November 5

Your Writing Life, One Year From Now

    What will your writing life look like, one year from now?

    No matter what phase of the book writing + publishing process you’re at, your writing life is almost guaranteed to look different one year from now – but does it look like the life YOU want?

    12 months.

    52 weeks.

    365 days.

    One of the most popular posts on our site right now is The Demons You’ll Face When Writing (and How to Keep Writing) post. 

    Most writers worry about the infamous “writer’s block” on a regular basis, but they forget about the more insidious demons that lurk in their writing life – the ones based around your fear of what is on the other end of this writing and publishing journey.

    We’ve also talked about how to take care of yourself during the entire book writing + publishing process. Once again, no matter what phase of the process you’re in, there are unique challenges that come up that can easily derail you if you let them.

    So what does all of this have to do with your writing life, one year from now?

    If you have a vision of what you want your writing life to look like, a vision for the book you’re currently working on, we need to do a premortem ASAP.

    What’s a Premortem?

    A premortem is a concept that I learned from fellow author Ryan Holiday, specifically his book, “The Obstacle is the Way”:

    In a postmortem, doctors convene to examine the causes of a patient’s unexpected death so they can learn and improve for the next time a similar circumstance arises. Outside of the medical world, we call this a number of things—a debriefing, an exit interview, a wrap-up meeting, a review—but whatever it’s called, the idea is the same: We’re examining the project in hindsight after it happened. 

    A premortem is different. In it, we look to envision what could go wrong, what will go wrong, in advance, before we start. Far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.

    If you want your writing life to look different, one year from now, then it pays to look on the dark side for a while.

    The world might call you a pessimist. Who cares? It’s far better to seem like a downer than to be blindsided or caught off guard. It’s better to meditate on what could happen, to probe for weaknesses in our plans, so those inevitable failures can be correctly perceived, appropriately addressed, or simply endured.

    How to Do a Premortum for Your Current Writing Project

    Set aside an hour or two to do a premortem on your current writing project, looking at the next 12 months. 

    First off, if you haven’t created a consistent writing practice for yourself, NOW IS THE TIME!! 

    Once you have set time to work on your project (I know, we’re all busy, but you’ve got at least one hour 3+ days a week hiding in your schedule, I promise you), then we can start the premortem.

    Factor in any birthdays, holidays, travel, or business commitments you know you have coming up over the next 12 months that will require your time + attention. Gratefully make time for what you’ve already committed to and things in your life that are worth celebrating!

    After that, factor in at least 4 weeks of unexpected setbacks – illnesses, expenses, and other things of life that can derail your progress.

    Finally, create “If …, Then …” statements on how you’ll handle any setbacks that come along. For example:

    If I catch a cold, then I will take a break from writing for 3 whole days, guilt-free, to focus on getting healthy again.

    If I experience an unexpected death in the family, then I will change my schedule to writing my book every other day, instead of every day. On days I’m not working on my book, I’ll journal what I’m feeling so I don’t keep my thoughts and emotions bottled up.

    If _____, then _____.

    If you’re a worrywart, like me, then go crazy with it!

    What if your house burned down?

    What if your partner lost their job?

    What if, what if … 

    At this end of this premortem, you’ll realize that you can handle a whole lot more than you thought because you’ve got a plan for nearly every off-the-wall thing that could happen during the next 12 months.

    Now, all that’s left is to keep writing …

    One year from now, you could have the first draft of your book.

    One year from now, you could have a publishing book.

    One year from now, you could have a new list of excuses.

    The choice is up to you.

    The year is going to pass anyway, so how about we make the most of it?

    Remember, “far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.”

    You’re smarter than that.

    You know life is incredibly unpredictable, but this writing project, this book is immensely important to you and you’re ready to bring it to life, come hell or high water (or the flu). 

    Do a premortem, assume the worst, and be ready to celebrate your success.

    Bio: Victoria Klein is a two-time published author (currently writing her 3rd book) and the VP of Production for Paper Raven Books. Formerly PRB’s first-ever Book Project Manager, Victoria has helped numerous authors through the self-publishing process from start to finish. Through her monthly posts, she’ll reveal the biggest concerns and mistakes of self-publishing authors, and how to solve them.


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