2014 was an interesting year, much in the same vein as that Chinese saying, “May you live in interesting times.”
It felt like a very reactive year. I felt reactive. I spent the first half waiting, for what I couldn’t tell you, then snapped sometime mid-spring and aggressively made changes that paid off. I landed a new job, one with actual benefits and vacation time. In the months following, I moved house and I’m living alone for the first time in a long time (if perhaps ever, if I wanted to be pedantic about it and I suppose I do.) Adjusting to a job that takes more out of me, brain-wise and socially, has been challenging but now I can come home to administer uninterrupted solitude as needed. And I do.
And that’s really okay.
What came next (and is still being developed, fine-tuned) was the slow rebuilding of my creative practice.
‘Cause that took a hit this year, let me tell you. Overall quantifiable output for writing, revision and editing were down compared to prior years. I chalked that up partly to the adjustment of moving across country in late 2013 – adjusting financially, socially, and physically. Not being able to quantify revision progress, which the was biggest focus of my efforts, meant that I’d lost the benefit of the gamification of my habits which had been such a successful strategy before. Combined with being too invested in having the novel be perfect kept my creative hands tightly bound. It was only at the very end of the year did I realize that no matter how poor my production was, there have been years where I literally wrote nothing at all. And while I try not to think about those wasted years (teeth-grinding a natural by-product of doing so), it means that as long as I do something I’m already doing better than my worst.
But while production stalled on novel writing and revision, there were other victories.
Despite everything, I still wrote 30,000 words of fiction (some fresh, some for the WIPs), critiqued over 800 pages (of fiction, all lengths) and matched my lifetime submission rate for short stories this year alone (a few close calls but alas no sales.)
A working writer of any stage in their career gets rejections. But this year, due to uncertainty in other parts of my life, those rejections kicked my self-esteem around and dampened productivity. I decided to shutter all short fiction submissions beginning in the last third of the year. The lack of an intense, focused writing group continues to be a problem and my efforts to build one have hit numerous road blocks. Tabled trying to strike out on my own for now, and instead keeping my ears open to a regular, Clarion-style critique group. Fingers crossed.
If I had downs I had some great ups, too. I went to my first local convention, VCON, and my first professional conference, the Surrey International Writers Conference. I delivered my first (inelegant) in-person agent pitches and landed submission requests. What a rush. Seriously. And the first external, impartial validation and encouragement I’d had in years. The first 50 pages are ready to go, and my query and synopsis are in the revision stages. My goal was to get them out for the end of the year, but if it takes until the first or second week of January to get right, I’m okay with that. (Besides, publishing pretty much shuts down for the holidays anyways!)
The year ahead looks real promising. I can wholly commit to my writing and development in ways I have never been able to do before. One novel will be out the door and I’ll be working on a brand new one this spring. After that draft is under my belt, it’ll trade places in the chill-out drawer with a different WIP entirely, one I have enough distance from to assess impartially. The Rainforest Writing Retreat is less than two months away, the launch of Creative Ink comes soon after in April and World Con is just south of the border in August. I won’t be able to go SIWC as an attendee so soon on the heels of World Con, but I want to volunteer. SIWC was the highlight of 2014 by a good margin and I want to help in some way to say thank you.
I feel more centered, secure and hopeful than I have in a long time. Bravery got me this far — pushed me far outside of what I thought I could do — but I think kindness, self-care, and saying yes will be the words and ways that will guide me in 2015.
(All about the parentheticals, baby.)
Edited to edit, because typos!