I like Chris Guillebeau’s approach to the ‘annual review’, where he takes stock of the year that’s about to come to a close and begins planning for the new one.
So as many other bloggers are doing, I’m following Chris’ lead with a quick attempt to sum up what went well and not so well this year for me. If you’d like to share your own answer to these two questions please do so in the comments, or post a link to your blog if you’ve already written a similar post.
What Went Well (in vaguely chronological order)
The launch of this blog in January was a huge success for me in terms of positive feedback and engagement, with lots of people obviously relating to the name and subject matter. I was delighted with the response to the Four for Feb Challenge and Share Your Wares Sunday in the first few months of the year.
I’ve also been in contact with and got to know some amazing new people through it, mostly online but in some cases I’ve been able to meet them offline too. The blog was even named one of Scotland’s best websites by The List Magazine and featured on the Guardian’s website and Creative Boom.
In terms of freelancing things got off to an excellent start in February (following my decision to cut my hours to 4 days a week) with a regular gig at LEWIS, whose gorgeous new website is now live and features quite a bit of my writing (in particular the ‘About us’ and ‘Work sections’). I also had a few other jobs on throughout the year which has given me a confidence boost in terms of being able to make a go of freelancing full-time.
Our wedding in May was also a huge success – we had such a fun day and everyone else seemed to as well. It was great having our friends and family together, and taking them out on a boat to an island for the ceremony, then coming back for decent food and a dance to what I still think is one of the best playlists I’ve heard at any wedding – but then again I chose most of the tracks :). This year was a good year socially in general, I felt like as a couple we have been more outgoing than normal which is good because we have had a tendency to be quite introverted in the past.
I had the unusual experience of speaking to a small class of extremely smart students from Washington College in Chesterfield, Maryland, for a course that provided an introduction to online entrepreneurship and blogging. It was all made possible by Google + Hangouts, I guess it could just as easily been over Skype as well. The fact I could have this experience due to the wonders of modern technology was amazing. I found it really enjoyable and again it was a big boost to my confidence (thanks to Mike!).
And of course I finally took the decision to leave the civil service after 10 years and go full-time freelance. I was lucky enough to be accepted for a ‘voluntary exit’ scheme meaning if all goes to plan I should get a lump sum which will give me a temporary financial cushion whilst I build up my copywriting business to the level that it can support me.
The year was topped off nicely when I was invited to join a couple of friends to co-present a radio show on the local student radio station. It is pretty self-indulgent but has been lot of fun and just what I needed after a difficult few months (see ‘what didn’t go so well, below!).
I was also invited to be on the judging panel for The List Awards, which is a new award recognising creativity in Scotland. Other members of the panel included a Turner Prize judge and a BBC producer! I also got to attend a fancy do at the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland (more on the awards in a later post).
Oh yeah, and we adopted a cat! She is still a nervous wee thing and definitely prefers Mel more than me (well she does feed her most of the time), but she is gradually settling in and it will be nice to have her with us over the festive period
What Didn’t Go So Well
In retrospect, trying to both set up a successful blog and a side business in the year I got married was pretty foolhardy. Obviously the business took off a little quicker than I’d expected, and I had to prioritise that if I was going to achieve my goal of leaving my full time job.
So I was unable to stick to my initial aim to post here twice a week and send a weekly email (didn’t even come close!). I got pretty overwhelmed in fact with everything that was going on and after the wedding there was a definite sense of anti-climax as we found ourselves back to ‘reality’ after all the build up and then the excitement of the day itself. I found things tough at work and struggled to cope at times.
I’ve neglected my health, not managing either the 10k or 5k runs I planned to do or going to the gym – plus drinking too much (and therefore being hungover and not feeling like going to the gym!). I really want to get rid of this damn beer belly in 2012.
Reading when I should be writing
One of my other main failings this year has also been reading too much and not writing enough. I had hoped to publish my first manifesto before the end of the year but haven’t managed this as it was a tougher job than I expected to decide what to include and how to structure it. But it is coming soon, honest!
It’s not like I couldn’t have done it if I’d been a bit more organised and spent less time reading online. I have far too many feeds in my Google Reader not to mention Twitter and Facebook etc. So I need to make this more manageable.
Whilst services like Summify can help, I still can’t escape the feeling I’m missing something unless I at least have a scan through all my incoming sources. In the end though, it’s stopping me writing and being more productive as well as exercising to some extent and something has to change.
So.. in balance this has been a transitional year for me, and therefore though difficult, I’m in a great position going forward. I’ve got married, got regular freelance work and quit my job, all of which are pretty amazing achievements for me as I feel I’ve gone a long way to overcoming my lack of confidence in my own abilities that has held me back so many times in the past.
And I’m still very proud of this blog and the fact that I’ve had quite a few people tell me the content has helped them over the course of the year. I’m just disappointed that I haven’t been able to devote as much time to it as I’d hoped, and I’m wondering how I can simplify my life to allow me to achieve what I want and keep putting good content out without becoming overwhelmed again in future.
Chris explains his full annual review process here in case you want to join in – and please do share what you got up to this year in the comments, especially if there’s a creative achievement that you’re particularly proud of!