Who conducts a writer’s annual review?

“But what single mom in her right mind quits a job in a bad economy?” I asked my coach (yes, I have one), sniffing a bit, I’m sure.

“Who in her right mind quits a career in a bad economy?” She countered, referring to the fact that my low paying job with the ever-alluring benefits was gobbling up all my writing time and energy. I’d written next to nothing since I’d started the job a year earlier.

A few months later, I quit the job and began my career as a freelancer. That was two years ago last month, and I’m still alive with food in the fridge and health benefits I buy myself. Big girl! And while it’s all going pretty well (I could be making more money. I could have a better idea where the next check is coming from.), what I do find is that now that the initial terror has subsided, there’s a bit of a lackluster feel to working alone.  The lows are shared with no one who is directly impacted by them, and the highs are rare and mostly shared on Facebook (please forgive my fb bragging; i have NO coworkers). Sometimes, I feel like all I do is work.  And conversely, sometimes I feel like I’m not doing anything but drinking coffee and writing emails.

I’ve been feeling a lot like the latter lately.  I’m behind on my projected word count for the book Writing Is My Drink. I don’t blog enough. I could be selling more articles. Blah, blah, blah. Then–avoiding real work this morning —I read an excellent post about burnout on Allison’s Winn Scotch’s terrific blog. And then, I remembered: It’s time for my annual review!

Last year–at the one-year anniversary of quitting my job–I did an annual review, and I realized how much I had, in fact, accomplished in my first year sans steady paycheck.  So, I did that again this morning, and yet again I was surprised at how much had happened since last Halloween. I encourage all you writers to do something like this for yourself.  Make sure you look at all the aspects of your career and list everything (even if it seems small) you’ve accomplished.  List the “negatives” too. For example, I listed one of my “accomplishments” this year as bouncing back after a book proposal didn’t sell.

Why do the review?  Because we need to treat ourselves as employees. We are self-employed, so the feedback that every employee needs and deserves can only come from the self.

Here are some questions to consider as you conduct your review:

What have you written this year?

How have you pushed yourself as a writer? What risks have you taken?

What have you done in terms of professional development this year?

How have you networked with other writers and other industry professionals?

How have you supported other writers?  When did you ask for support?

What have you done to prevent burnout?  How have you celebrated your accomplishements?

What have you done to nurture your creativity?

How did you promote your work?

What did you do to build your online presence this year?

Did you make any tough choices or do anything truly scary to further your career this year?

If you wrote for free, was that writing supporting another part of your career?

Where did you go to support your career?  Conferences, retreats?

What is your biggest accomplishment of the year?

Where did you fall short of your expectations this year?

How much money did you earn?  Is that up or down from the year before?  How much would you like to earn next year?

What are your goals for your writing career for the coming year?

What’s one thing you can do today towards accomplishing one of those goals?

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at TheoNestor.com.
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15 Responses to Who conducts a writer’s annual review?

  1. Well said, sister. I was just having a similar internal debate. Though I have been blogging my a** off and published two education-related articles this month, I’ve done squat to finish building my website. And yes, I’ve had lots of coffee and sent and read lots of emails.

    I’m going to take your advice to heart and share it on Facebook, where I, for one, don’t think you brag.

  2. nb says:

    Yeah! Going to do my self review!!

    • Theo Nestor says:

      Fantastic! I think you’ll feel good after. I didn’t want to “take the time away from writing” (I was dragging anyway so I prob. would’ve not gotten much done. But then I said, “No. All staff are needed immediately for the annual review.” I felt so inspired after I wrote the post and worked on the book.

  3. Christina says:

    I hear you, on all fronts. Sometimes I go outside midday to run errands, leaving my self-imposed freelance isolation, and am practically alarmed at all the activity going on in the world…people driving around going to “real” jobs, performing readily identifiable tasks, visibly getting things done. It’s actually pretty jarring some days. (This is one of them…have only talked to the dog, the cats, and an insurance inspector since 7 a.m.) I write stuff, some of which is on a blog that seems mostly to be “read” by eastern European scam artists, and some of which gets published (and I feel lucky if the publishing company or magazine remembers to send me a copy of the book/issue). I fear that I could very easily slip into endlessly checking FB all day and watching funny YouTube videos if I’m not careful!

    I think that doing one’s own employee review would probably be very reassuring indeed–I think I’d feel like the Velveteen Rabbit when he discovers that he’s finally “real”!

    • Theo Nestor says:

      Hey Chris,
      I love your description of the jarring outside world (“urban hermit,” I like to call it ) and the Velveteen Rabbit analogy. I think you’d be surprised at just how much you actually do. And even if you had a Real Job, you’d be checking Facebook and Youtubing it. Needed distractions.

  4. Sara says:

    Allison Winn Scotch just posted about this post and immediately clicked over and loved it! Great questions to ask ourselves. And I think it’s really important to celebrate the good things–the positive side was never a part of the dreaded year-end reviews in my corporate life.

    Really great idea!!

  5. A friend (not a writer but also self employed) and I sit down every February for what we call our “February Check In” to review what we’ve done and set goals for the next year — it’s very informal (and fun). You’ve listed some wonderful questions, and I will definitely be sitting down for my yearly review with my supervisor (me of course) later this week. I can almost guarantee it will be the most fun review I’ve ever had, and it will prepare me well for the February Check-in! Thanks for a great idea.

    • Theo Nestor says:

      I love the idea of a February check-in, (esp. if it could happen at a desert spa). I think writers need to have someone to whom they feel accountable. I have a writer friend who I check in with every few weeks and we talk about the progress we’re making and give each other a little shot of inspiration. Thanks for reading Writing Is My Drink.

  6. Pingback: Vad har du åstadkommit i år? « Johanna Lindbäck

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