Time has slipped by a little too quick. I actually started this post back in December, but so much has happened I now find myself barely getting it finished before January ends.
At the end of each year, I review the steps my business took and plan for any changes. It’s something every business owner should do, and yes, even though I write and illustrate, it is a business. There is also the business of maintaining my Otter Things store. So, each year I consider My 3 Words to boost myself into production for another 365 days. Unfortunately, I was plagued with a sick family for the holidays, a mom in the hospital, and planning for a mission trip in February, all on top of my regular duties. These events had me reassessing my plans; it seemed, on a daily basis.
Well, I have My 3 Words. They don’t lay out a step-by-step plan for the year that I can follow, like a Betty Crocker recipe. In fact, they might end up more like the instructions to Ikea furniture, but it’s a start.
My 3 Words: Consolidate, Write, Grow
We all have a tendency to spread ourselves a little thin. It’s easy to take on too much and then look back and think, “What have I done?” Well, that’s where I am, a little thin, and not in the waistline. I need to cut out the unnecessary aspects of my business and focus on the aspects that will drive my work forward. This will come in many forms.
First will be the consolidation of projects, and I have many. I am always coming up with ideas for possible books, posts, or illustrations. I’m sure that even as I write this post, another idea or two will work its way through my brain. I just don’t have the resources to work on them all at the same time, nor should I.
Society seems to push multitasking to its limits, but it’s been found that you actually do a poorer job when multitasking than when you focus on one task at a time. Consolidating my projects will help me use my resources to the best of their ability, and in the end, produce a better final product.
How am I going to accomplish consolidating my projects? Well, I’m working on that, but it does include writing my ideas down and setting them aside. Ideas need time to grow, like a seed. You plant them in the ground, but you don’t stand there waiting for the sprout to burst through the soil. No, you let nature take its course, find something else that needs tending, and occasionally come back to water them.
Mental Note: Water the plants
I write most of my ideas down as soon as they pop into my head. I have some on post-it notes on my desk, some in a notebook, some in a file on my computer, and even some voice recordings on my phone. Now it’s time to consolidate. The plan is to get all these in one place, and weed out those that I don’t like or won’t work. I will organize the others into general areas of writing, illustrating, marketing, etc. Although this may be a daunting task, it will be fun to see how some of my ideas have grown. Some have actually matured and fruited, and I can put them in a special file called “Successes.”
Another area that needs consolidation is sales of my Otter Things products. If you receive my Quarterly Otter Things Newsletter, you will know that I am pulling many of my designs from alternative outlets, and having them available only in my Otter Things store. My sales in some of these outlets were incredible for 2016. I attribute most of that to the increased marketing I did last year. The problem with these outlets is that I have to share my profits with them, and my percentage is very small.
Bringing specific designs to my own site will help me keep my earnings where they belong, with me. It will also make it easier for me to build my brand. I would rather deal with my customers directly than have to go through some other sales channel. If you purchase one of my products, I want to thank you myself. I want you to know that you matter to me. It’s too difficult, or impossible, to do this with these other outlets.
With consolidation out of the way, I can focus on projects that matter. One particularly important project is writing. I am deep into editing The Ruby Cell, and it takes time. I have read how some authors churn out books in a couple of months, and others in a couple of years. Mine is taking the multi-year approach, but I am making headway.
Finding the time for writing this book has been difficult. During the day, I research and write various posts, like my weekly Fortune Cookie Friday posts. For almost two years I have written on the little fortunes that I find in at the bottom of my Chinese take-out. This extra writing helps me get through the humdrum of editing. It’s much like taking a step back from your art and letting a coat of paint dry.
I also spend time writing marketing material for my store and my books. There are many different types of writers, fiction, non-fiction, and research, to name a few. I am learning that I am definitely not going to make it in the world as a copywriter.
I don’t like selling myself with copy. It feels unnatural and pushy. Actions speak louder than words, but I have to write copy; otherwise, no one will notice me. Well, I could enlist my squirrel army to take over the media stations, but I don’t think they know how to work the cameras.
Mental Note: Train squirrels on video production equipment.
I would like to spend as much time as possible editing my book. I’m a member of the Buffalo Children’s Writers and Illustrators (BNCWI). Through them, I found some great critique partners, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. Most of my partners are working on shorter children’s books. Analyzing a young-adult fantasy fiction novel during our meetings will be very time consuming. My daughter, whom originally reviewed my work, is eager for the final version. So, I keep going through each chapter and tweaking things here and there.
In the past, I wished I had more time in the day for writing. I would make time to work on it in the morning since that seems to be my most creative time, but it never seemed to be enough. Then I realized that those creative juices also flow in the evening. I could find a quiet spot in my house and simply write then.
As it turns out, this is not such an easy task. I would much rather spend time with my family instead of hiding in seclusion with my laptop. Not to mention, my home is quite busy at night. With teen children and their evening activities, I have acquired a “second job” as a chauffeur. I should become an Uber driver and charge them fare.
My hubby, being the understanding guy that he is, gave me the thumbs up to work in the evenings. He has worked late many times and knows the value of hard work and the time it takes. He also concluded that we would only be sitting watching TV, while he dozed off. My kids…well, I’m still working on that, but one is heading off to college soon, so it should only get easier. Right?
When I mentioned working on my brand before, I didn’t just mean Otter Things. I also meant my author brand. That means getting my name out there into the social stratosphere. My past marketing has helped, and I’ve made great strides in improving my social presence. I have my author social sites and my Otter Things social sites to plaster the Internet with anything related to my writing and illustrating.
I have to be careful posting on these social sites because I’m easily distracted by non-essential posts from others. It’s easy to lose track of time. Thanks to authors Dee Romito, Kate Karyus Quinn, and Jim O’Donnell, from BNCWI, I have improved in this area. They showed me programs like Hootsuite and TweetDeck that help me post without all the distractions. I can still get posts from my fans and colleagues, but it’s much more organized. These programs help me stay connected without cute kitten memes sidetracking me. I’ll continue using these platforms for now since I’m not sure if I want my squirrels posting for me just yet.
Mental Note: Teach squirrels to use Facebook.
Additional Mental Note: Buy more peanuts for squirrels.
So there you have it: My 3 Words, albeit a little late. I am hopeful that they can set me on a path of progress, or at least get me back on track when I wander off.