I’m borrowing inspiration today from one of my clients. As one year draws to a close and another is peeking over the horizon, she was compelled to consider, “What’s next?”
Rather than merely wonder, she pulled together a plan to analyze where she’d been, where she believed she is headed, and what would either propel her forward or threaten to thwart her progress.
Authors are by nature creative. Making a plan or a chart sounds fun when it’s fleshing out characters for a novel. For an author, it sounds tantamount to calculus homework when applied to career planning or career starting. But those who pause, reflect, and strategize set themselves up for success. And it doesn’t have to be a complex task.
It takes an honest look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
What would that kind of analysis look like for an author?
How can writers apply those considerations to make them set for a reset in the new year?
Whether you use a S.W.O.T. template, spreadsheet, or the back of a used envelope, honestly jot down what you believe are the strengths you bring to your writing projects and career. You might list strengths like:
- Good interviewer
- Good listener
- Build creative storyworlds
- Good grasp of grammar
- Understand my target reader
- In the season of life when I have more time to devote to writing
We may think our list of weaknesses dwarfs the list of strengths. But in this case, a writer’s vulnerability to lay out their known weak areas–perhaps even what critique partners or professional-level contest judges have pointed out–is the beginning of addressing weaknesses in a proactive way that can be career-changing. Unaddressed, they not only remain weaknesses but fester into larger issues.
Your list might look like this:
- Poor grasp of punctuation
- Unfamiliar with other books published in my genre
- Easily distracted
- Keep getting flagged for telling rather than showing
- Haven’t figured out how to encourage people to sign up for my newsletter
Think your opportunities are few? Think harder. And consider how taking advantage of your unique opportunities could alter the trajectory of your writing in the upcoming year. They may get you set for a reset.
- Abandon my pet project that isn’t going anywhere to pursue more of what is working
- Write more short pieces–articles or novellas–to establish a presence online
- Invest time in improving social media engagement and convert the mildly interested to followers/subscribers
- Complete the novel
- An agent has asked for my proposal
- Refresh my website now, before I have a contract
- Serve as a virtual assistant and familiarize myself with more of the industry, the world of publishing
This isn’t the place for Eeyore thinking. It’s a place to realistically assess potential threats to making the new year stronger than the one just ending. Like weaknesses, listing threats simply reveals what needs attention–neutralizing, avoiding, demolishing, or compensating. It isn’t a time for whining, but for strategizing and readjusting. What might threaten your ability to take advantage of opportunities or threaten to keep you from shoring up weaknesses?
- It’s either groceries or a website refresh right now
- Parents moving in for who knows how long
- Carpal tunnel surgery means no laptop keystrokes for a while
- Just started new, demanding day job
- Reaching my career goals may put me in a new tax bracket (threw that one in there for fun)
What comes after a S.W.O.T assessment? An action plan. An ambiguous sense of what you’d like to accomplish or where you’d like to improve, or a nebulous idea of your weaknesses and what might threaten your progress can keep a writer from advancing.
Intentionality, though, can whittle away at threats and weaknesses and help a writer capitalize on strengths and opportunities. Are you set for a reset? Ready for a breakthrough?