Completion & Creation

January 1, 2012
As has become my annual tradition, it’s time for me to complete on my goals from 2011 and create for the new year:
  • What I said I’d do: 55 blog posts and  average 500 visits a month for the 4th quarter.
    What I did: 37 blog posts and ~400 visits a month for the 4th quarter. The latter isn’t bad, considering I didn’t post anything the entire 4th quarter. I actually hit my highest numbers ever in July, and was headed up, but then just stopped blogging.
  • What I said I’d do: Finish three screenplays, one in time to submit to AFF, Nicholl, and several other screenplay competitions.
    What I did: Finished one. Submitted it to AFF (didn’t make it past the first round), Blue Cat, and some other places. And I discovered that I’ve made just enough as a screenwriter that I don’t qualify for Nicholl.
  • What I said I’d do: Attend San Diego Comic-Con, Austin Film Festival, WLT Agents’ Conference, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, and the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, as time allows (some of those my be on conflicting dates).
    What I did: Attended AFF. Tried to register for Comic-Con, but I made the mistake of waiting two days to buy tickets, and they were already sold out. Bonus mention: managed to create my own weekend writing retreat to finish Postville, and it worked very well.
  • What I said I’d do: Start acting again. And get paid for it. God I miss acting. And getting paid for it.
    What I did: Started acting again. And got paid for it. Technically. I probably made about $1 an hour at TRF, when you look at all the time and expenses that went into it. But it was well worth the investment, both to my emotional psyche and (ultimately) to my pocketbook.
  • What I said I’d do: Edit 12 books. Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
    What I did: One ghostwriting project and two book editing gigs. But I also closed some good technical writing contracts, produced some technical videos, and developed scripts in other ways. So on a professional level, I’m happy with how things turned out.
  • What I said I’d do: I want to produce $25,000 in revenue in the month of January. This will require, rather than just surviving at the game of being a professional writer, growing a pair of balls and creating something completely new. It’ll mean finding clients who  really recognize what good content is worth, and who recognize that I can provide it.
  • What I did: Not $25,000. But I did end the survival aspect and started doing the writing that I love, and getting paid well for it. And I found clients who recognize what good content is worth, and who recognized that I could provide it, and have been getting rewarded for that.
Goals for 2012
    • Finish ScreenwritingU’s ProSeries and graduate into the PS Alumni.
    • 52 blog posts and 1000 visits a month by the end of the year.
    • A stage show at TRF, getting paid a living wage for the time I put in. Write and publish a book of poetry (written by my character) that I can sell as part of that.
    • Sign with an acting agent and land 2 auditions per week.
    • Land a paid screenwriting gig.
    • Edit 6 books. Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
    • Pay off all interest-bearing debt (including the car I just bought) and max out my wife’s and my IRAs for 2012.
    • Finish three personal writing projects, and a rewrite of one more. At the moment this looks like screenplays will be the larger portion of that, but I don’t want to limit myself, in case I decide, for example, to write a novel. I should also mention that this seems somewhat ambitious, given my results from this year, but I figure if you reach for the stars, you won’t come up with a handful of dirt.
    • Semi-finalist in at least one national screenplay contest.
    • Direct a feature film, or at least start pre-production on it.
    • Bring internal peace and confidence to the likelihood that my wife and I will be having children in the near future.

Playing a Big Game

January 1, 2011

This time last year I discussed successes & failures from 2009, and began to create goals for 2010. Met some of them, didn’t meet others. As I begin to create a strategic plan for 2011, it’s time to complete on my plan from 2010, to see what worked and what didn’t, to acknowledge what I’ve accomplished and create a new one for next year.

For 2010:

  • What I said I’d do: “I’d like to continue my existence/time management structures. The goal is to have my time measured every day, without gaps. Realistically, I will get upset with myself some day for not doing something I was supposed to do, will make myself wrong, and won’t do it. But I will be back on track within a week, because I have enough people holding me to account for doing it. If I can go the entire year having missed, 30 days, I get a bronze star, 20 days a silver star, and 10 days a gold star.”
    What I did: I actually went quite a bit further with this, and began to train myself in Mission Control, a well known time-management system. As soon as I implemented it I got super-productive, so then I took on more to do, and immediately got confronted again by how much I had to do. Ratfarts. Anyway, I am now pretty reliable for tracking billable hours and scheduling my time.
  • What I said I’d do: “Finish the novel I’m working on with my dad, a short story/novella I started right before my dad’s and my scheduled start date, and Charisma.”
    What I did: I did finish that short story, although we ended up quitting on the novel pretty quickly because it wasn’t very good. And I still haven’t finished Charisma – Barely worked on it last year. I have, however, been working on some other projects, and I just finished the bible and first three episodes for a Web series, which I’m going to begin shopping around.
  • What I said I’d do: “Exceed this year’s 64 blog posts and 407 4th-quarter visits, without being one of those annoying people who posts what color shoes they’re wearing every day.”
    What I did: 55 blog posts, which was a little bit less but still respectable. But my big win, I blasted through my 4th quarter visits goal with over 1,000 4th-quarter visits.
  • What I said I’d do: Attend, in some capacity, the 2010 Writer’s League of Texas Agent’s Conference, the Austin Film Festival, San Diego Comic-Con, two comic book conventions closer to home, and two more authors/publishers conferences/conventions.
    What I did: Attended WLT Agent’s Conference and AFF, but not the others. AFF in particular proved to be extremely valuable for me this year.
  • What I said I’d do: Continue reading every day and log every book I finish.
    What I did: Don’t think I read every day, but I did log the books I finished, ending the year at 21. Perhaps not a lot for a professional writer, but I’m continuing to develop the habit.
  • What I said I’d do: Come up with a marketing plan for Ups & Downs that gets the two stacks of books out of my office as a result of sales.
    What I did: Um. No.

Other accomplishments not reflected in the above:

  • Closed my first ghostwriting contract, developed my website in such a way that it’s proactively driving customers to me, started leading workshops on how to write a nonfiction book, and performed stand-up comedy–doing very well at it.

Goals for 2011

  • 55 blog posts and  average 500 visits a month for the 4th quarter.
  • Finish three screenplays, one in time to submit to AFF, Nicholl, and several other screenplay competitions.
  • Attend San Diego Comic-Con, Austin Film Festival, WLT Agents’ Conference, the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, and the WLT Summer Writing Retreat, as time allows (some of those my be on conflicting dates).
  • Start acting again. And get paid for it. God I miss acting. And getting paid for it.
  • Edit 12 books.
  • Close sales on two more ghost writing projects.
  • I want to produce $25,000 in revenue in the month of January. This will require, rather than just surviving at the game of being a professional writer, growing a pair of balls and creating something completely new. It’ll mean finding clients who  really recognize what good content is worth, and who recognize that I can provide it.

Here’s to 2011.


2009 Successes & Failures

December 26, 2009

If I were to make a list of “What’s Hot & What’s Not,” I think New Years Resolutions are eking their way onto the “Not” list. Read John August’s latest post if you need convincing.

What I will look at is successes and failures.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the measurements of success. If we were to look at the game of football, the ultimate goal in any given year is to win the Super Bowl. Inside of that goal, are 16-19 sub-goals per year – to win the game. And inside of each of those games are further sub-goals: to score a touchdown. If you ask any coach or player what they’re thinking about in any given week, the answer is always the same: the next game. And if you were to ask any of them what they’re thinking about in the middle of the game, the answer will always be the next drive; or the next play.

And yet, inside the game of football, there are a million ways to measure performance. Rushing yards; passing yards; touchdowns; interceptions; turnover margin; time of possession; punts inside the 20; explosive plays; “passer rating”; penalties; number of 100-yard rushing games per season; December record; number of times Jessica Simpson is mentioned during the broadcast . . . the list goes on and on.

Often, as humans, we trick ourselves into thinking that the measurement is the goal itself. When that happens in football, the result is selfish players who want more touches so they can pad their stats, ultimately leading to a poor locker room environment, bad teamwork, and a team that, realistically, won’t win the big one.

In real life, it can be just as insidious, though for most of us it’s less public.

So when it comes to being a writer, what are the measures? Finishing a screenplay? Writing every day? Selling a script? Yes, those are measures. But remember, they are not the ultimate goal.

So … what are my 2009 measures of success/failure?

  • I’ve doubled length of Charisma, from 40 pages to 82. I’m still embarrassed to admit that I haven’t finished it, but you know what, I doubt I’m the only one who’s struggled to finish the first project that he really cares about. The fact that I’ve kept at it for 2 years is a big deal.
  • I released my book, Ups & Downs, and have had a few scattered pieces of success with it, but overall have gained very little traction. I have two boxes of books in my study, and the predictable future is that they will stay there unless I change something.
  • I had 23 blog posts in 2008 and 304 visits from October-December 2008; and 64 blog posts in 2009 with 407 visits from October-December (with a few days left to go).
  • Over the last few months, I’ve come up with structures to increase my productivity, and now I have one to track the time I spend doing various activities, including writing. This way, I can do with my life what football players do with their game – look at where the failures occurred, and adjust accordingly.
  • I don’t know how many books I read this year or how many movies I watched. I feel like I should be tracking that, too.
  • I’ve figured out that I don’t like doing marcom (marketing communications), and am shifting my business more toward narrative nonfiction ghost writing; book editing; tech writing; and proofreading, all of which I enjoy.

For 2010:

  • I’d like to continue my existence/time management structures. The goal is to have my time measured every day, without gaps. Realistically, I will get upset with myself some day for not doing something I was supposed to do, will make myself wrong, and won’t do it. But I will be back on track within a week, because I have enough people holding me to account for doing it. If I can go the entire year having missed, 30 days, I get a bronze star, 20 days a silver star, and 10 days a gold star.
  • Finish the novel I’m working on with my dad, a short story/novella I started right before my dad’s and my scheduled start date, and Charisma.
  • Exceed this year’s 64 blog posts and 407 4th-quarter visits, without being one of those annoying people who posts what color shoes they’re wearing every day.
  • Attend, in some capacity, the 2010 Writer’s League of Texas Agent’s Conference, the Austin Film Festival, San Diego Comic-Con, two comic book conventions closer to home, and two more authors/publishers conferences/conventions.
  • Continue reading every day and log every book I finish.
  • Come up with a marketing plan for Ups & Downs that gets the two stacks of books out of my office as a result of sales.

So are these New Years Resolutions? Maybe. But they’re realistic, and I know going into it, that the likelihood of completing every one is slim, and if I screw up, I won’t stay mad at myself, I’ll just get back on the horse and keep riding.

Because success is just a function of being willing to fail more times than the other guy.


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