
Make 2014 awesome!

Make 2014 awesome!

2014 business writing and editing wildly inspiring goals include:

  • Double my 2013 income
  • Gain 12 new long-term clients
  • Publish 12 writing-related and 12 small business ownership related e-books
  • Use business blog for writing and small biz ownership posts
  • Integrate my own photos into blog posts, especially with inspirational sayings on them
  • Publish NH and New England travel articles again

I’ve joined a business mastermind group and am now a co-organizer for a NH-focused networking group that plans monthly events. This year I also joined a local Chamber of Commerce and made connections with a networking group focused on New England. These groups will help me meet people (obviously), but also to build relationships and learn more about myself so I can continue to grow and improve overall.

Although my business has international clients, I have a strong desire to work with regional businesses where I can meet face-to-face. Technology is great and telecommuting is fantastic, but I feel there’s more to a client relationship when we can meet in person whenever possible.

I also write and publish fiction and poetry and those accomplishments and goals are separate from my business. Definitely ‘upping my game’ in that area, too!

If you need some help setting writing goals, this article may help: 15 New Year Writing Resolutions to Adopt in 2014 by David K. William of The Web Writer Spotlight.

What is one major goal you have regarding writing in 2014?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Holidays can be great for productivity

Christmas is on Wednesday. Smack in the middle of the week. So, not a very productive week on the surface, right?

Many people scramble to keep up with work, holiday shopping, and plans to participate in family and other holiday events.

It can be stressful.

But if you plan for it, the holidays can also be a great time to be productive in your business. Honest.

I find the last two weeks of December to be my most productive of the year. If I’m organized at the start of the month, everything can be accomplished before Christmas.

December is the one month that I schedule the first 3 weeks in detail (instead of a week-by-week approach I take the rest of the year).

Seeing everything that needs to be done written out early on keeps the stress to a minimum.

Lists, tasks, goals, and the success journal are front-and-center to help, of course, but I also implement another visual tool.

I use a full-size monthly wall calendar for holiday-related tasks and use post-it flags for to identify the tasks. Holiday shopping, groceries, sending out Christmas cards, phone calls to family, attending events — all of these have colored flags and are stuck to the applicable day in December. 

Not the best pic, but example with 'flags'

Not the best pic, but example with ‘flags’

The green flags are tasks that can be easily moved (if need be); dark pinks (since I don’t have red) are the events that most likely won’t change; yellows are tasks I can do at home; and orange flags represent the miscellany that involve scheduling/pre-planning.

If an errand can’t be done on one day because of weather, it can easily be moved to another day. If I don’t get to a yellow task on one day, I move it to another.

Knowing I’ll have downtime during the last 2 weeks of the month is motivating. I don’t want any flags on my calendar after Dec 24.

This year, Dec 26-Jan 3 will be quiet workwise since deadlines fell on Dec 20th and most people won’t get back into the swing of things until the first full week of January.

I’ll be spending the ‘quiet’ days wrapping up year-end paperwork, clearing the desk, and getting ready for business to open on Jan 4th.

If you run your own writing (or any) business, you can’t stop working just because the holidays come along. But you can enjoy the holidays and get your work done, too. I takes a little proactive planning (that’s redundant, but makes my point), but it’s well worth the effort.

Next week, my post will be summarizing my 2013 year and giving you a glimpse into my 2014 plans. I’m quite excited about what’s coming up, since this year… oh, wait, that’s for next week!

Have you had experience planning out December in order to enjoy some ‘downtime’ at the end of the month?

I wish you a productive end of the year!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Wildly Improbable Goals 2013 Update

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back and see how far I’ve come this year. Back in January, I posted my Wildly Improbable Goals for 2013 and encouraged you to do the same.

Now it’s time to do a little reflecting and celebrating!

I recently wrote about times when I use my goals (Wildly Improbable and otherwise) to berate myself and feel bad—that is not what this post is about. I choose to feel good about everything I’ve accomplished and to use the goals I haven’t achieved to help me think about ways I can make changes so I can achieve them in 2014.

So, here’s my update:

WIG: Become a published author in 2013.

  • Okay, this one didn’t happen. I did, however, make a lot of progress with my writing (see below) and this goal is one I’m going to keep for 2014.

WIG: Publish a magazine article in a magazine in 2013.

  • This one didn’t happen either. I did do a lot of research on magazines and find out which ones I’d like to submit to, so I’m well set up for success next year.

WIG: Become newsletter editor for Martha Beck Inc. in 2013.

  • I applied for the job and didn’t get it. I tried, that’s the important thing. I feel good about the whole process and plan to apply again when the opportunity presents itself.

WIG: Polish and pitch my novel in 2013.

  • I did do this, sort of. I worked on my novel and I did talk to an agent about it, but my novel has morphed and I’m not sure exactly what genre it fits into anymore—so my conversation with the agent was more a fact-finding mission than a pitch. It was still fun and exciting!

When I wrote my WIGS, I also wrote out first steps to reach my first WIG: Become a published author in 2013. Here’s how I did:

First Steps:

  1. Have something for critique every time my writing group meets (every other week.) I did submit to my critique group, but definitely not every other week. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it for the whole year. At one point, I went back to my novel (on the advice of my writer’s group) and looked at every scene in my novel and figured out the goals, motivation, and conflict for each—very instructive!
  2. Write in journal every day—prompts, free-writes, anything that fosters my creativity. I have kept up with my daily journal but can’t say I actually wrote every single day, although I did write most days. I have journaled a lot more this year than I did in 2012. I did prompts and free-writes, which I love, as well as my regular journal writing. I don’t think committing to do anything every day is going to work for me.
  3. Print out novel and line edit by March 1st. Did not do this as I realized I had “big picture” rewrites to do (which I made a good start on!)
  4. Commit to monthly accountability meeting with L. Did this and found it extremely helpful.

Lessons learned: It’s nice to have WIGS, but it’s also nice to have smaller goals. Also, I’d like to figure out a way to note my progress on totally abstract things like “Spend more time in the zone and less time feeling blocked and hopeless.”

I’m always going to be a person who makes lists and set goals, but I’ve learned over this past year that I need to check in with myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually) before I make my list for the day.

One of my favorite quotes is the following, which sums up current philosophy on goal-setting:

We vastly overestimate what we can accomplish in one day and we vastly underestimate what we can accomplish in five years.

–Peter Drucker

What happened with your WIGS this year?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, stepmother, and family physician. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of family, fun, and festivities, and then I’ll be back to my desk, setting my goals for the new year and creating a calendar that includes all my favorite things (especially writing!) Happy Holidays!

A Writer’s Year in Review

four seasons treeA year goes by so quickly now.

When I was a child, it took forever to get from one birthday to the next. Time was a slow-moving beast whose sticky paws held me down and made me wait. Now, whole seasons pass in what feels like an afternoon. I turn my back for one minute and Memorial Day has become Labor Day, and then Halloween and the holidays.

When you are a child, you don’t need to do anything today because there is always tomorrow. You have no sense of urgency, no true belief in “The End.” When we grow up, time shrinks. The long, idle days of doing nothing are suddenly filled with a jostling crowd of demands that turn hours into minutes and months into days. We are so busy wrangling whatever is right in front of us that we lose sight of what’s ahead. Suddenly tomorrow is yesterday and all our good intentions have been shuffled into a dusty corner, where they huddle – forlorn and reproachful.


I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I will always be a writer.

I write almost every day: morning pages, journal entries, marketing content, a bi-weekly column (and occasional feature) for my local paper, lots and lots of blog posts.

And yet, my good intentions are getting restless.

They want more.

They aren’t fooled.

They want the real deal, and so do I.  I don’t just want to be a writer; I want to be a Writer. I’m deeply grateful that I’m able to make a living playing with words to create brands and content for my marketing clients, but in my heart of hearts I’ve always wanted to write a different kind of story – the kind of story that keeps readers up until late into the night because they just have to know what happens next.

That’s what I dreamed of doing when I was a kid and had all the time in the world.


A year in the life of a writer is not measured in days or seasons; it’s measured in beginnings, middles, and endings. A writer’s year is measured word by word and story by story. It’s measured in truths revealed and true lies told well.

When I look back as a writer on the past twelve months, I am happy to be able to count many small victories, but I am also keenly aware of all the good intentions still waiting in the wings. I have excuses for neglecting them – very good excuses, all very valid and believable. But, excuses won’t stop the years from slipping by like the blurred scenery outside the window of a speeding train. One of these days, that train is going to pull into the station and the ride will be over.

It’s time to pull the emergency brake.

I will not beat myself up over lost time or opportunities and neither should you. The past is the past. We can’t change it. We can only change the present. What action can you take right now – this minute – to bring your good intentions one tiny step closer to being realized? What small choice can  you make to put your Important Work ahead of your busy work? What will you do to keep your promises to yourself?

Each year in the life of a writer is a good year, even the ones filled with strife and heartache and disappointment. Everything teaches us. Everything becomes raw material for the work of putting down words and shaping stories. Sometimes, the deepest tragedies can be our greatest gifts. Sometimes, our own shortcomings can be the fuel that pushes us past our fears and excuses so we can become the writer we want to be.

There is a new year on the horizon. We are rushing towards it even as we look back at the old one. It is good to take a moment to see how far we’ve come, but do not tarry too long with what was. You don’t live there anymore. You live here, right now. This is your time. What are you going to do with it?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

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