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Difficult times mean planning’s not optional. What’s your plan?

August 8, 2013

As I write this, two of my colleagues are facing their last day at my current employer–its choice. It’s not an uncommon thing any more. My father worked almost 40 years at the same place. This year, I got my tenth-anniversary gift, a paycheck–and an iPad mini. There are some nice gifts at fifteen years, too, if I’m still there to get one.

The economy isn’t what it once was. If you watch shows like Mad Men, the rapidity of someone being fired is amazing. It’s like Donald Trump works there. There’s no taking time to document performance issues, no performance improvement plan supervised by HR. There’s just the fired guy, the door way, and a movement through said doorway.

On the other hand, the rapidity and frequency of layoffs is stunning in its increase. It used to be companies that cut staff were struggling. Now, a mass layoff can be a sign of strength–a company leaning up for the long haul and getting more productivity out of its remaining staff to increase the bottom line.

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, writing, like any other business, seems to be getting tougher. The person you dealt with at publisher X or agency Y may not the there the next time you call. Borders is gone and Barnes and Noble may be next. And Books-A-Million is as rare a thing as a comfortably pleasant July evening in my backyard.

Some authors, including FWA member Julie Compton, have decided to go out on their own. Julie even started her own publishing company to handle her own books. And yet the industry is all over the place with information about whether to self-publish or go with the traditional route. Everyone has an agenda and it’s hard to find an honest broker. And meanwhile, your career is stalled while you try to figure out what to do.

Why brings us to the point of the matter. What’s your plan?

You aren’t going to figure out what to do by scurrying to-and-fro, trying to keep up with what the latest guru told you. What’s your plan? What do you intend to do to get from here (where you are now) to there (where you want to be)? And how do you intend to hold yourself to that plan?

My plan at the beginning of the calendar year was simple: become an RPLA finalist (and, with luck a winner) and get in the FWA collection (both done). Concentrate on short stories a little more, but don’t blow off the novels. And network, network, nextwork.

Well, two out of five isn’t bad. However, I need to rededicate myself to the short stories while still working on the novels. And I need to network.

What’s your plan for dealing with the turmoil and how do you intend to keep yourself honest in pursuing it?

This is a topic we’ll revisit several times over the next few weeks. Because this is a business and success is never an accident. It needs a plan and you need to make yourself accountable to that plan.

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