Final Thoughts On The Year

So, that was 2012. Lot of good books read, lots of words written, lots of time to think back and think forward.

In an entry I posted last year about the end of 2011, the main take away was fuck fear. I wanted to be brave, try things I had never done before. I had visions of trying my hand at archery and horseback riding, being reckless and bold in ways I had never been.

Instead, I quit my job and took up contract work.

If going to Viable Paradise cemented my commitment to this crazy beast-business of writing, leaving the call center I worked at was like having the wide and badly fashioned yoke lifted from my shoulders. That job was emotionally grinding in a way that few jobs ever are and the months after were an awakening to the happier person I used to be. Beyond that, the time spent off-contract hasn’t just let me write — it’s redefined my relationship to writing. I’ve taken my vows, as it were. Writing will never be in the back seat again, it will never not be the most important thing. If I’m working eight hours a day, there will still be writing, before, after or on my lunch breaks. Doesn’t matter how it gets done, only that it does. It’s habit now, like brushing your teeth, and when you skip it you get that phantom itch of something being just a little off until that need is satisfied.

Bad habits can be made accidentally; good habits can only be made thoughtfully. You can’t expect that you’ll naturally get into the habit of something when that something is usually challenging and hard. You have to be committed to it, yes, but how best to go about doing it thoughtfully? Well, you plan, you measure, and you review, over and over.

For me, this self-measurement started as a simple Numbers spreadsheet. Brutally honest here: keeping track of word counts in the beginning was not inspiring. Too many blank spots on the sheet and I started feeling bad about them. A negative spiral, that. Then I realized I didn’t have enough information to punish myself, setting aside the question of whether or not I should be punishing myself. I had numbers but not context; I needed to know why I didn’t write on those days. I started tagging each entry with more information — was the reason I didn’t write sheer laziness, or was I sick, or out of town, or did I have too many commitments? Was I doing something else related to writing, like reading a beta novel or reading through my own work for edits? Understanding why meant I could take smarter steps to make sure I didn’t sabotage myself (see lazy) and making me recognize the related work (reading/editing). It made the whole process less binary and less punitive. Now the tool was working for me.

So, if last year’s end-note was fuck fear, what’s this year’s then? Not so sound-bitey this time, sadly. Just a new attitude. Open up. Explore. Keep working at it, and approach the task with curiosity and joy.

What are you going to bring me, 2013? And, more importantly, what am I going to bring you?

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