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It's the time of year for looking back at how far we have come and looking forward to what we will achieve in the coming year.
I LOVE New Year and I'm a goal-setting junkie, so as I do every year, here are my thoughts and goals for 2018. Please do join in and leave yours in the comments if you'd like some accountability!
Round-Up of 2017
In the podcast episode, I talk through my round-up of 2017, which you can find in the article from yesterday here.
It includes the rise and rise of collaboration, stabilization of the indie author business model, the changing entertainment environment, and how I did at achieving my creative goals for 2017, as well as what I failed to achieve and why.
Thoughts and Goals for 2018
2018 marks the 10th year of TheCreativePenn. I started the site in December 2008 to share my journey as a writer and try to help others with my lessons learned. That underlying reason hasn’t changed, even though the publishing environment is radically different these days.
I also aim to empower creatives to get their words out into the world and to make a living writing – because that’s what changed my life, and I know it can change yours too. My aim is to help more writers and authors in 2018 and begin the next 10 years of our journey together.
Every 1 January, I post my goals for the year and this year, I will start with some over-arching principles, followed by more specific goals for each author name and aspect of my business. I hope it will help you consider what your goals might be, and I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.
(1) Choose your filters
I’m currently reading WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up To Us by Tim O’Reilly. It’s a great book as it looks back at the history of the internet and technology and then extrapolates it forward into the future, integrating new technologies along the way. Tim uses WTF as a lens – because you can use it in a shocked and apprehensive manner, or you can use it in a curious and wondering manner. This can apply to a lot of our world right now, and as he says,
“We must commit to building something new, strange to our past selves, but better, if we commit to making it so.”
We can choose what to focus on.
He also talks about the “new kinds of magic that are slowly fading into the ordinary.” This is true for authors because when I started my site in 2008, there was no international Kindle, no mainstream market for ebooks, no international print on demand, no digital audiobook market, no ability to easily reach readers. The iPhone was brand new, podcasting was in its earliest days and back then, I couldn’t see how I could make a living online.
What are you taking for granted that is actually incredible?
If you change your filter, you realise how incredibly fortunate we are to be living at this time in history.
Despite the negative news of 2017, we live in an incredibly abundant world with possibilities around every corner, if only you look out for them. Our brains scan the environment for what to pay attention to, so it’s your job to make sure you train it to look for opportunities and the positive side of life.
It’s time to take the things that have made you angry or frustrated or negative, and turn them into positive creative action.
If you have news feeds or social media or people who make you feel consistently negative, then it might be time for a spring clean of those influences. Start reading different books and blogs, listen to different podcasts (although I hope you consider mine to be positive and useful!)
Here’s one of my own examples. As much as I appreciate Facebook for the social connection and ability to reach readers with advertising, I removed it from my phone over 6 weeks ago and have felt all the better for it. Apparently, this is known as social cooling. Yes, it has a name, so it must be a thing!
I read Wired magazine, Singularity Hub, The Verge, Digital Trends, Self Publishing Advice from the Alliance of Independent Authors, which is always skewed towards positive action, rather than moaning about what’s wrong with this picture. I listen to Exponential Wisdom podcast, which gives me my tech focus, and read/listen to non-fiction books on self-development and positive thinking.
I exorcised my anger over Brexit through the political edge of borders in Map of Shadows, so now I am ready to look at it positively and move forward, rather than keep focusing on the past.
Yes, you might consider that a filter means you will live in a bubble, but I’m happy in mine and you create your life day by day, so I’m choosing a positive, happy and creative bubble. How about you?
Do you have any influences that you need to change in 2018? How will you choose your filters so the year is a positive, creative one for your writing life?
(2) Use the power of batching
When people ask me how I get everything done, my answer always involves scheduling. I schedule my time way in advance – that includes my writing time – as well as business meetings, social events, holidays and more.
I use Google Calendar, but the tool is less important than the actual planning and blocking out of time for creative tasks as well as the rest of life.
Don’t feel guilty about not having time for writing. Just get a calendar, block out the time, and then actually show up for that appointment with yourself and the blank page.
But in 2018, I will be going even further.
I spoke at Youpreneur Summit in November and listened to uber-podcasters John Lee Dumas (JLD) of Entrepreneur on Fire and Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income talk about how they use batching. JLD does a daily podcast and batches all his interviews for the month into a few days, and Pat does the same for his interview shows.
I’ve been managing my time in two main chunks – mornings for creative work and production e.g. writing first drafts, editing, researching etc. The afternoons have been for the podcast, blog, business admin, marketing, interviews, speaking prep etc.
But I’ve found that to write fiction in the most effective way, I need to sink into that world for an extended period. So it would be better for me to batch 3 months of interviews into a week or two, and then have the next 8-10 weeks with no distractions, except the daily business maintenance, which I could squeeze into a shorter time frame.
So that’s my plan. I’ll be batching similar tasks together and scheduling my time differently.
How could this idea of batching help you in your writing life?
For example, the split between writing and marketing is one every author has to manage, wherever you are on the journey. If you have 1 day per week to write (or 4 hours, or whatever), could you dedicate 3 of those per month to writing and then spend the whole extra day on marketing, rather than trying to split your time each week?
If your goal is to write more in 2018, schedule your time right now for the rest of the year. It might sound extreme, but how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, so how are you spending yours?
OK, that’s the big themes. Let’s get into my more specific goals:
The Creative Penn website and podcast
The Creative Penn podcast will continue weekly – plus the occasional in-between-isode that focus on business or me talking on my own, so expect more Monday fun in 2018 🙂 The podcast is the cornerstone of how I share my author journey, so I hope it continues to help you along your own path.
I'll be revamping TheCreativePenn around Pathways for people through the site – for example, a first-time fiction author has a different journey to a non-fiction author with three books looking to make a living writing. This will involve more landing pages but also more ‘cheatsheet’ style resources like the new Author Website and Email cheatsheet and tutorials.
I'll be segmenting my email list so I can serve you better within those Pathways, directing people to the material that will help them the most. Now I’m using ConvertKit, this will be a LOT easier to do 🙂 Check out my tutorial here if you want to set up your own email list.
Focus on YouTube. I’ve had a YouTube channel since 2009. It currently has over 17,000 subscribers and over 1.2 million views. Not bad for a mostly passive channel, but I can definitely do better given the amount of long-form content the site has now based on the interviews.
So we’re going to add two shorter videos on YouTube every week, usually less than 5 mins long and focused on Writing Craft or Business. I will record some to camera but many will be from existing videos to make better use of the existing content. I’ll also be adding these directly to Facebook as well.
I'll be developing Mini-courses on Teachable – How to Write a Novel is an evergreen course and continues to sell slowly but surely as people reach the point they need it. I’ll be adding some smaller ‘lecture-style’ mini-courses around productivity, money, author business plans, how to write non-fiction, and possibly some other topics that people need over time.
Non-Fiction as Joanna Penn
I’m mostly going to focus my energy on the website, podcast, and YouTube channel in my non-fiction time. But I still think I can manage the following 🙂
- How to Write a Novel. This is currently in draft format, so needs editing and publishing, but I definitely want to get this out.
- How to Write Non-Fiction, since people keep asking for it!
- The Shadow book (working title). I made a start on this in December, but it has no shape as yet, so it looks to be a longer-term project that needs to marinate for longer. Unlikely to be out in 2018 but I will continue to work on it.
- More non-fiction audiobooks. I’ve been able to make the production costs back within two months for non-fiction, as non-fiction listeners are not price or length sensitive. I’ve also got the podcast as a way of marketing them, so I just need to edit the older books and then get them professionally recorded. I do all my audio as non-exclusive now so I can also sell direct and on other platforms.
Thriller / Dark Fantasy fiction as J.F.Penn
My bigger goal on the writing craft side is that I want to win an award. It might not be this year as that is outside of my control, but to win an award, I know I need to become a better writer. So I’ll be going deeper into craft and story, and also submitting to more awards, because you have to be in it to win it 🙂
I’ll be thinking about my J.F.Penn brand and whether I need to pivot more towards the fantasy market given the type of books and stories I’ve been writing in recent years.
As I mentioned in my 2017 round-up, I noticed that my entertainment consumption has shifted to a lot more TV and film. Plus, storytelling is paramount in those environments, so it fits with the goal above. Plus, it’s all about collaboration which is also something I am doing more of. So, I am revisiting screenwriting in 2018.
I’ve been flirting with it for years now and have even started a couple of adaptations. But this year, I’m committing to adapting at least two of my own novels into screenplays and submitting them to film/TV agents. The adaptation of the London Psychic trilogy is still being developed by a wonderful screenwriter, so hopefully, that will also be finished and submitted this year.
In terms of novels, I'll write ARKANE Thriller #10 – set in New Orleans and San Francisco, and Mapwalkers 2 – since Map of Shadows has been doing well 🙂
Possibly London Psychic #4 – since so many readers have asked for it. This is the bottom of the list though as frankly, this series falls through so many genre gaps, it is hard to know what the hell it is 🙂 Although the readers of this series say they love the books the most! I also want to write some short stories, for submission to traditional markets, and maybe another stand-alone novella.
I’m not planning on doing any more fiction audiobooks for now. Fiction audiobook listeners are sensitive to length/value for their subscription, and also are used to truly professional actors as narrators, with many big names narrating now. So I’ll be waiting to see how 2018 shapes up before deciding on any more fiction audio.
Sweet romance fiction as Penny Appleton
There will be three more Summerfield Village sweet romances, co-written with my Mum as Penny Appleton, plus another box set. She is loving writing, and since she is retired, she can be prolific and focused, especially since I do the story structure, polishing, editing, publishing, and marketing 🙂
My intention is also to at least break even in 2018, so that will be year two for this author name.
The practices outlined in The Healthy Writer have helped me so much in 2017, so I am going to double down on those in 2018.
I’m scheduling more time for creative rest and play, which for me, means regular walking and yoga, as well as some weekends, which I have been struggling to keep sacred over the last year. I’m booked for the Isle of Wight Challenge in May, 104km around the island in a weekend. I’m part of a team of 10 Creatives so far, and if you want to join our team, you’re welcome to email me!
I’ve also blocked out a week of no meetings per month, as well as the whole of December, plus I’ve scheduled more quiet time around any speaking engagements or social events, so I can recover more. This introvert needs her alone time 🙂 Hopefully, the batching method will also help with this.
I’ll be travelling more for self-development, book research, and fun, rather than for speaking. I only have NINC in Florida booked and am not intending to be doing any more than that in 2018, although I will be attending more events as a participant to focus on learning, rather than speaking.
I have investment goals and lifestyle goals that mean I want a step change in 2018 in terms of income. I’m waiting to see how that might happen so I’m open to possibilities right now 🙂
We had a step change in 2015, doubling the income for the company, so I’m ready for another shift of that magnitude.
As per the ‘filter’ idea and technology shifts above, I am leaning into the ideas that excite me, because I am not in this business to create another job, but I AM ambitious, both for my financial goals and creative goals.
Right, that’s me done! What are your specific goals for writing for 2018? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.
Aina Taurina says
Dear Joanna, I am sad to know you left facebook. I often hear from people that facebook is full of negative posts. However, I have more than 400 friends there and it is very rare than I find something that I don’t like in their posts. In my opinion facebook is a great platform 🙂
I am not planning my year ahead in such perfect manner as you do, but I try to reach some goals. For example, to write at least one paragraph a day and to draw one illustration a day.
I very appreciate tour effortless job to teach us and give us confidence and hope. Thank you very much!
Joanna Penn says
Hi Aina, I haven’t left Facebook. I just took it off my phone 🙂 I am still on the platform and have a FB page for each of my author names – https://www.facebook.com/TheCreativePenn/ I use it on my laptop. I just don’t want to be on social media when I have a moment of spare brain space! All the best for 2018,
Robin Lyons says
Another excellent podcast, Joanna! Thank you for sharing your “Thoughts And Goals For A Creative 2018.” I always pick up at least one nugget of genius information from you or your guests in every podcast.
Batching! OMG! I’m batching my blog posts immediately. Rather than spend one or two days every week, boom, do all for the month during in the first week. Thank you!!
Joanna Penn says
Glad that was a help 🙂
I let my writing slip too much in 2017, so I’ve hit the ground running in 2018 by doing JanNoWriMo -and I know it is early days but I am on track to hist 50K by Jan 31st. I’ve also already written more words in the first six days of this year than I wrote in the last two months of last year!
I love your blog and I’m so glad you are still going with such great content! You are a great inspiration.
I am an introvert too and need some time for myself which is difficult to find. I have plans to write non-fiction and fiction this year and to grow as an author. I have just beginning my journey and woman like you inspires me tremendously. Thanks for sharing.
Helen Bartley says
I have many specific goals. I already batch my work, but I’m fairly new to writing. My first book took four years, but thanks to Story Engines in 2017 I drafted four more novels. Which is great! However, funds are low – of course – and affording editing is slow.
(1)This year my target is the 7:30am-10:30am slot at my local coffee shop for creating. This has been working really well in the last half of the year. (One of my younger 3 teens start band at 7am each day of the week and this turned a negative into a positive for me – so more of that!)
(2)Produce a years worth of marketable materials and batch up two emails a month – using some of Tim Grahl’s advice there. ( And continue to work a year ahead.)
(3)Next, I need to build my team to get my publishing on a robust cycle.
(4)I want to write 5 first draft novels this year from plots. (Two genres now.) Products, products, products – that is my mission.
a) continue reading & reviewing (helps other authors)
b) Bryan Cohen – pro course
c) Your Business for Authors – can’t wait for it to arrive!
d) Looking for a course/advice in Researching – Would love to do a Joanna Penn course in this. Is there one and do you have the link please?
I don’t quite plan as much as you do, but I do get a buzz out of it. However, I have burnt myself in previous years by being too ambitious. I’ve learnt to count my blessings a lot more and my secret weapon is my physical productivity planner. My calendar is in my phone – and quite different. I am looking forward to a very exciting year of creating! Thank you for being there, for being you, for being a great inspiration!
Joanna Penn says
Sounds great – and I think exercise will help you not burn out – at least that’s my plan 🙂 Plus, trying to take weekends (she says, typing on a saturday!)
On research, http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2017/01/18/research-a-novel/ and I have a session on research in my How to Write a Novel course – https://thecreativepenn.com/writenovel
Have fun 🙂
Zoe Burton says
Hi Joanna! Great podcast!
I took Facebook off my phone a couple years ago, and Twitter last year, when I upgraded my phone. In my opinion, no one needs access to me that easily. If they’re close enough to need it, they have my cell phone number. 🙂
I also gave up news years ago. It stresses me out too much. I love my bubble, too! 😉
My health goals this year are to fight seasonal depression instead of giving in and to increase strength and reduce pain. I am getting on the treadmill every day, I take large doses of vitamin d, and got a diffuser and essential oils that are good for lifting one’s spirits. Of course, I live in Ohio’s snow belt, so shovelling snow helps me gain strength. (Sadly, I’m serious about that. LOL)
My writing goals include writing and publishing 8 to 10 books, learning more about effective Amazon and FB ads, and getting my website all figured out.
I earned enough last year, my first year full-time as a writer, to live if I was very frugal (lots happened to derail me or I’d have done much better.) This year, I plan to double that amount … so I don’t have to be so frugal! 😉
Thanks so much for all you do for authors! <3
Joanna Penn says
Thanks for sharing, Zoe – and downsizing in order to write is what I did as well.
In terms of seasonal depression, it’s not a frugal purchase, but I have a Lumie lamp for bright light in the winter. Really good 🙂
Claire Scobie says
I enjoyed your podcast so much this week, I listened to it twice 🙂 Once walking the beach in the sunny seaside village of Sawtell and then again yesterday when I was back in my Sydney garden counting our mangoes.
I’m a bit of a goal setting junkie too. The book I found incredibly helpful last year was the One Thing by Gary Keller. https://www.the1thing.com/ Do you know it?
It’s helped me focus and not over-extend.
I’m still using the notes from the Youpreneur summit and that’s really helping me get clear on what 2018 is going to be about.
For my writing:
1) Complete my current novel. For fiction I am still going to go with traditional publishers so I will be shopping that around mid-year.
2) On craft. Work on improving my plotting. That’s been a big focus since 2017. I find that writing residencies are just fantastic for immersing myself in my story world so I will be submitting applications for a whole range of residencies this year. I’d like to go to one in the States by the end of 2018.
3) For my business: complete putting in the necessary backend processes.
4) For my corporate storytelling business: keep building my client base and create a really smooth, enlightening and fun CX journey for my clients (this will also happen later in the year for my writing community).
5) For my health: I’m starting the year with a detox and will keep up my regular exercise routine as, like you, I know just how important it is!
Thanks again for all your insight and sharing your journey. I’ll be sharing your stuff with my network as always.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Claire, and it was lovely to meet you at Youpreneur. I’m actually interviewing Chris Ducker about his new book this morning 🙂 I like The One Thing as well, although I prefer Brendon Burchard’s idea of the “main” thing, because I have 3 author brands and I want to serve my community as well as write, so I can’t just do ONE thing! Happy healthy 2018!
Gwyn GB says
Thank you Joanna, inspiring as always. I spent my career in TV and also spent many years learning to write drama scripts before publishing my own novels. I can definitely recommmend the London Screenwriters Festival in September if you want to emerse yourself in that field. I went several years in a row and it is great in many fronts.
Amanda Brown says
Happy New Year, Joanna!
I had the great pleasure of hearing you speak at the Youpreneur Summit in London this autumn and thought your speech was one of the most powerful.
I really enjoyed the latest podcast and theprevious one about health. I’ll be putting that book on my reading list for 2018.
I have two comments:
1. Collaboration – this year marks my 20th anniversary of working from home and to celebrate I am writing a book in collaboration with my two daughters on helping home-based business people tackle the challenges of working from home.
I was therefore heartened by your comments on the rise in collaborative writing partnerships.
2. Batching – in managing my home-based businesses I believe taking batching to Pat Flynn and JLD’s levels is the best way to maximise efficiency. Solopreneurs have many hats to wear and the brain strain of constantly moving from one activity to another is not only inefficient but also very tiring. I am gong to move to even more batching in 2018.
All the best, Amanda
PS Enjoyed singing at the Christmas market in Bath (before the snow!)
Joanna Penn says
Hi Amanda, Thanks so much and Youpreneur was fantastic. I remember meeting you and you mentioning the singing. Happy collaborating for 2018!
Terri-ann Varga says
I’m sad you won’t be doing an audiobook this year for Map of Shadows – it would be great for audio. I have the digital copy but wanted to buy the audio too (for the long commute). You create such an amazing sense of place in your fiction. Love them all! Map of Shadows is my new favorite but can never go past Morgan as a Character – she’s wonderful.
Joanna Penn says
I’m sure I’ll get it sorted at some point, but I’m just not seeing the ROI on fiction audio until I have at least 3 books in a series! Thanks for listening to the others though and a new ARKANE book coming soon!
Nicole Evelina says
Joanna, you are an inspiration…and you are crazy to do all that you do, but I mean that in the best possible way. I don’t know how you do it. Just reading your list made me tried.
I’m looking forward to meeting you at NINC. It’s my first conference of theirs and this will be my first time seeing you in person (though I’ve been on many of your webinars).
I had no idea you and your mum are Penny Appleton! I love those books! I’m slowly making my way through your other fiction as well.
Interesting that you find non-fiction audio worth the money. I have a non fiction literary criticism book (it covers Guinevere’s evolution in Arthurian legend), but was hesitant to spend the money on audio. Now I’m wondering if I should.
Best of luck to you this year!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Nicole – and thanks for your support with Penny Appleton! Just email me for any review copies 🙂
I think non-fiction audio works well for me because I have the podcast as built-in marketing, so not sure how it would go for others.
Looking forward to meeting you at NINC.
sandy vaile says
Thanks for a very uplifting post. I am very focused on goals this year, because I’ve been multi-tasking and biting off more than I can chew, but never really feeling satisfied. So I’ve broken my business goals down into great detail this year (I might add personal ones if I feel I’m going well and enjoying tracking my goals), and bought the Goals On Track software, which syncs across all my devices.
It’s very satisfying to see the % of my goals that I’ve achieved. I particularly liked your views on “batching” time, because I feel like I’ve had a recent breakthrough by blocking out larger amounts of time to work on each project. That way I can really focus.
Good luck with your walking challenge!
Joanna Penn says
I think batching is probably the best productive tool for 2018!
Heather O'Shea says
Enjoying your site!
I just cut back my day-job hours to 50%. My goals for the year are to use that time to work on my health and my writing. Writing goals include posting consistently on my blog, doing one last (that’s probably optimistic!) rewrite of my novel, and then figuring out how to try to get it published. I’m also committed to sending out two pieces (of any sort) of work every month, just to get in the habit of sending my writing into the world.
Joanna Penn says
Fantastic 🙂 Lots here on publishing when you’re ready: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/publishing/
Any goal is feasible if well planned. I recommend trying the iSmart.Life app. I use this app to planning my goals, tasks, projects.This is a very simple and free web app. Has many useful features: goals, projects, budgets, notes, reports, etc You can see the demo and decide whether it suits you or not…
J.P. Choquette says
Love your first of the year posts, Joanna! Very inspiring to read about your plans and goals.
Mine that s year include going wider with distribution and publishing two new novels…or at least one. 😏 Excited to have figured out a routine that has increased my output.