Writing worksheets for Pantsers was an opportunity in a crisis.  Image shows wood arrows left pointing to crisis and right pointing to opportunity
Crisis or opportunity words on wooden road sign with left and right arrows.

Image by ogichobanov

2020 was a year of a lot of changes.  We’re all dealing with the isolation COVID-19 restrictions have caused.  Other writers are complaining that their creativity has dried up.  I’m doing the Great Challenge, writing a short story a week for a year.  I just finished Story 24, a historical mystery called Ransom.

So when Tiago Forte offered his Annual Review class in early January, I thought about it for a few days and decided to sign up for it.  I wanted something that would help me make sense of all the things that had happened to me and give me a different perspective.  I mentioned it in February Finds and Peggy wanted to know more:

Wait – there’s a class on conduction an annual review? That includes listing links of interest? How did I not know about this?

I’ve followed Chris Guillebeau’s (sp?) advice for conducting an annual review, but he doesn’t go into that kind of detail.

— Peggy

This is the annual review from Chris she’s referring to. What I took is very different from what Chris describes.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure what to expect until I got there.  It was a “cohort,” which meant about six hours of actual class time on zoom over the weekend, and additional breakout sessions with different participants.  Those groups were small enough that everyone talked.  

It was divided into four categories:

  1. Preparation
  2. Remember
  3. Connect
  4. Create

Each consisted of a series of questions that we could work through.  It wasn’t about answering every question, but answering the ones that draw our attention to them.

In Preparation, it was a short list of questions, just for initial thoughts. 

Remember was about gathering information from the last year.  There was a gratitude list, and a lot of questions that simply were about what went right.

This was where the lists Peggy asked about came in.  Tiago talked about using social media tools to save links we run across over the year.  These lists are the story of me from the year.  Things that I’m interested in, things that catch my eye, things that make me laugh.

It was an answer to something that I’d had challenges with.  There is so much information out there zooming by.  Articles may be of interest to me like this Barnes and Noble one, but they’re not worth saving in Evernote as a reference because they’re not going to be used again.

Connect was reflecting on what we came up with in Remember, especially things that surprised us.  Questions included lessons learned, what stories are you letting go of, and what advice you would like to give yourself. The Words We Say to Ourselves came from a comment another attendee said.  I realized I had to stop criticizing myself for not being as good a writer as I thought I should be—heck, I won a Silver Honorable Mention for Teddy Bear Man.  And I was on the shortlist for the Unmasked anthology.

Every bit of this was liking peeling away the layers of an onion and finding more layers underneath.

Create was about the goals.  Tiago had what he believes is an update to how goals are done.  Currently, they’re like checking off a to-do list.  He thinks we might culturally shift to thinking about the outcomes instead.  That helps put the focus on what you want to do.

That’s how I ended up doing the Writing Worksheets for Pantsers.  I wanted something that would be relatively easy to do and could make money without requiring work from me.  I’d purchased a workshop on making printables from I Heart Planners a few years ago. It intrigued me, but I wanted a way to sell them that wasn’t going to be a time suck.  It didn’t seem like there was any way to do that, so the idea floated away for a few years.

The idea of worksheets resurfaced as a goal during the annual review, and now it’s a reality.

The Annual Review class doesn’t stop at the end of the weekend session we had.  We’re doing monthly Zoom calls to update everyone on our progress and get new ideas.

If you’re interested, sign Tiogo’s site and monitor next year for the class.