Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year's Revolution... Resolving to do it all again -tidier house, be more organised, oh yes, and write some lovely picture books, by Juliet Clare Bell

Happy New Year!

I’ve always loved New Year’s Eve and New Year: reflecting on the previous year, and even more fun, the promise of exciting things to come. It’s such an optimistic time. I know lots of people don’t, but I love new year’s revolutions (as a child I used to think that’s what they were called –and that’s how they can feel sometimes). I love them, even if they don’t quite turn into what they set out to be...

One thing about writing for a blog is that you become slightly more accountable for your resolutions, which can be a great thing, or it can make you look a little foolish. I was thinking about this blog post and what I’d put in when I realised I’d done one last year at new year so I checked it out...

...oops. Most of the same things.

I’d posted a picture of my newly tidied desk:


I had a great weekly plan which was making me much more productive:


I had a calendar and I was determined to use it!


To be fair, for several months I did do all those things and it was brilliant. The house was tidier than it had ever been, I was much more focused... but I can pretty much sum up the whole of the rest of the year from March 12th onwards in three words: my mum died. And that was 2013.

I’m mighty glad to be starting 2014. It feels like a good time to try and get on top of things again, and actually not all plans for being more organised (and having a more sorted house and working environment) at the beginning of 2013 came to nothing. I'm going to restart my weekly plan that worked so well for a while, and I am at a better physical starting place (I can’t un-chuck all the masses of stuff I chucked out last January, so although there’s a long way to go, the house is in a much better state than it was a year ago). And good things did happen in 2013, including getting an office over the road with fellow children’s author, Leila Rasheed.

Writing goals for 2014

In our end of year local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meet up in December, we discussed our personal plans for 2014 and what had worked well/not so well for us in 2013. I realised that my three writing goals for 2014 are actually not even writing goals, but creating a better environment where I hope the writing will slightly take care of itself...

[1] Use a calendar properly. To many people, this seems ridiculous, but I still struggle with writing things down in one place and not carrying around most dates in my head. I spend half the time not using any calendars at all, and the other half, trying to use loads at the same time (two wall calendars –home and office; a diary; notes on my phone; the calendar on my phone; google calendar; a wall planner). Not this year! I’m going to try and master google calendar and pretty much use that and a wall planner (for all you organised people, if you’ve got any good tips, please please leave them in the comments...)

[2] Use a to-do list properly. If someone’s got the perfect to-do list system, please elaborate in the comments... I’ve just signed up to the free version of Simpleology (on the recommendation of other picture book writers) and I’m going to try using it every day for a few months to see if it actually helps (or whether it’s just another way of procrastinating).

[3] Staying on top of accounts. This has taken up ridiculously more thinking time than it ever needed to. I think I’ve realised that it’s actually all pretty straightforward –you just have to do it and keep doing it and have a spreadsheet and DO IT. And not waste time thinking about it and JUST DO IT!

I guess that sums it up for 2014: just do it. Oh, and also my favourite quote from David Almond at a talk he gave in Birmingham in November, in response to the question by a young girl on what should she do if she wanted to become a writer: "Make it lovely".

2014’s definitely going to be a happier year. There are lots of exciting things coming up on the writing front -once a fortnight, starting this month, Leila and I are hosting day-long writing retreats, where writers/illustrators can come and write in the (quiet) company of other writers; once a month, we’re doing an SCBWI-equivalent up at the new Library of Birmingham; I’m running another picture book writing evening class starting in a few weeks; I’ve got some lovely author visits lined up, including a really exciting one on World Book Day, and I’ve been commissioned to write a really exciting non-fiction picture book, which I’ve been doing lots of (delicious) research for and which I’m going to blog about in March. And Tara Lazar’s brilliant PiBoIdMo from November 2013 has left me with lots of new shoots for new stories which I’ll keep watering over the coming months...

Happy New Year! and make it lovely...

What are your writing goals for this year? Do you have any hints on doing a to do list well, or using a calendar efficiently?

Juliet Clare Bell is currently writing a picture book on Bournville, the Cadburys and chocolate, which is fascinating and very tasty...

13 comments:

  1. It sounds like you have a much happier year planned :) I like the idea of a quiet space amongst other authors - if I lived nearby I'd be there!

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    1. Thanks, Abie. There may be some near you... Urban Writing Retreats do lots (in London, I think) and there must be others dotted around the country. And there are a few SCBWI ones I think... Happy writing year...

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  2. Lovely to read your post, Clare, and hope 2014 will be better for you than 2013. I think my main goal is to write my own middle grade novel - I just need the time and I'll be sorted! xx

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    1. Hi Leila, Maybe you can dedicate our retreat days to writing your middle grade novel? Hope it'll be a productive year for us both -I'm very glad we get to share an office! Here's to 2014...

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  3. My best advice for using google calendar is; remember to put the event in the calendar!

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    1. Thanks, Heather. That's the bit I'm good at not doing... but I'm going to try. Happy new year, and may this be the best yet. x

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  4. It's definitely going to be a better year, Clare ... and hey, it's okay to miss your lovely mum. Part of learning to live with losing her is grabbing life and holding it close. Lots of love!

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    1. Thank you, Candy. You're a wise woman. Happy New Year x

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  5. Wishing you the best with your writing goals this year, Clare! I use Google calendar and it works for me. I love being able to add and view from my phone, computer, and iPad.I did try separate calendars for personal and work with different colors...way too complicated. Now I just put it all in one spot. It's not as colorful, but a lot simpler!

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    1. Thanks, Penny. It would be great to get on top of it (even if it doesn't have lots of colours)...

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  6. Happy New Year, Clare! I love the idea of your writing day - Such a great idea. A writing group host one in Bath but it's on a Saturday and that's no good for me. Tempted to organise one myself....Re: planning - I download and print a monthly planner and pin it to my 'pinboard of positivity' - alongside some pictures I like. I somehow prefer to have a printed 'thing' rather than something on the computer.

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  7. "Just do it!" Or 'JFDI' as t'other half is wont to call it, is my motto for this year too. Not just for Children's Book projects. Not sure if it will be a good year or not as I haven't lined up my next book yet, so things might get a touch tense. But PLR comes through soon so I have time. . . For quiet writing time I think I will take the iPad and a sketchbook down to the newly opened local pub just down the road, sit there with a pint of bitter and let the muse come at me guns blazing. . .

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  8. Here's to a much better 2014! xxx

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