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.
Many businesses and individuals use the S.W.O.T. method of analysis, introduced decades ago. Creating a S.W.O.T assessment aids decision-making and strategy decisions.
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?
Not hoping for a breakthrough
’cause my strength to write is gone,
and the only thing that I can do
is keep on hangin’ on,
like that kitten in the poster
that was so hip way back when,
just a-stayin’ on the roster
of weird folk who wield a pen
in the service of a muse
who’s so fickle it’s a joke,
but that’s really no excuse,
and I must still try to evoke
the joy of living, at least to try,
when all I want to do is cry.
Andrew, please don’t allow the enemy to make you think your writing isn’t strong anymore. It’s interesting, I’ve only “known” you through your responses to different blogs like this one. And, my friend, I’m telling you, your writing is strong enough to continue touching and blessing hearts. What you write may not look as you’d hoped and planned, but God still uses the thoughts He places on your heart to touch the lives of other writers. Take care, dear brother.
Susan, thank you so much for this lovely affirmation.
It can be hard to keep going. Facing truths that one would rather not see, and trying to represent them honestly, while holding to faith is kind of tiring, and there are times when my voice (figurative, not literal…I run out of breath quickly when trying to speak) seems like Paul’s clanging cymbals.
I won’t quit, though. The only community I have is here.
Outstanding! I’m going to work through my own reset today! Thank you!
Always a good use of time! Thanks, DiAnn!
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you, dear Cynthia, for inspiring us to engage in some writerly algebra: s+r>w
(Strategizing plus readjusting is greater than whining.)
I’m going to write some SWOT notes in my 2022 day planner.
Loved this timely post.
Christmas Blessings – Wendy Mac 🎄
Love your algebra, Wendy!
Kristen Joy Wilks
I make a set of writing goals for myself every year. At the end of the year, it is so fun to go back and highlight the things I’ve managed to get done. I never finish all of my goals, but I do end up accomplishing more than I thought I had once I actually look at my list. This year I was able to revise, polish, and self-publish two lead magnets for my website. I also entered the writing contests I had intended to and outlined and wrote the rough drafts for six children’s chapter books for NaNoWriMo. Not too shabby. I’m jumping into the new year by promoting my lead magnets and editing all of those fun chapter books! It can feel like I don’t get anything done, but looking back, I see that a little bit of work every day adds up over the year.
Great reminder, Kristen!
This is excellent! Thank you
Glad it was meaningful for you, Nancy.
Cynthia, seriously, you come up with the best, most useful posts!!! “Do the S.W.O.T. assessment” is now on my to-do list for this week. This is a great tool to prepare for the new year. Thank you. God bless you. Merry Christmas!
Thank you so much, Susan! Merry Christmas to you, too!
Your Threat post dodged the issue. Here are some threats to keep you awake at night:
1. Someone else publishes your idea before you
2. The market changes and your genre falls out of favor
3. A troll attacks your website
4. Your social media account gets blocked
5. The next book stumbles breaking your record of success
Even if these sound scary, they all have things you can do now to minimize your risks such as:
1. Don’t delay, do it now
2. Be agile and know the adjacent genres you can shift to
3. Set up a monitoring routine so you can respond quickly
4. Avoid words and phrases that trigger social media reviews
5. Manage expectations such as we knew this was a limited market but felt it was a story worth telling
Robert, thanks for what you added. Those are indeed threats to our goals, many of which I’ve experienced or know friends have experienced. The section on threats was merely meant to stir the writer’s own imagination of possible threats, and then intentionality to avoid or compensate for them. Your list did a great job of enhancing that category.