None of us enjoys uncertainty.
And unfortunately, that’s what we have right now. A lot is happening outside the doors to our homes. Stress and worry have become part of our everyday. Life’s not easy at the moment and that makes us twitchy, scattered, and frustrated.
We feel uncomfortable because we are used to the predictability of cause and effect: do this, and that happens. But right now, cause and effect is less certain. We hope that by staying at home, we will not get sick. We hope that once the Covid threat is over we can find our financial footing again. But hope and certainty can be mountains apart, and that makes us face an uncomfortable reality: right now, we’re not 100% in control.
I can’t pretend I’ve ever faced a situation like this but I have definitely hit moments in life where it feels like someone else has the steering wheel. I’m sure you have too.
What always helps me get through it is knowing that the best thing I can do is let go of what I can’t control and focus my energy on what I can.
We take back the steering wheel by setting goals. But what should they look like during a crisis?
This is an important question. Trying to take on too much will not end well. Sure, loading yourself up will help distract you from what’s happening but it will probably lead to burnout.
Your primary goal should be to practice self-care.
Goals should be reasonable and achievable, meaning they must fit with everything else we have going on: responsibilities to family, others, and ourselves. What that looks like will be different for everyone. Here are some ideas to consider.
If you think you can focus on your WIP right now, find a routine and keep going. Even if you don’t write as much or as fast, all progress is good. There will be an end to this pandemic, and when it’s in the rearview mirror, how great would it be to have made serious inroads on your novel? Maybe you can complete a draft, make progress on revisions, or perhaps get close to taking the next step to publish it.
Not everyone will have the mindset they need to write, or a full house means you only have small pockets of time. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t write; there’s more to this career than just the creative side. To be successful we have to research, so make a list of things you’ve been meaning to look into: resources to help you write stronger novels, information on traditional vs. self-publishing, how ads on Amazon or Facebook work, or something else that’s part of your path forward.
Now might also be a good time to prioritize your growth. You could take a class on writing or marketing, spend time at your favorite writing & publishing blogs, read books on writing craft, or if you’re tight on time, get bite-sized writing & author career tips delivered to your inbox.
I don’t know about you, but the planning stage of a new project gets me giddy. I love playing with ideas, building characters, and imagining how a story will unfold. And honestly, would a bit of giddiness right now be amiss? I think not! So, if it feels right for you, plan something new to write. If you don’t know where to start, use the 2-week free trial at One Stop for Writers to build a character, play with the timeline tool to storyboard ideas, visit the idea generator, or plot your novel using Story Maps.
Another option? Do “schoolwork” alongside your kids. You can nurture new ideas by printing out templates and worksheets here, here, and here. Being a good role model while working toward a goal is a #parentingwin.
The business side of writing is important, so improving your online visibility can be a goal right now, too. Do some investigative work: find out who your ideal audience is, who your book influencers might be, and use my printable Influencer Hotsheet to make notes as to where they hang out online. Then build up your connections by engaging with people and building genuine relationships.
Or turn a critical eye to your Facebook page, website, and profiles to update and refresh them (or create a website, FB page, Bookbub profile, etc. if you need one). Is your SEO on point? How does your Amazon Author page look compared to other authors you know? Making upgrades that you usually don’t have time for might be a great use of time.
Publishing Goals (Traditional):
Some of you may be ready to submit to agents and so querying goals might be on your radar. But is it a good time to submit? Tough question; I’ve seen agents on Twitter ask for queries, but I suspect many are in the same boat as the rest of us: dealing with life stress, maybe kids at home, plus they’re seeing industry disruption, changing release dates, and more.
My guess is fewer people are querying right now. It’s possible this might mean an opportunity for some, provided folks research well and make sure the agents they wish to submit to aren’t underwater right now. I recommend that if you’re in doubt, hold off and focus on related goals: polishing your query, getting feedback on it, researching agents and comp books, etc. This way when the time is right, you’re ready to go.
Publishing Goals (Self-Publishing):
If you happen to be like Becca and me, you might be looking to publish a book soon. The question becomes: is that a good idea? Honestly, I don’t know. On one hand, some readers are under financial strain but on the other, more people may be reading than ever before and so need more good books to read.
This is a goal where you’ll need to think carefully. There are possible supply chain and distribution challenges to think about for print. Is enough of your audience online right now to push forward and launch your book? Fans online could probably use good news and seeing you have a new book out might brighten their day. If you do go ahead, just make sure you promote carefully and respectfully. And if your book contains a topic that won’t be well-received right now, hold off.
Goals don’t have to be huge. Every step forward is a positive effort.
Working toward a goal at whatever pace feels right for you will help your mindset overall. Rather than feel guilt over what you aren’t doing, you’ll feel peace at what you are doing—taking control and putting one foot in front of the other on your own terms.