Monday, 9 January 2017

Readers and writers, how are you doing? (Anne Rooney)

Pick a reader/writer hat...
People who work for someone else usually have some kind of annual review in to assess their performance and progress. What about writers? We stumble from year to year without any kind of career assessment or guidance. Maybe we could do better if we had an annual review.

And what about readers, too? Perhaps they could do with an annual review as well. Reading might not be a career, but there's no reason why assessment and improvement should be limited to the way we make a living. Surely it's worth making the most of things we do for pleasure, too? In fact, as we have less time for pleasure than for earning, we should be especially careful to make the very most of it.

With your reader/writer hat on, answer these questions - or write your own. Then put on you assessor hat and read your answers critically. Can you suggest improvements to yourself? Can you come up with an action plan for reading or writing that will help you get more out of it? I doubt one hat can promise to pay the other more, but it might help the other hat have more fun or get more done.

1. On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied were you with your reading/writing last year?
How do you rate satisfaction? If writing, are you basing your answer on sales, how much you enjoyed writing your books/poems/whatever, how many you finished, or something else? If reading, are you thinking about how many books you read, whether you made good choices, or tried new genres or writers? You need to know what satisfies you in order to increase your satisfaction.

2. Which book did you most enjoy writing or reading?
Why? If writing, was it the ease/challenge of writing it, support from editors/readers/your agent/other writers, or something else? If reading, was it something new and exciting, a familiar book you were re-visiting, or a book from an author or genre you already liked? Can you seek out the same kind of experience again, or was it entirely serendipitous? Even serendipity can be examined. Were you drawn to the cover in a bookstore, or was the book recommended to you by a friend or reviewer?

3. Which books did you least enjoy writing or reading?
Why? What can you do to avoid the same problems? If writing, can you write for a different publisher or in a different genre or at different times of the day or week? If reading - well, you are allowed to give up on a book you don't like. Every reader has permission to stop, after one page, 30 pages or even 300 pages.

4. How does the environment affect your performance/enjoyment?
Where/under what circumstances do you most enjoy writing or reading, or are most productive? For writers, it could be writing in silence in a corner of the house, going out to write in a library or cafe, writing on trains - or even in bed. And readers - do you like to snuggle in a chair with a book, lie in the bath, read on your Kindle or phone on the bus or train? Could you try something different?

5. How much time do you spend writing or reading? Do you want to spend more or less time doing it? How could you arrange your life to do that? Are there pockets of time that you could use? Standing on a railway platform, sitting on a bus, waiting in a queue at the post office - these can all be reading time. Or writing time if you use them for thinking and planning.

And finally - reflection. Try to extract actual information from your answers, and make solid plans. Maybe plan to read two new writers this year, or read a different kind of book - space opera? biography? political essays? To flex your writing muscle, try an unfamiliar type of writing - poems, screenplays, articles? You don't need to try to sell them, just see how they work. It might take you in new directions or it might just liven up what you are doing already.

Most of all - enjoy it!


Pippa Goodhart said...

A very useful check list for taking stock of a writing career. I certainly tend to go careering onwards without pausing to reflect, so thank you, Anne.

Penny Dolan said...

These suggestions may take me some time, Stroppy Author, although they are all very good & sound ideas!

Stroppy Author said...

Investing time in yourself and your career is no bad thing, Penny! People in a job often have a day or half a day for appraisal stuff :-)

catdownunder said...

Mmm - that tells me I didn't achieve much last year!

Caroline Lawrence said...

Great post but one topic writers need to address these days is how to avoid DISTRACTION, especially with the huge temptation of the internet and social media. That's the factor that's most affected my writing in the past fifteen years!

Stroppy Author said...

Ah, good point Caroline. And doing this is a distraction? I"d like to think it's an investment. A few hours that might lead you to better choices. Or did you mean to adjust the questions to acknowledge that distraction is the problem? That would be a good idea.