It’s the last week of 2013. Against all expectations, I have managed to maintain my sanity status quo throughout the ordeal that was this year. But as I sit here contemplating a recitation of all the bullshit I endured these past 12 months, more comes to mind that makes me smile than frown. I guess my overriding optimism has survived – that’s good news. If I had begun the #52Weeks challenge at the beginning of the year, this would be my final post, but I started late, so I still have a few more to do. Even so, it seems like a good time to take stock of things – 2014 will begin shortly, and it’s best to know what I will take with me into it, and what I will leave behind, the detritus of a painful year.
Still reeling from my Aunt Nancy’s sudden death at the end of 2012, I kept my New Year’s resolutions simple last January. (I usually do in years when I feel overwhelmed – it minimizes the potential for failure.) I wanted to write more; I was tired of whining about not being the creative writer I had always envisioned becoming. I had only one fix for it: write. Writers write, damn it, so write.
At that point in my life, I had written many, many words, some of them published, a few of them were even creative. But mostly my writing was technical: installation instructions, manuals of operation, data sheets, press releases, white papers, and magazine articles for industry publications. (The industry varied with the job.) None of it was going to win a Pulitzer, but all of it paid, and after all, wasn't that really the goal?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m very happy to spend my career writing for others. I see no shame in working as a scribe for hire – ultimately we all write for the audience who buys the book. Writing comes naturally and easily to me – I recall my surprise when I first learned that this was not true for everyone. I have a knack for proofreading and editing as well. I actually enjoy it as much as writing. Not all writers will say that. For me, the complete process is like working a puzzle in words instead of pictures. All the components to create the whole are present, but they are jumbled, upside down, or in the wrong place. My challenge is to bring order to the whole, arrange the pieces to fit just so and, when finally correctly arranged, create a well-crafted scene (lovely or otherwise).
This is true whether I write for myself or for my employer, but I won’t lie. It’s so much more fun when I can just make it all up. And in 2013, I did that, a lot.
I wrote a novel.
I had not set sights on that achievement when I resolved to write more. I had actually hoped to complete a one-act play by now. I haven’t; I know why, but I am not sure what to do about it yet. I will carry the unfinished play with me into 2014. I’m also bringing needed edits to the novel, which I will not attempt to elevate to greatness with rewrites. I intended Unspoken to be a fun, silly romp through space, a Douglas Adams meets Terry Pratchett meets Ian Fleming sort of B-grade pulp fiction. Astonishingly, it is that, almost – a few more nips and tucks. It will take me longer to figure out how to make an epub file so I can distribute it as an ebook. I'm not going commercial at first. I plan to give it to a select few individuals who were instrumental in shaping the novel’s early form. (As well as anyone who asks to read it, which is one other person so far.) I plan to enter Unspoken in one of the #12Contests of 2014. As soon as it gets deservedly rejected I will disseminate it to the world gratis.
In January, I hadn’t even predicted completing a weekly blog post for #52Weeks, but damn if it doesn’t look like I might do that too. This blog hit 5,000 page views this week; I’m not sure when. I check stats like that, but I don’t measure success by them. I put aside my need for “readership” when I decided to just start writing. The egoistic yen for recognition, and its failure to materialize, had become an excuse to not write, to not bother. I was right to quit caring about that, and I will carry that strategy into the next year. Not fretting about being read has made me much more productive. I also abandoned my need to feel that my writing had relevance. I should make that a goal one day, but for now, it needs to be enough to just write.
I’m setting writing goals for 2014. I’m not making any writing resolutions. Resolutions I reserve for the ideals I haven’t achieved yet – lifestyle changes that I wish to bring to (or remove from) my day, my month, my year. This year’s resolutions include achieving my idea of “buff” arms (I admire the First Lady’s arms and shoulders, I confess) and developing the ability to do ten consecutive “real” pushups. If I can achieve the latter, it will go a long way to helping me attain the former. These may seem like shallow resolutions, but you should know, before you judge me, that for the first time in many years, I don’t have to resolve to lose weight. According to my Wii fit, I need to gain two pounds in order to achieve my fitness goal. I may get to eat macaroni and cheese this month. I will not be carrying that into 2014. So I might as well get toned arms just once in my life. I’ll take lots of photos and then go back to doing “girly” pushups. I’m okay with that.
Unlike resolutions, goals, to me, are habits I have formed that I want to keep, or progress I want to make on a project begun but not yet perfected. My 2014 writing goals include #12Contests (you’ll read more about that here), a finished one-act play, and another go at #NaNoWriMo, which I could see myself getting addicted to. It was exhilarating. There is something seriously liberating about writing solely for word count, putting quality aside until the quantity is achieved. The tactics required to meet 1,667 words per day went against everything I learned about writing well. On days when the word count eluded me, I used the excuse that it’s harder to write that much when one also works full time – next year I may take the month of November off to see if that is true.
|My #NaNoWriMo Winner's tee shirt arrived this week.|
I’m pleased to have kept my resolution to write more in 2013, more pleased even than I am to have successfully avoided the need to make another damn resolution to lose weight. Writing is just a daily goal now, something to maintain, like my BMI. I can temper my word-gluttony in the months to come. Instead of gorging on weekly posts and daily 1,700 word binges, I can spend a month on a single piece – the time I give myself will feel indulgent compared to this year’s grind. I don’t expect it to take more than a day or two during the cycle to identify the contest of the month. That leaves me 19 days to write, another eight to proof and revise, one more to post the submission. Even graduate school had a tighter writing cycle, but I have much to relearn about the submission process. It’s been a while since I bothered, you see. I hadn’t been writing much. Not until this year.