Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Five-Year Insanity Proofing Plan!

It's a one-year anniversary today, so it's special blog post time!  I don't tend to write too much about the business side of writing, mostly because I'm still figuring it out, but here's a little glimpse of some of my more recent thought processes.   (Warning: My thought processes are at times questionable.)

I spent most of last year analyzing immediate vs. long-term gratification.  I didn't realize I was doing it at the time, but hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.

In 2009, while writing two novels and telling at many shows, plus working full-time and maintaining an active social life, I also found myself organizing a leadership workshop (for the day job).  The facilitator encouraged me to participate in the personality test.  And why not.  It was either participate, or be bored out of your mind watching others do it.

So I filled in the quiz and the results were compiled into a chart.

To my untrained eye, I looked completely insane.  I was all over the chart, with great big spikes everywhere.  I peeked at others' charts and theirs were much more restrained.  The facilitator came by and, with his trained eye, put it much more kindly.  "You have a lot on your mind, don't you?"

I had to agree.  With two more books due at my publisher's, trying to market my book, growing both my writing and storytelling careers, I had several plates overflowing with too much goodness.  The facilitator gave me only one piece of advice (not to go on drugs, or drop everything, or shave my head and run outside in the streets, to my surprise).  He told me to create a five-year plan.

Hu.  Sounded simple enough.  I decided to take up the challenge. Why not?  It was either that or have insane spikes in my personality chart forever more.

Creating my plan involved a lot of reading, research and talking with lots of people.  I needed to gauge what was realistic for my timeline/salary/goals/ability/willingness, and I certainly couldn't do it on my own.  My banker became my best friend.

A few weeks later, once I had my five-year plan, a realistic plan of what I could control, I felt much better. It was suddenly easier to prioritize and figure out where to go next.  What to do with my money was a big one, for me.  My consumer debt was holding me back, so I made a plan to get rid of it.  I needed to be better organized (okay, still do), so I got better at it (still getting better).  And I shuffled my life around so more time could be spent doing what I needed to do to be happy, not what I needed to do because others thought it would make me happy.

I think artists in general feel that out-of-control tumbling.  I mean, you can't control your sales.  Publishers might love or hate your next work.  You can't control how performances are received, or last minute changes to programs (can you now tell your story in half the time?  Um, sure...).  And we certainly can't buy readers' hearts (I tried.  They're expensive!).  I can write the books, make 'em as good as can be, but I'm not the one buying them, so there are no guarantees.

I know it's not as easy as it sounds, but it's not that hard, either.  Once you know where you're headed, you choose the most realistic path and start walking.  Today marks the one-year anniversary of starting that plan. My life has changed, but not overly.  I have less stress because I know my priorities and goals. And I'm in a better position to achieve those next steps. My plan has been adapted to current circumstances - some goals are taking a bit longer, others are reached much more quickly than anticipated. 

It's fun looking back at everything that happened and has already been done.  By next year, I'll be in a much better position than today, which is already pretty damn good.  I'm not foolish enough to pretend I can predict the future and prepare for everything.  Hardly.  I'm not even trying.  But I know where I'd like to be, and what few elements I CAN control.  Emergency planning is in place for every other eventuality.  Back-up plans galore.

I don't know if, in the end, it means I'll reach my goals easier.  I doubt that.  But it does remove some of the daily debate of what to do next and where I should concentrate my caffeinated energies.  Now does that mean another personality chart would reveal less insanity?  Did I actually insanity proof my life?  HA!  Of course not. 

But I do like to think that I wield a more focused insanity, now.  Beware my spike-riddled insanity!