A Productive New Year for Writers: 2019

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

December 20, 2018

Ho-ho-ho, or rather ha-ha-ha. 2018 seems to be getting the last laugh at me, but I’m punching back. I didn’t fall off the ends of the earth, but I did take a nasty spill down our steep basement stairs.

Good news is that I didn’t break a leg. Bad news is that I won’t be dancing for a while. Wait, I don’t dance. However, even writing or trying to sleep is excruciating and I can’t drive or walk. Friends are graciously helping me finish holiday errands, loaning me a cane, and taking me shopping with a motorized scooter. I’m laughing at the thought of trying to drive one already. I’d be more comfortable on a horse!

All week long, I had been collecting your stories for Cora Kingston and squealing with delight. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have writers join me in making historical fiction mud pies. Unfortunately, I hadn’t caught up on comments before the accident, so I’ll be doing that from the couch where I’ll be popping Advil and sipping hot cider.

It’s the end of the year, and those who know me won’t be surprised to hear me say it’s time to review our visions. I don’t mean the sugar plums dancing in our heads. I mean the vision each and every writer holds dear. Sometimes we hold it so close that we don’t give it wings to fly.

So that is the challenge until Flash Fiction Challenges resume January 3. We are also delaying the announcement of winners for the Bonus Rodeo until after the New Year.

Let me explain to you why I think visions are golden. Visioning is stating your North Star. Without it, you are a hunter with aimless goals. Dissatisfaction often comes from a lack of clear vision. You might seek the prize, but for what purpose? Why are your passionate about what you do? A vision imagines success, and a North Star guides you. You aim your goals toward it and use it when you get lost.

“When the vision is clear, the results will appear. Keep your mindset positive as you work your plan, flourish, and always remember why you started.” ? Germany Kent

Why do you write? What are your expectations, dreams, and goals?

A vision can be outrageous! You can have a vision to be an astronaut and still succeed as a writer. How? Write a sci-fi novel where you get to immerse yourself in the world of astronauts. You can have a dream to be a New York Times best-seller. Before you get there, you have to look at what success is on that journey. That’s why you set a North Star.

I’m going to share with you a process I use with entrepreneur and author clients. It’s my holiday gift to you along with encouragement to make space for visioning work over the next two weeks.

Part 1: Preparation

  1. Pick your topic. Be clear about what you are creating and why. What do you hope for an outcome? Focus on what you are creating, launching, or seeking to accomplish.
  2. Pick your timeframe. Visions typically span two to ten years. Five years is a good place to start. Your vision answers “where do you see yourself in five years.” This is not “how” — that’s strategic planning. Dream about what success looks like in a specific timeframe.
  3. Brainstorm for 10 minutes a list of “prouds.” Like contests you’ve won, or moments you overcame, or projects you finished, or reviews you received. Let good moments pop to mind. The idea is to build a base of positive energy and high-quality experiences.

Part 2: Discovery

  1. Write the first draft of your vision. Take between 15 and 30 minutes. Set a timer; this is a time constraint which prevents you from becoming bogged in the process. The most creative visions occur within 30 minutes. Believe in the process.
  2. Go for greatness. Think, MLK, “I have a dream…” Think big, specific, scary and exciting. Get past the 59 reasons why it won’t work.
  3. Write from the heart. Effective visioning happens from the inside out. Go with your gut, with what pours out. Ignore the inner critic.
  4. Get in the future. Imagine yourself there. What details stand out? How do you feel? Where are you at? What does your office look like?
  5. Write quickly. Use the hot pen technique where you can’t stop writing once you start. Don’t set down the pen or stop tapping keys.
  6. Get personal. Blend the personal and professional into a single, holistic vision. Include your passions. Grab the details that make your vision the dream that gives you jitters.
  7. Write it as a story. Use a date as a prompt and describe the story that is unfolding that day. Describe the many great things going on that make it clear that your long-term vision has come to be the reality you planned and believed it would be. Give details.

Part III: Revision

  1. Review and redraft. Let it sit a few days. Come back to your draft with a 30-minute review session. Read it out loud. Don’t erase what you wrote. Copy it and then cut and revise. Follow your gut. Don’t remove what sounds too bold or overly ambitious. Often, that’s what makes your vision special. Make it sound and feel inspiring. If it doesn’t make you feel stressed, you haven’t pushed deep enough.
  2. Get specific. Don’t say “founded a company” say where you located it, when and how many clients you have, how many products or ideas you’ve sold. Say which awards you’ve won. State how much of your income will come from your business. State how others recognize you in your industry. What do clients or customers say? Imagine them.
  3. Edit your vision. Work on the language, clean up the content and write a sharp vision in 99 words. But don’t cut the specific details or bold proclamations. Length is not an issue, but again, do this edit in 30 minutes.

Part IV: Polish Your Shine

  1. Seek input. Use only trusted sources to share your vision and ask for insight or feedback. The idea is to improve the vision, not kill it.
  2. Create your North Star. Once you have your vision, create a 59-word mission statement to set your North Star to guide you to your vision of success. Next, craft a tagline in 9-words.

Just like you, I’ll be working on my vision for writing and publishing. These are my visions for Carrot Ranch:

A Vision of Success (99)

Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation.  Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.

Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)

Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.

Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)

Originally, when I encouraged writers to join me in annual vision work, I shared a vision that included small and intimate writing retreats. 2019 will see that come to fruition. It won’t be at my beloved Elmira Pond, but it will happen at D. Avery’s beloved Vermont Lake. Save the dates for two sessions that have room for three writers each: July 12-14 and July 16-18. More details to come.

2016 was a disaster. 2017 was about seeking stability. 2018 was implementing some big changes toward achieving that stability. All along, my vision hung in the sky, and no matter what happened, I followed step by step. You will appreciate having a North Star because life’s circumstances have a way of tripping us.

2019 will be a prosperous year, or so I’m declaring. There will be some big life changes for me but the struggles of the previous year have prepared me. My novel continues to hammer into shape, and I remain hopeful on that account, too. Vol. 2 stalled out after our Father’s Day floods and diagnoses for the Hub, but I will recommit to getting what we started finished this year.

Once you have worked your vision, set quarterly goals that you can measure (and use the Rancher Badges to encourage achievement). It’s good to revisit your goals every three months to help you stay on track or readjust. Every month, do a quick planning and use a Daily Activities plan to direct your most important priorities and balance writing with career and life.

Also, if you have any clever ideas for challenge prompts in 2019 (like, “break a leg”) now would be a good time to discuss them.

Whatever your year-end holidays or non-holidays look like, I wish you all peace, joy and the prosperity to see your writing dreams through to fruition. I’ll be checking in with you all from my couch!

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  1. Losing the Plot

    Argh, I know all about injured legs, and consequently the grace of friendship. I hope you heal well.

    Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year x

    • Charli Mills

      It’s the “consequently the grace of friendship” I like best about it! Thank you, and Merry Christmas! Set a good New Year!

  2. TanGental

    Bummer. Hope you’re back to skiing soon…

    • Charli Mills

      If only I could say I did it skiing! Thanks, Geoff!

  3. Ritu

    Oh Charli! Take care of yourself!
    I’ll, in the meantime, try and sort my visions out!
    Merry Christmas and a happy New year! ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! Feeling better and still have visions dancing in my head. 😉

      • Ritu

        Bless you !

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Pal, why do writers retreat? Don’t they mean ta advance themselves an’ their craft?”
    “I dunno ‘bout any a thet, Kid.”
    “Pal, if our writer’s gonna have folks joinin’ Shorty at her lake, are we s’posed ta go too?”
    “Don’t think we’s invited, Kid.”
    “Never stopped us b’fore.”
    “We live at Carrot Ranch, Kid. Got chores ta keep up with.”
    “But, Pal, I heard Shorty’s gonna cook fer the folks. An’ there’s gonna be a campfire under the twinklin’ stars. Frogs an’ loons singin’ all night.”
    “Got thet right here, Kid.”
    “There’s loons at Carrot Ranch?!”
    “Upon reflection- yep.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Sorry Charli, these two beat me to the comments. I want to say Thank you. Thank you for the many gifts given here at the Ranch.

      • Charli Mills

        These two are loony! But I’m hopin’ they retreat to Vermont ’cause Carrot Ranch’ll be on the road.

  5. Chelsea Owens

    I’m so sorry about your fall!! I literally feel your pain, though mine was my tailbone two months ago. 🙁

    You are an amazing person who does amazing things for everyone else. Take all the time you need!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, ouch, Chelsea! Let’s both feel less pain. I’m definitely on the mend and hope you are, too. I love what happens here at the Ranch.

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    Just when things are looking up, the lead buckaroo falls down. She has a vision but did not see that coming. Read this post if you need a template for your resolutions, aka, visioning.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Maybe she fell cause she was looking up when she should have been looking down!

  7. Miriam Hurdle

    You had a very busy Rodeo. The announcement of the Bonus can wait. Take care of yourself. Your novel will come out shining in 2019!

    When I was in school, the professor named the class Personal Mastery – setting tenet, goals in 7 areas of life, timelines, assessment of current situation and percentage of accomplishment in near and further future, etc. We had a one quarter to turn in the final product. It was a thought provoking project. It’s like a teeter totter because life has to give and take and keep a balance…

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, I like that, Miriam — Personal Mastery. Yes, it is like a teeter-totter and we have to counterbalance the unexpected. I like having a North Star to keep me in the right direction during both ups and downs. Thank you!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli. I haven’t reviewed the Personal Mastery for a long time. It would be interesting to check the shifting of priorities. This is my 6th day in Hong Kong, 2 days away from my nephew’s wedding. One of my sister is in the hospital and I’m waiting for my other sister arrive from US to visit this sister.

      • Charli Mills

        Have fun, Miriam! How exciting to be in Hong Kong for a family wedding! We’ll have to connect again in the future on anything you rediscover from your Personal Mastery class.

  8. robertawrites235681907

    I am so sorry to read that you fell down the stairs, Charli. That is terrible, especially at this time of year. I wish you a speedy recover. I am taking a blogging break (sort of) from Monday until the following Sunday so I will do this after that break. Merry Christmas Charli

    • Charli Mills

      Hope you had a great Christmas break, Robbie! Looks like you are charing right into 2019 with a big vision already.

  9. floatinggold

    Speedy recovery!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Goldie! It’s getting better.

  10. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    Wishing you a very speedy recovery,
    A very Merry Xmas,
    All the very best for 2019,
    Keep working on those dreams & visions
    And keep inspiring us with your courage.

    Thank you for sharing with us your “ups & downs”, your life journey!


    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Saifun! Dive into your reading and all that it means to you in 2019. It’s good to have others to share the journey with from the peaks, valleys, or long stretches in between.

  11. Jules


    Oh… and ouch. I fell off a ladder this year trying to trim a tree branch. No broken bones, but lots of bruises that it seemed like it took forever to fade and go completely away. Heal quickly with assistants to your positive thinking and all the good wishes sent your way.

    I’ve been on a little unexpected jaunt. So once I get home I’ll re-read this post and sally forth.

    To all those who visit here – best to your during what ever holidays you have or will celebrate and all the best in the New Year!

    Hugs to all, Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Jules, that would be a scary fall. I’m glad you didn’t break anything, either. Thanks for sending good vibes (and sea horses). Hope your trip was enjoyable. Happy New Year, once again!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing the vision work.

      • tracikenworth

        You’re welcome, Charli!

  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Your vision has and continues to come to fruition and all of the writers and readers who visit the ranch are the better for the vision you have for yourself but also for us. You have created a safe space at the Ranch and I’m mighty proud to be involved. I’m going to head off now and think about my own vision for the future. To everyone at the Ranch I hope you have a very happy and safe holiday period. Charli – thank you for all the work you put in – I am in awe of your energy and passion. I wish you and your family a very happy time over the holidays – a good time to be laid up on the lounge with a constant supply of hot toddys or a glass or two of bubbly. No need to go anywhere – but hopefully a quick recovery. ??

    • Charli Mills

      I’m so delighted to have you riding at the Ranch, Irene. Thank you for all your support! I hope your book is off to a smashing success. Thankfully, I’ve graduated from the couch and can walk more with each day. If I overdo it, I know quickly. Hard to be patient with healing, but it takes its time. You can apply this vision to your book strategies, too. Cheers to a fruitful 2019!

  13. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Reblogged this on Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist) and commented:
    Time to think about our vision. Back in the late 70’s a woman named Shakti Gawain wrote a book that Creative Visualisation that I related to and started to live my life by (this followed my period of following the Dice Man). Shakti suggested that you could do or be anything you wanted to be through positive visualisation. I found it worked although my visions would often change in the process of achieving them. I don’t know why I stopped using this method and Charli’s words are a good reminder that it is time to again visualise my dreams.

    • Charli Mills

      Good point about the visions changing as we go through the process. I actually like that we evolve. Thanks for sharing!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Yes I think that we have to allow for movement – when we are too rigid we sometimes set ourselves up to fail when we could be achieving in a slightly different direction.

  14. pixiejan

    I’m truly saddened to hear of your crash landing…you must be in agony…Keep up the beverages you know the ones I mean…????
    Take special care my friend ????????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Cheers to couches, books, and healing beverages!

  15. NativeGifts

    Visualizing your dreams is a path of inspiration that is healthy.

    • Charli Mills

      I agree! It’s a healthy way to connect dreams to steps and direction we can take.

  16. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    So sorry you’ve had this happen, Charli, but lucky indeed there were no bones broken. What a shame, you have to lie on the sofa let everyone wait on you! No, I know you’ll find this tough at this time of year when you enjoy cooking for your family. Hope you have a good break – I mean rest!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, what a shame, indeed, Anne! I hobbled my way through one meal when my son and his fiance came up, but after that I had to relinquish kitchen duties and ask for cups of tea and had meals made and delivered to my spot. Ha! I had a good break!

  17. creativetrashcan

    This is so helpful! Honestly wowwwww

    • Charli Mills

      Excellent! May your vision become your North Star and lead you in wonderful and unexpected directions.

  18. Norah

    Oh dear, Charli. Falling down the stairs is not fun. I know, I’ve done it too. At least I didn’t lose my mobility, but it took quite a few weeks for me to be back to ‘normal’. Please let yourself rest, accept the kindness of others, and give yourself time-out to recuperate and renew.
    Your visioning work is very powerful and I can see some differences from previous versions so I understand the importance of revisiting and realigning our path with our North Star. You have hardly wavered off course, though you have had to contend with many obstacles on the path.
    Thank you for all you do, and for your encouragement, support and friendship. Have a wonderful Christmas being totally spoilt. I look forward to catching up again in the new year. Best wishes.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, I’m sorry we share a common accident, but I suppose at one time or another we experience days when the stairs win. I remember we had similar steep and narrow stairs in my childhood home. My cousins would visit and we’d “sled” down the stairs in a slick sleeping bag. No broken bones, though!

      It was a treat to be so spoiled, only the pain was severe so it was hard to fully enjoy it. One by one my family all got the flu and at some point, over the holidays we were all groaning on the couch! I think by then it was popsicles and canned chicken soup. It felt good to get better.

      Yes, even the vision planning evolves! I just feel strongly about getting focused on the vision and connecting it to what we do or plan to do. My North Star has illuminated the path during dark times, but it was the friendships made along the way that brightened those days. Thank you for walking this path alongside me, each of us packing our hopes, walking on. Keep walking, Norah! Keep following your vision. The world needs your enlightened teaching.

      • Norah

        I’m certain there’s more we share than an altercation with stairs, Charli. 🙂 Good thing kids are resilient. I only bounce now because it’s much softer and more padded than it once was. But it’s a very slooooow bounce. 🙂

        How dreadful to have everyone ill at the same time. You must have a big couch! I’m pleased the popsicles and canned soup helped the patients feel better.

        I love walking the path alongside you, Charli. The company is great and I learn so much. And I love the way you constantly lift me up with your encouragement. Thank you.

  19. Joy Patel

    Really Amazing !!! i would like to add to my bookmark. thank you for sharing !!

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you found it helpful!

  20. susansleggs

    Charli, Sorry to hear about your fall. Sometimes an unplanned rest is what one needs. I do hope you will drink in being waited on, though I know that is not your nature. It will take me some doing to set a specific vision but with your support I know I will be able to accomplish it. I love the idea of declaring 2019 a prosperous year. If we believe, it will happen, if not in tangible form at least with an improved attitude. The Ranch community has become very special to me on my journey. May everyone have a special holiday season and a full year filled with successes of all kinds.

    • Charli Mills

      Evidently, Susan, my body wanted the rest. I wish I would listen before it has to take drastic measures to get my attention. I did enjoy the pampering, although we all ended up on the couch at one point!

      Yes, I like declaring the aspect I want to cultivate and look for. So often, much of life is perspective. I learn to look for what I am wanting out of life, learning to be grateful for even the smallest prosperous moment.

      I hope you had a wonderful holiday and here’s to a prosperous new year!

  21. H.R.R. Gorman

    Feel better soon! Hopefully popping advil will be all you need. Looking forward to seeing you back soon!

    • Charli Mills

      Advil didn’t cut it that first week, but that’s all I had and with all you hear about opiods, I made do. After the myofascial work, the pain decreased enough that Advil was a relief. Hobbling in fine form in less pain now. Thanks!

  22. faithanncolburn

    I’m sorry about your spill. I thought I hadn’t heard anything from you in a while, but that was probably my imagination.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m better, now Faith. Thanks!

  23. alisadv786

    nice article

    • Charli Mills


  24. WhyToStop

    I hope that the new year will be the best year of your life. May all your dreams come true & all your hopes be fulfilled! Happy New Year!

    • Charli Mills


  25. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    New Year’s Revolution

    “Envisionin’, Pal, ‘maginin’ where I wanna be down the road.”
    “I’ll ‘magine ya down the road… Quit yer dreamin’, Kid, git ta work.”
    “Workin’ on ma dreamin’. Thing is, Pal, I cain’t ‘magine nuthin better’n this here. Ma new year’s revolution’s ta be a ranch hand.”
    “Resolution not revolution. Yer already a ranch hand!”
    “Revolution. I wanna anuther go-round.”
    “Kid, ya done hitched onta Shorty’s star, but ya gotta figger yer own North Star.”
    “Did. Figger ta follow it right aroun’ the whole dang planet, full revolution- yeehaw! I’m back at the ranch!”
    “Huh. Might’s well stay put then.”

    • Charli Mills

      Kid on a good ride and deserves another revolution! Glad to have yarns at the Ranch, knitting the dream into something that can be seen, like pot holders.

  26. Pete

    Here’s to a speedy recovery, Charli! This post has inspired me, I’m thinking this is the year I bite the bullet and publish a book!

    • Charli Mills

      Yes!!! Bite the bullet, Pete! Write out the biggest vision you can dream, and walk it back to right now to take the next step. I love your writing and believe in your work.

  27. Kerry E.B. Black

    You poor thing! I hope you’re feeling well now.

    • Charli Mills

      Feeling much better, now, Kerry! Thanks!

  28. Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

    I have taken a break over the holidays and just read this post – I am soooo sorry to learn of your accident, Charli. I am glad you didn’t break anything or bump your head. I am still feeling effects from my concussion from June after my fall. I love your advice about setting goals. I have been so restless and unfocused – part of it is my transition to retirement – but I do think setting a North Star will help me in 2019. I’m going to work on my vision using the steps you have so generously shared with the community. In the meantime, I’ll be sending healing thoughts and prayers your way, my friend.

    • Charli Mills

      Molly, I was so relieved not to go head-first. Post-concussion syndrome can take a year to heal. I’m not sure about sprained ankles, but it’s going to take a while, too. I’m still in a brace, but so much better. This is the perfect time to take your hopes and dreams and paint a bold retirement vision. That will help you with the transition. Thank you, and prayers for your continued healing, too!

      • Molly Stevens - Shallow Reflections

        Glad you are improving, Charli. I’m working on my retirement vision today! The word that has come to me in several directions this morning is ‘bloom.’

  29. debzbennett

    that vision plan is a real project in itself to me. sounds great but terrifying. thanks for sharing Charli, from New Zealand blogger

    • Charli Mills

      We often feel vulnerable taking on our dreams, but even if you just write out a draft, have fun in thinking about what blogging success from New Zealand looks like. Cheers!


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