2018 Theme, Goals, and Resolutions
What does that mean?
Every December, I take some time to reflect on the year that passed. What worked. What didn't work so well. When I was happy. When I was stressed.
When I sat down to reflect on 2017, I had a startling realization:
I couldn't identify a single moment when I was fully happy.
I had plenty of "pretty good," moments, but I couldn't think of a minute of pure, undiluted joy.
It got me thinking. When was the last time I felt truly, blissfully happy? When was the last time I had the sense of living my best life, of waking up every day full of delight?
I kept thinking back to 2014. I remember being really, truly soul-happy.
The realization surprised me.
In 2014, I was a multi-published author, but not a particularly successful one. Publishers were willing to give me another shot after mediocre sales, but nobody in publishing was exactly banging down the door for more Lauren Layne books.
Neither were readers.
I hadn't hit a bestseller list, nobody at conferences had any idea who I was. I didn't really care what my sales numbers were (and in hind sight, they were not good), because nobody else really cared either.
There was a hidden blessing in all that mediocrity:
Nobody was paying attention to me.
Not publishers. Not (many) readers. Not other authors.
As a result, there was only one thing on my radar:
My days looked like this:
Wake up at 5am. Write. Go for a run. Shower. Write some more. Lunch. Write some more. Happy hour and dinner with Mr. Layne. To bed happily exhausted, excited for tomorrow. Repeat.
I'm sure there was some social media sprinkled in there, but it was minimal. Maybe a blog post here and there, but I didn't have any strategy. My website was awesome, because my website's always awesome. But that's pretty much it as far as the business side went. I didn't worry about conferences or signings or Facebook parties or advertising budget, or cross-promotion or reviews.
I just kept writing book after book, including some of my favorites. In fact, my beloved Blurred Lines was born in 2014. I told my publisher I wanted to write a friends-to-lovers story. They said "meh." I charged ahead anyway, cranking out the first three chapters in less than hour and sending it to my agent. I wasn't worried about whether or not it would sell well. The same went for everything I did during that time-frame.
I did it for the joy of it. Because I wanted to. Because I loved it.
From the outside, it probably seems like 2015-16 looks are the years when I "made it." I debuted on the USA TODAY bestseller list (with none other than Blurred Lines) for the first time, and proceeded to have a string of relative hits, culminating with making the New York Times bestseller list at the end of 2016.
But 2015 and 2016 merely look like my banner years.
Those successes were all born out of my work in 2014—on my decision to prioritize, no, cherish the writing process above all else. Tangentially, it was also my healthiest year. I worked out every day, I ate well, I had none of the debilitating anxiety that would come at me in 2017. I was strong, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Which brings us full circle to the point of this:
I lost my way in 2017.
It wasn't an awful year, but in hindsight, I let everything get too complicated. I let other people's opinions matter than my own. I went to a million signings, and my lack of popularity at said signings trigger feelings of inadequacy. I freaked out about all things "marketing." I focused on things that not only didn't make me happy, but actively sucked all the joy right out of me. I barely exercised. I ate a lot of takeout. I gained a little weight, and instead of adjusting my habits accordingly, I simply sat around beating myself up for the extra pounds.
I spent a lot of time agonizing over why some of my books weren't doing as well as others. I got flooded with reader opinions on everything—people thought I should be doing more of X, less of Y, although nobody seemed to agree on what that was. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on me, my work, what I needed to be doing, and it left me creatively paralyzed.
I let everything get too damn complicated.
Hence the trip down memory lane. I needed to find the source of my joy again.
My joy is, and always has been the books.
Specifically, my books, my way.
Based on this, I spent a lot of time trying to come up with my theme word for 2018. I literally have pages of ideas—of words I loved.
I knew I needed to strip away the noise, exhale the bullshit, and embrace simplicity in all things. My health. My processes. My goals.
No one word seemed quite right.
Simplicity came close to what I was after, and top contender for my theme word, but in the end it was a phrase, not a word that I kept coming back to for 2018:
Back to Basics
So, what does that look like?
Back to basics, as I'm interpreting it, looks lot like this website, actually. My theme for the year inspired me to take a hard look at my brand, realizing that it felt a little scattered. Layers upon layers of Lauren Layne evolution over the years, while all important to my growth, had left me (and my brand) feeling a little bit kludgy.
I've decided to overhaul my brand, my website, my social media presence to reflect the new clarity of focus.
I'm craving simple. I'm craving understated. I'm craving classic.
I want timeless elegance. Clean monochrome color schemes. Like a glass of champagne—sophisticated and yet basic in the best sense of the word.
I haven't changed my brand so much as stripped away the crap to get the essence of it.
My beloved black is still around. My "logo" is still simply my name in an old-fashioned serif font.
But you'll also notice a few more neutrals, fewer noisy bolds (aside from my book covers, because I have no control over those). Everything's just a little bit softer, and yet a little bit richer.
And speaking of book covers, each of my book pages has a black and white image along with the official cover. This ties in with my desire for simplicity and consistency, and also doing things how I want, in a way that brings me joy. I'm sure marketing gurus and shaking their head in horror that I'm muddying the visual image associated with each book.
I don't give a crap. My readers are smart. They'll figure it out. Think of them like pretty marketing imagery. You know how if you buy a lipstick on Nordstrom, they'll often have a photo of the lipstick itself, and a picture of the model wearing the lipstick?
My book cover is the product image of the lipstick, the black and white picture is the equivalent of the model wearing the lipstick — the book "in action," so to speak.
The black and white images represent the way the stories make me feel—the way I want readers to feel.
For that matter, you'll be seeing a lot of black and white photography popping up, both on my site and on my social media site.
Back to Basics, remember?
Lauren Layne's 2018 Goals
In addition to December being a month of reflection on the year that passed, it's also a month of planning for the year to come. Once I'd settled on my theme of Back to Basics for 2018, it was time to figure out how that would manifest.
For some reason (habit, I suppose) I kept trying to come up with a tidy list of three goals.
I settled on the first two almost immediately, but I kept forgetting what my third goal was supposed to be, and thus it kept shifting and changing on me.
It took me way too long to realize the problem:
I didn't need the third goal. It was becoming yet another source of noise and clutter, taking my focus away from the two goals that felt most essential.
1. run a 5k (3.1 miles) in under 30 minutes.
2. write 8 books.
I am so excited about these goals. They're clear. Measurable. Frill free.
And best of all, completely in my control (barring any illness or injury).
The first goal came from the realization that my one-time 4-6 runs a week fitness schedule had devolved into maybe 4 runs a month in 2017. I gained a little weight, but far worse than that, I felt out of shape. Clunky. Less than fresh.
I've tried to set running goals before, but they've always been distance-focused, namely, training for a half marathon. It took me awhile to realize ... I don't like distance running. I find it boring. Running, more than any other activity unlocks my creativity—nearly all of my ideas come to me while on the treadmill. Which means that after about an hour or so, I'm practically bursting with the need to go write down all if the ideas bouncing around.
A 5k is just about right. Three miles is the perfect distance for me to feel like I can get a decent workout in, to get all the ideas flowing, but then a good stopping point to get the ideas into Evernote or my work in progress.
Even when out of shape, I can jog a 5k relatively easily. Heck, I can jog a 10k relatively easily. But I'm slow. The slow doesn't bother me, but having a time-related goal gives me the extra nip of motivation I need to actually run on a regular basis. It's given me something to work towards than is a mind-numbing (for me) 13 miles.
As for the writing 8 books, I should start by saying it's semi-cheating to say that. Four of those books I "have" to write as part of my day job. The books are under contract, and due to the publisher to get them out on time. It's those extra other four books that are the key. They're just for me. Because I know I can write them, once I trim the crap from my life. And more importantly because I want to. Maybe I'll publish them. Maybe I won't.
But it all comes back to that desire to recapture some of the magic of the early stages of my career when I was focused on the creation of books, and not so much the selling of books.
The real beauty of these two goals for me isn't just the simplicity of the goals themselves, but the simplicity of the system I've put in place in order to achieve them. I have no spreadsheets, no charts, no word count tracker, no running plan. It's as simple as this:
Running System: If it's a hair wash day (every other day), I go run 5k, and whatever pace I'm feeling up to on that day. If it's not a hair wash day, I do push-ups instead.
Writing System: Write every single day. No exceptions, but no expectations, either. It can be 20 words, it can be 10,000 words, but it has to be something.
That's it. Run 3 miles every other day, write something every single day.
It's late January as I write this. Following the above system, I've already shaved an entire minute off my 5k time, and finished a book.
Back to Basics, Baby.
a quick disclaimer
It may seem obvious, but I also feel it's important to point out that these are my goals. They're relative only to me, and in no way are meant to intimidate.
If you've never run a 5k (3.1 miles) before, the thought of doing it without taking a walk break, much less running it under thirty minutes probably sounds ambitious. Likewise, if you're an established runner, you may be laughing at how "easy" a 30 minute 5k. See? All relative.
I'll also mention that the first time I ever had a fitness goal on my annual goal list, it was 2010, and I'd never exercised a day in my life. After realizing that I was literally incapable of sustaining even a slow jog for longer than 60 seconds, I set my annual fitness goal as this: Be able to jog for three minutes without having to stop to walk. I've come a long way since then, but the point is, all of us start somewhere.
Regarding the 8-books a year, it's probably giving some fellow writers a heart attack, while more prolific authors are rolling their eyes and thinking me an amateur. And I have no doubt that some mean-spirited reader will learn of my goal and use it as ammunition against me in a review (the ol' I didn't enjoy this book as much as her others, therefore the only explanation is that she must have rushed it because she's trying to write too many too fast).
I write fast. I've always written fast. Nobody but me gets to decide if that's the right pace for book or not.
The point is, these goals are right for me. They both have me jumping out of bed every morning wanting to get a little bit closer.
If my goals inspire you in some way, great, but by no means should you try to match them unless they seem right for you. Get me?
Resolutions get a bad rap, and I think that's because people sometimes confuse goals and resolutions. A goal is something measurable. Achievable. Something you can check off, and say "did that!"
It's why "work out more" and "swear less" are shitty goals (clearly 'swear less' isn't one of my goals). Actually, they're not goals at all, they're resolutions! You're resolving to do more/less of something, and that's great, but because you haven't built in a way to measure that, you're likely to forget you even had the thought by February.
But, that doesn't mean resolutions are bad! You simply need to treat them as what they are.
Resolutions are reminders to do something, not goals to be achieved.
In conjunction with goals, resolutions can be pivotal.
Keep them front and center (your phone wallpaper, a meditation mantra, the cover of your planner), resolutions can serve as really lovely nudges towards the life you want.
Lauren Layne 2018 Resolutions & Reminders
Exhale the bullshit.
Be a stiletto in a room full of flats.
Protect your peace.
Drink more champagne.
Haters gonna hate.
Be a voice, not an echo.
If it's not a hell yes, it's a no.