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Investing in 2021

It's time for my annual wrap up and reflection. My guiding word for 2021 was "invest." As the pandemic droned on, I wanted to put my energy and attention in specific areas and invest in myself and my business as a writer. Although things got off the rails a bit recently, I feel pretty good about how the year shook out--all things considered.

I sort my goals into categories, and apply the word to each one. Here are some excerpts from my blog post in December of 2020, with updates about how those elements panned out:

Health. My albatross. As I mentioned in my last blog post, this area always ends up last on my list. In 2021, I'm making it first. I've added a separate calendar color to my iCal (a sunny yellow) and I am going to schedule time to invest in myself. From (at home) spa nights with my daughter, to walks in the neighborhood with my husband, to using the breathe app on my Apple watch, to cultivating an at-home yoga practice, health is where I hope to make the biggest investment this year. And we all know that pays off down the road.

How I did: Oooh boy. Well, I had some successes, for sure: Husband and I started walking 2 miles a day in April, which worked beautifully until my commute started up at the resumption of in-person learning this fall. I am slowly moving to a fully vegetarian diet, after reading Dr. Michael Greger's HOW NOT TO DIE. I...lost the yellow calendar dates once the summer rolled around. And, the biggest issue: I pinched a nerve in my back almost 3 weeks ago that has debilitated me physically in ways I've never experienced. More on this in my next post, about my 2022 plans, but let's just say that all that non-investment in my health came and bit me. Sigh.

Family. I definitely had an abundance of family time in 2020 (didn't we all?). We played board games, explored new places together, laughed and watched movies, and they are still the best team to quarantine with. I'm keeping my plans to go someplace new every month and play board games (all the games!), and I'm adding more cooking together. This year, each kid gets one night per week to plan dinner and I'll help them make it. Husband is getting in on it, too.

How I did: We sustained the cooking through the winter, and I feel good about the skills that the kids learned. We did lots of fun stuff during the pandemic--day trips to Mystic, CT, Plimoth/Patuxet Museum, sculpture parks and amusement parks. I am happy with this category.

Writing. My creativity suffered for the bulk of 2020, but I've come back to writing at the tail end of this year and I'm ready to launch into 2021. Instead of tying my goals to specific books, I am setting the intention to joyfully draft new projects each quarter. I've also set minimum numbers of days which I'd like to write during each quarter, and I have a goal to accomplish related to one specific project, which I'll share when it's a little closer to completion. Investing time to work is a priority.

How I did: Here's where things get interesting. I did keep track of my writing goals per quarter (Q1-52, Q2-49, Q3-45, Q4-26) and spent 172 days of the year writing. This is not a lot in comparison to some of my author friends--but comparison doesn't get us anywhere, does it? During those 172 days I:

  • finished, edited, designed and released my first indie published book, BAD CHOICES MAKE GOOD STORIES

  • drafted a novella

  • started writing an adult cozy mystery

  • started writing a MG farce

  • revised and sent a chapter book to my agent, which went on submission

  • wrote, revised, and submitted 2 picture books to my agent

  • drafted an essay for publication in a major market magazine (more on this)

  • drafted, revised, and had 2 pieces of flash fiction published via Vine Leaves Press

  • wrote over 25 pieces of flash fiction in October alone and compiled those into STORIES FROM THE PLASTIC PUMPKIN, a free ebook that you get get on my website

  • Refreshed and updated my website

  • Worked with my writing group to launch and edit other titles in our Table for 7 press

I could not be happier with the work I did this year, despite the pandemic, despite teaching in person, despite all the crazy. Taking the pressure off regarding how much work to do ("must write 1,000 a day") and changing it to making the time to engage with my work changed my mindset and my creativity. Plus, I started keeping track of what I finished and when in my bullet journal. This method is a total keeper.

Author Business. In 2020, I took an online class in developing an author business plan (and completed it excruciatingly slowly), and I now feel ready to actually draft said document. I'm going to do that during the first week in January, and use it as a guide for the year. I've set up quarterly check-ins and assessments in my calendar. I have a list of skills I want to learn. It's (long past) time to think strategically about my career and invest in myself.

How I did: I made a spread in my bullet journal for my business goals and plans. I kept track of my increase in social media followers, had income goals for my teaching at Highlights and the Writers' Loft, and even (shhh!) started taking on clients who need coaching around their writing. I've never applied strategic thinking to this aspect of my career, and it really made a difference. I'll be reviewing my business plan for 2022 and continuing with this practice.

Financial. Time for some literal interpretation of the word. Husband and I have some financial goals and to-dos that we need to tackle, and I've set up some meetings to put that in motion. We need to more actively think about college and retirement savings, and those are areas that are simultaneously boring and terrifying to me--so I keep putting them off. Not anymore. We are both going to invest time into learning what we need to do to better invest our money.

How I did: This was a total team effort. We met with a financial advisor, ran some numbers, and set up some plans. There's more to do here--always--but I feel as though we have a much better sense of where we are and where we want to go. We've lived debt-free (except our mortgage) for a few years now, and I finally feel like we are getting a handle on how best to direct our income to meet these new goals.

So, there you have it. I think I used "invest" as well as I possibly could this year. It kept me centered and focused on what my goals were and areas in which I could grow, in spite of the pandemic.

Next post: My word for 2022. It selected itself, much to my surprise (and chagrin, maybe), and I'll blog about that and how I'll use it in each of these categories later this week.


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