A Writer’s New Year Resolutions, 2015

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background** Is your new year’s writing resolution to go on a writing retreat? You can join me in October on the Sunshine Coast! **

Each year I set specific new year’s resolutions just for the writing corner of my life, so it’s once again time to do that. The thing I find interesting about these lists is that once I’ve written them down, I don’t think I look at them again until the end of the year when I wonder what I wrote and how far I went towards achieving them. But it’s always fascinating to me how much of them I do unconsciously throughout the year, just because I’ve listed them.

So, for 2014, I set three goals:

  1. Stay calm and have a cup of tea. (I think I did this pretty well for the most part, bobbing up and down on the waves of my first year in publication. There was stress, sure, but I actually have a written plan now for how to handle ‘the things that went wrong’ in 2014 so I feel more prepared to greet 2015.)
  2. Turn guilt into gratitude. (I got better at integrating the working mother stress as I went along and I feel much more settled now that my toddler is in a good early learning centre two days a week. Though I had to work through a lot of guilt to get there, both he and I look forward to those days so that makes everyone happy.)
  3. Protect the creative process. (Again, I think I got better at feeding my unicorn through the year, and my most recent efforts to do this include my weekly challenge of Creative Tuesday.)

I also said I’d throw in some writing room decorating, and I had a big breakthrough with that in 2014 and am still enjoying my new relationship to my room, actively thinking about nurturing it so that it can nurture me in return.

So, for 2015. Here goes:

taxing-solutionsI only have one resolution this year, and it’s a big one. It’s the one that scares me the most, that challenges my brain, and pushes me into spaces I don’t like to go.

Numbers.

Tax!!!!! GST. BAS. IAS.

Blech!! That’s how I feel about it now. But by the end of this year, I want to feel like, Pft, it’s nothing. More than that, it’s my friend.

The whole tax stuff around writing is huge, difficult stuff, especially if you are a Word Person. A non-number person. The very gifts that make you a good writers, well, they kind of let you down a bit with the whole number crunchy stuff.

I will write a whole post about tax and writing sometime this year to share with you what I’ve learned. But for now, let me summarise by saying that if you have another job where you’re earning a salary, and then you get a book deal, then you really need to get on top of this tax stuff because writing income can shoot you over into a new tax bracket and, trust me, that can leave you with a nasty tax surprise. Also, after they’ve cleaned you out of money to pay that nasty tax bill, then you’ll then be asked to pay tax in advance, almost straight away. And that might be scary as all hell too.

And of course the rub here is that if you earn money from royalties, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH YOU WILL EARN!! It could be $10 or $10million. There’s a big bloody difference between those numbers.

I am going to enrol in a bookkeeping course. (My stomach actually plummeted as I wrote that.) I don’t ever want to feel disempowered about my numbers. I don’t want to have to rely on an accountant to tell me absolutely everything. (But, oh my, I still need an accountant.) I need to understand the basics; I need to HAVE THE LANGUAGE to even be able to TALK about money. And I need that before I can fill out crazy ATO forms.

And my accountant and I are going to check in each quarter and try to estimate the numbers as we go.

I’m thinking this will take me all year to get on top of this. And so, that is it. My one resolution. The very opposite of what you would think would be a ‘writing resolution’ and yet I have to do it because I have become afraid to earn money because I am afraid of tax bills. And that’s just ridiculous. That’s not a signal I want to send to the universe. So I am declaring it. This time next year, I’m going to feel confident about the money. I’m going to shout, ‘Bring on the book sales, people! I can handle it!’

Bring on 2015.

Top 12 Sludgy Brain Activities for Writers

The sludge has hit the fan.

Sludgy brain days

Sludgy brain days

My brain is liquid tar. The reasons are pretty simple: a bubbalicious who doesn’t yet sleep through the night, the fourth day in a row of extreme heat in south-east Queensland (hence less sleep), storms that send one of our dogs into frantic drooling terrified mess (hence even less sleep), and that general worn out feeling you get at this time of year anyway as the life pace cracks its relentless whip to muster you towards Christmas day.

But I do like to try to do something towards my writing each day, even if it’s very small. How do you keep going when the sludge hits? Here’s my Top 12 activities to do when the sludge hits and no amount of coffee, fresh air, face slapping or hot-coal-walking will move it.

  1. Read. Our job as writers is first and foremost to read. No reading is ever a waste of time. It is valuable. It is research. It is educational. It’s relaxing. And it’s fun! Read, read, read.
  2. Watch DVDs. Seriously. Similar to reading (though obviously not as good), television and movies (when carefully chosen) can be a rich source of compost for the fertility challenged mind. This is a particularly great option if you’re researching another time period or another city or country. YouTube is also a fantastic source of research and often even better because it’s raw, without the gloss and professional spin.
  3. Pull out those literary magazines and association newsletters you’ve got stashed under the fruit bowl or nappy bag and catch up on snippets of tips, info and trends in the writing and publishing world.
  4. Fossick in magazines. Look for pictures of houses, people, products or anything that might be useful as inspiration for your book, grab some scissors and glue and act like a six-year-old and cut them out and paste them onto a vision board.
  5. Writer admin. This can be a trap for procrastination, but it’s still a good alternative to eating a block of chocolate and moaning about how tired you are. (I can speak from experience. The most oft spoken sentence in our house in the past six months is ‘I’m soooo tired!’ Yep. We know. Can’t fix it. But you can try to work around it.) Admin includes activities like buying that domain name; renewing your membership to the Queensland Writers Centre or Romance Writers of Australia; sending emails of enquiry; or even mindlessly entering receipts into your tax bookkeeping system.
  6. Now’s a great time of year to buy a year wall calendar and plan out your 2013 writing career. Take in the overview of the whole year. What goals do you have and how you can plan to achieve them? If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo in November, what else would need to move over to make room for that? When do you plan to have holidays? Are you travelling? When are the writers festivals? Are there courses of study to do? And, oh yeah, when do you plan to write that 90,000 words??
  7. Internet research and Google map walking. God bless the internet. Seriously. If you’re writing a story set in another city or country, the internet is the most valuable tool you’ve got. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent satellite walking the streets of London. And if you need scientific research, a sludgy brain can often deal with writing down facts and numbers that you can go back to later.
  8. Write blog posts, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets and schedule them ahead of time. Okay, so I’m writing this blog post on a sludgy brain day, and it mightn’t be the most witty and entertaining thing I’ve ever written, but for some reason dealing with non-fiction is far easier for my sludgy brain than characters who may or may not want to play the game by the rules I’ve set for them. But social media is an important part of the business of writing and better you get it out the way on a day like today rather than on a day when you’re all fired up to write, write, write.
  9. Go for the experiential. If all of the above it too hard, and you think you will vomit if you look at the computer screen, try going for the experiential. My current book waiting for publication is about tea and the business of designing teas. Many an hour I spent picking random things from my garden and pouring boiling water over them to see what would happen. Unfortunately, my current book revolves around chocolate so the experiential… well, let’s just say my waistline isn’t going to benefit the same way my story will.
  10. Contact a writing friend. It’s so important to keep a close support network of writerly friends to share the creative journey. No one will understand you like another writer will. Phone or email and make a date in your diary to catch up and talk all things books and adjectival.
  11. Buy new stationery. Yes, I’m a nerd. But I don’t find too many things more inspiring and motivating than new stationery! Pens, notebooks, planners, rulers, paper clips… love, love, love.
  12. Clean your office or writing space. Can’t see your keyboard for the pile of unpaid bills and unfolded washing sitting on it? No brains needed for this activity. Just some mindless muscle. A brilliant last resort and one that tends to clear the way for a new flurry of activity tomorrow.

So, no excuses! Sludge be gone!