Thursday, January 3, 2019

Evaluate Your 2018 Writing Year - What Worked & What Didn’t

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Have you made resolutions for the new year? Did you choose one word? Do you think all of it is a waste of time because it won’t really make any difference by Valentine’s Day?

I’ve been all of those people over the years. I’ve made resolutions, chosen words, and sometimes refused to do any of it. I’m not knocking any of those options (I still like to choose one word), but over the past few years, there’s one simple process that I’ve found to be truly beneficial for me. You can do this exercise at the conclusion of any major or minor event—a calendar year, school year, vacation, writing conference, or birthday party—and it will be pay off down the road. 

The idea isn’t original to me. I think I picked up the terminology from one of my favorite blogs (Modern Mrs. Darcy) and ran with it. 

I make two lists: What Worked and What Didn’t Work

You can call your lists whatever you want (I’m also fond of The Good, The Bad, The Ugly) but I prefer this phrasing because it helps me remember not to pass judgment on myself for the things that didn’t work. Sure, I know they didn’t work now, but six months ago when they were all new and exciting there was no way for me to know they would end in disaster! There are things you can only learn by doing, and while hindsight may be 20/20, it’s important to give yourself grace. So instead of calling my lists “Smart Choices” and “Dumb Ideas” I prefer to acknowledge that some things worked really well, and some things? Not so much. 

What I like about this process—especially for writers—is that the writing life is a constant journey of discovery. You learn about conferences, and craft, and contests. Then you publish and you learn about deadlines and edits and publishing schedules. You’re always cycling through things that are comfortable and familiar while adding things that are new and challenging. There’s always room for improvement and there will always be things you wish you’d done differently. This process helps me see the areas where I’ve finally landed on a method I like and the areas where I still need to keep looking for the best approach. 

For example, in 2018 I learned I love teaching at conferences and it’s something I want to continue doing in the future. I also learned that it’s a bad idea for me to travel multiple times in six weeks. Very bad! I could sit here and feel guilty about it, but I’m not. I learned my lesson. When I have an opportunity to teach at conferences in 2019, I’ll be weighing that against my travel schedule and I’ll make my decisions based on what I now know is best for me and my family. 

My 2018 lists also have a lot of entries specific to launching books. I released two books this year and I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work for me. By taking the time to make these lists now while it’s still fresh in my mind, when I come to it again in 2019, I’ll be able to look back at my list and see what things I want to duplicate and what things I want to avoid. 

Making these lists may help you discover things you hadn’t thought of yet. Maybe you thought summer would be a great writing season for you but you only managed 5,000 words.  Maybe you attended a writing conference that was so amazing you know you need to return this year. Maybe you realize you’ve spent a lot of time building your platform (yay!) but in the process you’ve fallen behind on your actual writing (boo!) and something needs to change. Maybe you tried a new marketing strategy and it met with lackluster results. Maybe you agreed to a deadline that nearly killed you or maybe you’ve learned that you write best on Saturday mornings from 6-9 a.m. (bless your heart). 

Regardless of how you feel about planning and resolutions, I encourage you to spend a few minutes reflecting on the year that has passed so you can make wise decisions in the year ahead. 

It really does work!

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her new Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018 with the third book to follow in 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice which won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after at WWW.LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and on FACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.


  1. Great advice, Lynn! Thanks so much. Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks for a great idea that will last beyond the New Year’s hype! :)

  3. Great advice, Lynn. Thank you. I haven't done this before, but I do keep mental notes. I think it's time to track the list on paper.