I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, May 4, 2012

Report Cards, Anyone?

No boss looks over your shoulder. No supervisor gives you an annual review. If you’re a published author, you’ve got sales figures, feedback from editors/agents, and letters from readers. But if you’re not published yet, how do you chart your progress? A critique group? (Depends on the group.) Contest feedback? (Depends on the judge.) A self-assessment? Well, why not? It’s the end of the school year, and students will soon receive their report cards. Why not create your own writing report card? 
Here’s mine—(Roxanne Sherwood):
English Literature—A
After all, I was a reader before becoming a writer. :-)
If I couldn’t award myself a top score after years of writing, I should look for another job. But if you’re a newbie and still learning deep point-of-view or other areas of craft, give yourself room to improve.
Um . . . With Spell Check, I feel a bit guilty for this easy grade, like getting an “A” for study hall or being a teacher’s assistant. But students do sometimes make easy grades. And I probably need to pad my GPA. :-)
I had to think about this grade for awhile, since I don’t even balance my check book. But I can do word counts/page counts. My husband might argue that I really need to balance the checkbook, but I came into the marriage with full-disclosure. ;-)
I can usually find what I need, and I never ask someone for help without doing research myself first. I don’t mind helping others, but I have a pet peeve with someone who asks without first even trying to find out the answer. My problem lies with recognizing when to stop researching and start writing.
Information & Communication Technology—C 
Considering I earned a journalism degree on a typewriter and I'm now blogging here, I’ve learned a lot. But I’m still a novice. Thank heavens I married my IT guy. ;-)
Uses time wiselyUnsatisfactory
I struggle with the dreaded “blank-page syndrome” and justify wasting time by calling it social networking. As I stated above, I research far longer than the question warrants. 
I seriously need help managing files. (I'm sure I'm not alone.) A really organized author could write a blog post about this or even teach a class at ACFW.)
Shows InitiativeSatisfactory
With the help of many amazing writers, I’ve learned the equivalent of a college degree in novel writing. (I’ll consider a publishing contract as my diploma.) 
Completes AssignmentsUnsatisfactory
Could be the reason I’m not published. 
So, what's the point? An assessment shows where your strengths and weaknesses lie. I'm going to revamp my S.M.A.R.T. goals and contact a couple of accountability partners. (You know who you are, right?) Because the bottom line—and pretty much everything in life comes down to the bottom line—I don't want to live with regret that I didn't put forth the effort to make my dreams come true, but that's a post for another day.  
Your turn. What’s your writing report card look like? Any great advice for improvement?
—Roxanne Sherwood 


  1. Such a creative post, Roxanne.
    Let's see, I would Unsat in both organization and using time wisely. Yeah, those two areas need improvement.
    Completes assignments? Doing the Happy Dance (A) because I just turned in book #2!

  2. Delightful, brilliant post, Roxanne!!! Loved it, smiled, chuckled, and grinned.

    Hmm . . . still struggling with the juggling act of a writer's life. I'd give me poor marks in leading a balanced life.

  3. Roxanne~

    Were you riding in the car with my husband and I this evening? You must have, because this post is the perfect response to our conversation. I think I said, almost verbatim, that I don't want to regret not having my dreams come true because I couldn't get my act together. I found myself plugging "unsatisfactory" into the same areas my elementary and secondary school teachers did in my "real" report cards. Sigh...I've struggled with organization, time management, and completing assignments for as long as I can remember. Also, teachers wrote (on almost every report card ever) that I needed to socialize less and focus more on my work. Hmmmm...

    Thank you SO MUCH for answering the questions and concerns I was voicing just hours before you posted this. I am going to take a closer look at my report card and see if I can figure out how to remedy my shortcomings. (Could you remind me about the S.M.A.R.T goals?)

  4. Roxanne, loved this. For the record, I balanced my check book ONCE before I got married, and twice since. It's a good thing my husband LIKES this task.

    Hmmm, off the top of my head, I'd say Communications and Technology is one area I need to be purposeful in improving. I'd give myself a C. In Shows Initiative I'd give myself an average grade--still learning to do this consistently.

    I think I'm going to have to go through this and evaluate myself. Thanks for a creative post, Roxanne!

  5. Well, I guess I get an A in Math since I balance my checkbook every month...and our nonprofit's checkbook...I even enter them in the computer in the right categories. Comes in real handy at tax time. lol
    Time management and organization...maybe a C. Conduct...just like in school--U...but I'm having fun! Great post, Roxanne.

  6. Beth,

    Congratulations on completing book 2! The Ponderers and all the fans of your first book, Wish You Were Here, are doing the Happy Dance too--because we get to read it!

  7. What a fun post, Roxanne!!

    I think I get an "unsatisfactory" in math. Numbers make me want to cry. I think my grade in time management could also be improved. :)

  8. Paula,

    You've mastered the hard part: talent. Once you discover balance, you'll be soaring.

    I'm glad I made you chuckle! Thanks for letting me know.

  9. Heidi,

    I wasn't ease dropping from your backseat. I promise!

    SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

    As a homeschooling mom of seven, what made me the most successful was learning what was realistic. If you're not writing every day, you can't expect to suddenly produce 500 words daily. But maybe starting to write 100 words is realistic. Or maybe, "I'll write/plot for 30 minutes every weekday" as a realistic starting point.

    You're a wonderful writer. I want to read your stories trapped inside, just waiting to get out and bless readers!

  10. Jeanne,

    Thank heavens for husbands who balance checkbooks. ;-) I used to balance my checkbook to the penny. But 4 kiddos in three years ended that.

    You posted recently you're trying to get a fast draft finished this month, so I think you're on your way to completing your goals. Good job!

  11. Pat,

    Balancing your own checkbook and a non-profit's, then you definitely deserve an A! Since you recently finaled in prestigious contest, I'd say you're making progress. If you're having fun, then all the better!

  12. Melissa,

    Don't cry. Just hurry up and discover your own system for time management, will ya? Because we can't wait to read your laugh-out-loud, fun stories!

  13. You and this post are fun, Roxanne. I'm at a church women's retreat so can't take time away for much, but I think we all get A for caring (and caring for each other), and for effort.
    Maybe these report cards will end, "I'm sure (Johnny, Sally, Betty), will apply effort to implement these improvements by the end of the year!)

  14. For time management and organization, I'd probably have to include a Shows Improvement grade. I'm juggling writing time with a full-time, demanding day job, but that blank screen syndrome can be a great time waster. The best way to get through the blank screen syndrome is by typing. Then the screen isn't blank and you won't feel so intimidated. And now I'm working on book #3, so that proves I am able to push past it.

    Organization is a strength and a weakness--I can be organized, but sometimes the piles of papers makes me feel overwhelmed so I'm striving to clear my desk at least weekly so I can start fresh on Mondays.

    Great post, Roxanne!!

  15. Dee,

    Wasn't it your idea for this post? I'm glad you like it -- and me too! (I love when people call me "fun.")

    You deserve an "A" for caring and for praying too!

  16. Lisa,

    Thanks for the tip about writing something, anything to avoid the blank screen. Mostly, I just need a plot that really grabs me.

    You pushed past the dreaded "second-book syndrome" and showed you've got the talent and grit to be an author for the long haul. I'm so proud of you!

  17. Well, my time management came to a screeching halt a year or so ago, but I'm slowing climbing out of the black hole and working with words again. Thanks for the reminder that we do well to take an assessment from time to time!

  18. Teri,

    I'm so thrilled you're writing again. You're amazing!