Get Ready for a New Writing Year

I looked up after Christmas and realized it was almost THE END OF THE YEAR. Oh no! Suddenly my newsletter is due in a couple days, I have to pull my financial records together for my writing business, and if I don’t use my free lunch at Georgie’s by Tuesday, I’m going to lose it. Plus I have all my regular work to do and bills to pay when all I want to do is take a vacation, preferably someplace warm. My teacher friends have another week to relax, but I’m a writer and a musician. That means I’m self-employed and need to get my act together for a new year.

If you’re a writer or any kind of artist, you’ve got some work to do, too. It falls into two categories: closing out the old year and planning for the new year.

Closing out the old year:

Finances: If you make any money with your writing, you need to report it on your income tax. You can offset that income with your writing-related expenses, but only if you’ve kept track of them throughout the year. I hope you have.  If not, start now. It doesn’t matter whether you do it by hand in a notebook, put the numbers in a spreadsheet, or use a program such as Quickbooks, but you need to keep records and keep your receipts. That way, if the IRS questions your return, you have the paperwork to back it up. While you’re at it, take a look at what you earned and what you spent. Is it out of balance? What can you do better next year?

For more on writers and taxes, see writeraid.net/2011/04/11/last-minute-tax-tips and The Writer’s Pocket Tax Guide.

Files: If you’re like me, the paper piles up and so do the computer files. Now is a good time to sort through it all. Put current projects close at hand. File or toss the rest. Clear the desk for a fresh start. It’s also a good time to purge unneeded emails and computer files.

Year-end report: Unlike big companies with stockholders and boards of directors, writers are not required to report to anyone about our year’s accomplishments, but it’s still a good idea to look back and see how you did. What did you write? What did you publish? How did you progress in your writing career? If you kept writing all year, consider your year a success.

Planning for the new year

Finances: Now is the time to buy a new ledger, start a new spreadsheet, or open a new file in your computer program to record your income and expenses for the new year. You might want to set a budget and income goals. Think about what you can do to spend less and earn more.

Setting writing goals: As you start the new year, what do you hope to accomplish in your writing in 2014? Will you finish that novel? Submit more articles? Start a blog? Take a class? Write it down and give yourself deadlines, then post your goals where you will see them every day.

Then . . . Go Write.

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I have updated my resources page with more books and more links. Click on “Resources” above. If you find any errors or have additions to suggest, please let me know in the comments or at sufalick@gmail.com.

Jan. 2 is the deadline to sign up for my online classes, listed under “Classes” above. I’m offering courses on blogging, columns, opinionated writing, and writing and selling freelance articles. If I don’t have enough signups by Thursday, the classes will not be offered this term.

Happy New Year to one and all!

 


Now that I’m retired, how do I become a writer, part II

Last week we talked about starting a writing career after retirement. It’s something I see a lot of seniors wanting to do. They show up at writing conferences, take my classes or mention it to me at social occasions. After years of thinking about writing, now they’re ready to do it. But what do they actually need to do?

In my Aug. 8 post, I offered some questions would-be writers should ask themselves: Do I need to make money from their writing, what do I want to write, and what do I know a lot about?

Here are three more questions to consider.

How good are you at self-discipline?

If you want to do more than scribble a few words when you feel inspired, you’re going to need to get serious about your writing. That means establishing a regular writing routine that may sometimes feel like you’re not retired after all. On a regular basis, whether it’s every day or every Tuesday afternoon, you’ll need to commit to sitting down and writing for a specific length of time or a minimum number of words. In order to make that work, you’ll need to set up a place to write and acquire the tools to write with and tell the world you’re not available at that time because you’re writing. This is not easy. Some days, you will not want to write, and some days you’ll have a hundred other things calling for your attention, but if you really want to be a writer, you’ll do it anyway. Just like a job.

Are you prepared to market your writing?

If you just want to write for yourself, that’s perfectly fine. Have fun playing with words, maybe writing in your journal or putting together poems or booklets for your friends and family. That’s a wonderful thing to do. But if your goal is to be published and paid for it, you’ll need to learn how to send out your writing to periodicals and websites, pitch your books to agents and editors, and ultimately sell your books to readers via social media, readings, talks, etc. It’s a lot. It’s not writing. It’s scary. But it’s a necessary evil, and it can be lots of fun.

Are you ready to reach out for support and to learn your craft?

Writing can be a lonely business. But we don’t have to be alone all the time. Writing groups can be found everywhere. Join up with other writers to share information, to critique each other’s work, or just to offer sympathy and support. You can take writing workshops in every state and around the world, as well as online. (I offer a few. Check my Classes page above). Tons of books and websites offer advice for writers. See my Resource page (above) for a list. Magazines such as Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and Poets & Writers offer tons of information about all kinds of writing and places to publish. You can find online groups in every writing specialty. So reach out.

If you really want to be a writer, you can do it. You’re never too old to begin. All you have to do is start writing.

Please feel free to post questions and comments. I’m here to help.

Now go write.