Can you believe it’s the end of another decade?
As I reflect on my five-year plan, I’ve gone further than I ever dreamed, securing both an agent and a publisher in year 3 and 4, but I haven’t finished writing as many books as I had planned, specifically the last two of my Healing Seasons series. Yet, God has made other things happen that I didn’t even dream of. I became an admin for an amazing virtual writing community and started this little year long writing challenge to help writers develop the habit of writing that has now helped over 1000 members produce over 155 million words. We had our first conference with three fabulous speakers in 2018 and secured our second conference location and speakers for 2021. I’ve networked with writers, editors, cover designers, marketing experts, and publishing industry professionals that I didn’t even know existed five years ago. Many of whom, I now call friends. I’ve done two in-person speaking events, twelve webinars, and have taught weekly online for almost 3 years. When I look at what I’ve accomplished in just five years, I’m floored.
So what’s next?
It’s the question we all face, whether for a new year or a new decade or just at a crossroads in our lives. I love Michael Hyatt’s advice in his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. DREAM BIG. There is something about shooting for the stars that opens the doors of possibility. I thought I was dreaming big with hoping to just volunteering for this writing community, self-publishing a four book series, and finding an agent and a publisher for my next series. But that was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
As I create my next five-year plan, I’m dreaming bigger and trusting in the Lord to establish my steps (Prov 16:9) These are the steps I take.
#1 Pray and Dream
The first thing I do is ask God to give me vision for the next five years. He knows exactly what life challenges and world events will happen. He knows my struggles, my health issues, my finances, and my responsibilities. Yet with Him all things are possible. So despite those factors, He sometimes sets in my heart something I have no earthly idea how I’ll do.
That’s how it was with 365 Writing Challenge. I created this year long challenge, but I wasn’t sure if it would work for others. Likewise, my author brand and social media plans for 2020 look nothing like anyone else’s. Yet I keep stepping forward in faith, and He always brings fruit from my feeble efforts.
# 2 Write Down Your Goals
SMART Goals are specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, and timely. So instead of saying I’ll write publish two books and finish two more manuscripts in 2020. I say, I’ll release the first book of the Greek series in March 2020 with a 6week lead up launch and sell 500 copies in the first two months. I’ll finish the third book in the Healing Seasons series in April, get it to the editor in May, and publish it in July 2020 with a 6 week lead up launch and sell 500 copies by end of August. I’ll get two manuscripts to my agent one in January and one in September 2020 and sell another book to a publisher before end-of-year.
These are hard deadlines I can put on my calendar and breakdown into twelve week plans that I can chip away at daily. Everything else fits in around these goals.
#3 Play It Out In Your Mind
You have your goals but can you really see yourself doing them? Can you see where you will sit and write? When will you plot books and solve story issues? For me that means getting a new desk chair for Christmas and committing to using my desk for writing only and plotting in the car or while doing household chores using the voice app Otter.
If you can’t see yourself doing it, it can’t become part of your daily routine. And thus you’ll never get it from a dream in your head to a reality you live. You also might find you need to give up a distraction to make time or find a support group to keep you accountable. The best time to do those is now, before you want to start.
#4 Claim the Steps-especially the scary ones
I’ll be honest, there were lots of scary moments in the past five years for this introverted, doesn’t like to leave her hobbit hole writer. The biggest is I don’t like to drive, but every year there is a conference somewhere out of state that I want to attend. It means asking for help (not my strength) and taking extra anxiety and migraine meds because I know I will pump my system full of adrenaline trusting someone else to drive. But I’ve done it. I’ve put the money down, made the investment, so I can’t back out. And because I’ve gone, I’ve grown leaps and bounds in my writing, signed a contract with an agent, and met people in the publishing industry normally out of reach to the stay-at-home writer.
What are the steps that must happen to get to where you want to go? Can you see yourself stepping out of your comfort zone? Every year, plan one scary step. Conferences are no longer scary for me. Nor is public speaking (in fact I found my gift for teaching makes this really fun). Next year for me it’s tackling book signings and meet the reader events.
#5 Understand the Stakes of Success and Failure
Goals are great, but unless you understand the rewards of accomplishing them or consequences of NOT accomplishing them, it’s easy to let them fall down the priority list. This is honestly what has happened as far as finishing manuscripts. I was so distracted by all the bigger opportunities that writing fell down the list. And it’s cost me as far as building readership and satisfying those who have read the first two and are anxiously awaiting the rest of the saga.
Take those SMART goals and list the rewards and consequences. Then post each year’s on the wall. Read them every morning and make sure you’re taking humble steps toward them. As you finish, mark them off and watch God bless the fruit of your labor.
What are your goals for the next five years? Where do you see yourself in 2025?
I see myself with a shelf of books I’ve published and finally making a part-time living off royalties. I see myself with a calendar full of writing time, but also spending time with readers and teaching other writers. Mostly, I see myself coming into who God has made me to be and journeying with readers into His heart with every novel and conversation I’m blessed to have.
Jessica White writes stories that shape the soul. She has two historical novels out in her Seasons of Healing series. Her first contemporary romance will be published March 2020 with Mantle Rock. You can learn more about her and her books at her website. Sign up for her quarterly newsletter to receive a free 30 day devotional and come along with her as she journeys with God on her Facebook page.