At the very end of 2013, after my first properly relaxing holiday in a couple of years, I had a major realization about my general situation. I realized that I was wrong when I thought I'd gracefully handled becoming a parent on such short notice at the end of 2010, when in fact I'd handled it gracefully only in my personal life. Over the previous three years, I'd managed to completely hoop my business.
So I started 2014 excited by my realization, and eager to mend my broken professional life.
The Year, Professionally
I decided my theme for the year would be STRENGTH. I wanted my work to stand on firmer ground. I wanted to feel more financially secure. I wanted to get my body in shape. Rather than feeling like I was constantly treading water, I wanted to start pulling some solid strokes.
Over the course of 2014, I:
- billed more for editing in the first quarter than I had in all of 2013 (which isn't saying much, except that it also speaks volumes).
- projects I worked on included three books and quite a few craft patterns.
- revamped my weekly newsletter, nearly doubled its size, and actually sent it pretty much every week.
- taught at Craftcation Conference.
- taught a beginner crochet class at Craftsy.
- spoke at Creative Mornings Vancouver.
- had my book published.
- went on a book tour of nine major cities.
- completed a year of making (the first daily project I've ever completed, despite starting several).
- wrote and self-published my first ebook.
- sold my first soap.
- started a podcast.
- launched my first Etsy shop.
- built my first self-hosted shop.
Do I feel like my business is stronger at the end of 2014? Hells yes, I do. Many of the projects I started or grew will continue into next year, which is a very welcome change from the short-lived, flash-in-the-pan projects that defined the previous few years. (I'm continuing my newsletter and podcast, will teach at Craftcation again, will experiment with selling more soap, will do another #yearofmaking, and will continue with both my Etsy and self-hosted shops.)
Though not a raging bestseller, Make It Mighty Ugly has been, as far as I can tell, very well received. It got a starred review in Library Journal, which, duh, made me super happy. I've heard from perfect strangers about how much they've enjoyed the book, and that's pretty much all I need to consider it a success. (I have no idea how well it's been selling; I won't know until I get my first royalties statement in a month or two.)
I remain completely in love with the ideas of Mighty Ugly, and I look forward to continuing to explore them in the coming year.
Some Thoughts on Editing
I hired an editor when I was working on the Year of Making ebook, and not only did she make the book so much better, I got to experience a phenomenon a couple of my own editing clients have reported to me: I made back the cost of editing in the first twenty-four hours my ebook was out. That's three separate anecdotes, and though they certainly do not a guarantee make, I do find it fascinating. Of course, each of those books was written by an author who has an audience that was excited for the book, and the books were written with those audiences in mind. If a prospective client comes to me and they have an established audience, too, I'll certainly mention this anecdote to them. Editing is not terribly expensive, and it's quite possible that with a strong product, a solid platform and some good marketing, you can make your editing fee up in the first day your book is out.
I'm ending the year with an idea for my next book; I've just signed a contract with some very smart, creative people to do more online teaching (more on that very soon!); I'm awaiting a new manuscript to edit (from a repeat client!); I've lined up a steady editing schedule with another repeat client; I have a Mighty Ugly professional-development workshop scheduled for July (I've wanted to do MU workshops in this context for years; even just one is more than I did in 2014, so that's exciting!); and I'm considering selling soap at my first in-person market. This is a far stronger start compared to last year. That firmer foundation I wanted to establish? Established.
And hells yes, that makes me feel strong.
2014 was the year I started enjoying jogging and running. I'd never enjoyed it before, despite several attempts, but this year I found myself eager to do it. Yesterday, in fact, we bought a treadmill, such is my desire to run even when it's dark out and even when it's pissing rain.
That said, I've spent the last quarter of the year a bit of a mess. A foot injury in September prevented me from running for two months. After staying perfectly healthy through a truly nutty October (book tour!), a wicked stomach bug in November knocked me on my ass for four days, and set me two full weeks behind in work just as the calendar started barreling toward Christmas. So though my foot was healed by the end of November, I couldn't even entertain the idea of starting my running habit back up, for I felt the need to be chained to my desk chair (I did get all the work done).
Then Greg's semester ended and we took off work a week early to visit some friends and camp in our wee camper in their driveways. Owen had the sniffles when we left, but it turned out what he really had was the plague. Then Greg got it. Then I got it. We cut our short trip short by a couple of days, and three days after we returned home I discovered I'd turned that plague into shingles (caught very early, thankfully; I'm pretty much fine!). I suppose the shingles should force me to realize I've perhaps ended the year not as strong, physically, as I'd wanted.
It does serve as a pretty effective wake-up call. I tend to be conservative about pushing myself too hard, but I see now that I wasn't conservative enough this fall (then again, book tour! Too hard or not, that one was a no-brainer). Also, as a family, we need to remember to take a proper, relaxing holiday at the end of the year. Road trips are awesome, but they're not relaxing.
But hey, looking ahead to 2015, we're going to take an epic road trip in May and June. It's the last time we'll be able to do such a thing during the not-crazy-July-and-August season before Owen starts kindergarten. So I'll arrange my work schedule around this epic trip, and I do believe I'm in a position to do that fairly gracefully (because I have wonderful clients who think epic road trips are worth working around). We'll see. (By “epic” I mean we're going to spend about five weeks on the road with our wee camper, driving a massive loop around the western U.S., going as far south as Southern California, and as far east as New Mexico and Wyoming. National Parks, here we come!)
As for my creative life, #yearofmaking certainly had a profound effect on pretty much everything. I've become a maker in my fullest understanding of the word. My commitment to tinkering, experimenting and trying new things has left me feeling downright capable, and that's totally in line with my over-arching goal of building strength. I've become utterly comfortable flailing around in front of others as I try new things (often ungracefully). This was the year the “mighty” in Mighty Ugly really settled in for me. I started 2014 a yarn crafter who occasionally sewed, and I ended it obsessed with painting and making soap (and still knitting and crocheting, and I'll be doing a lot of sewing in the coming months).
My kid (he's four now; I'm dying from it), it turns out, is a bit of a perfectionist. His desire to know how to do something seems to get in the way of him actually learning how, but he also seems to have internalized that we're a family that makes things. We made gifts together this holiday season, and he proudly gave them out. He knows that everyday things like soap and lotion and bath fizzies are made by us. He makes requests.
I took him to an arts crawl last month, and was fascinated to see what interested him. He's an object guy, that's for sure. Decorative art meant nothing to him, but he was interested in pottery and woodwork. He's also pretty Lego obsessed (he's a to-the-letter instruction-follower).
He's taught me that though I've become pretty ace (if I say so myself) at nudging grown-ups to confront their creative demons, I know almost nothing of a preschooler's way of thinking. I default, as is almost always a good parenting strategy, I've found, when safety isn't an issue, to leaving it alone. But I do intend to occasionally experiment in 2015 to see if anything sparks an impulse in him to create beyond the scope of Lego. (If he doesn't, I won't worry about it; he's got the fine motor coordination, so there's simply no need.)
Socially, this year was a challenge, especially since August. It's hard to be a working parent and a (gregarious) introvert and also see friends on a regular basis. I just love being at home, and there's very little that will entice me out of here after a solid day's work and a couple of hours with my family. More often than not, my pajamas go on right after I put Owen to bed at around 7:30.
But however much I love being a homebody, I also value my friendships with others. And that means I have to get out. This coming year, I'll need to figure out how to manage that in such a way that's rewarding rather than stressful. One thing I certainly want to do is more regularly attend the weekly knit night at my local yarn store.
Really, I just need to stop writing this post. There are loads of directions I could go in, but we'll have friends arriving in a couple of hours for a party, and I need to tidy up the place (and if I manage it quickly, I intend to paint my nails all kinds of sparkly).
Over the last several years, we've had some doozies, of the we're-not-dead-so-we're-stronger variety. 2014 was most certainly not one of those years. It was a year of growth, joy, connection, accomplishment and strength. I've done a good job of not downplaying that. It's a true delight to say I've had a good year. It's certainly not something I've taken for granted, and I'm going to do my best to take the good feeling into 2015 with me. Hopefully, it will grow.
Thank you for being here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, for supporting my work with your hard-earned money and your invaluable words, and for your quiet contemplation. I hope you, too, had a solid year of strength and growth, and that 2015 is a year of health, happiness and continued adventure for you and yours.
Happy New Year!