Sunday, January 8, 2012

What I Learned in 2011 and My Goals for 2012

2011 was a pretty amazing year for me. I had some pretty low key goals set, the kind that would lead me closer to my big goals, and instead I ended up having some completely unexpected, life changing events.

Things I did in 2011:

EVENT: Got stranded in Branson, Missouri with a group of some of the most awesome, accomplished, and inspiring women I've been fortunate to meet.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: I've said this before, but it really is an amazing experience to spend time with people who have persevered to make their dreams come true, and who truly understand what that process is like. Writing is a solitary thing. And when you're just starting out, it can feel like you're on some crazy wild goose chase all by yourself. Meeting people who have been there, and pushed through to the other side is sort of life-altering. Even though rationally, I know that obviously, people write and sell books; sitting around talking about how hard it is some days, or that yes, they hear their characters talking in their heads too, or just you know, dancing to 90s hip hop, makes a world of difference once you go back home and it's just you and that blinking cursor trying to make your dream come true. I think if there is one piece of non-writing, writing advice I could give, it would be to get together with other writers (somewhere private, where you can be your weird writer selves) it will help carry you through the dark times when the words don't come and you're wondering why you ever thought you could write a book.

EVENT: I wrote a letter to my teenage self.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This one was surprisingly cathartic. Really. It brought back a lot of painful memories and then forced me to look at them from the outside, and really think about what I've learned from them. It was an emotional experience I wasn't expecting, but talking to my thirteen year old self really helped me to heal some old wounds I didn't know I still had.

EVENT: I was offered the chance to be published in an anthology.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This one still blows my mind, and probably won't seem real until I have a hardcover (!) copy in my hands and can see that yes, they really did put me in it. This is by far the "biggest" thing that happened to me in 2011. And the experience was exciting, and challenging, and scary, and awesome. It's not often that an opportunity you hadn't even dared to dream of yet appears out of the blue. I will touch more on this in a separate post, but suffice it to say that, "Write a short story on anything you want!" is both a blessing and a curse. It took me a couple of months just to decide what I was going to write, and then a couple more to figure out how to do it. I think this event more than any other made my writing improve by leaps and bounds. I didn't want to let anybody down, and so I focused and thought about every single word I used. This story was like pulling teeth, but I love it. It taught me that even when writing feels impossible, it's not. Not at all.

Amsterdam canals
EVENT:I spent six weeks in Europe. Four of them, by myself.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This affected me in so many ways. The first of which was reminding myself that I'm brave, something that can sometimes been forgotten when you spend most of your time on your butt in front of a computer. It also gave me some new perspectives on what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. (Grocery shopping when EVERYTHING is in a foreign language is an adventure all on its own.) I also had a lot of time to just think, about my writing, my writing career, what I want out of life. I know that running off to Europe for a month isn't an option for most people, but I highly recommend taking just a weekend of alone time, somewhere other than your usual haunts. Even if it's just a hotel room in a different part of town, (hey, it worked for JK Rowling!) spending time with yourself in a new place where you can't easily fall into your usual routines is a great way to recharge your creative process and your life.

EVENT: All three of my crit partners signed with amazing agents.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: I'm a firm believer in, "if you want to know if you're on the right path, look around you." The theory behind this is that if you're headed in the right direction, the people around you will be successful and meeting the goals that you're also striving to reach. I'm SO PROUD of my cps and the hard work they've put in 2011. I know this is going to be a year of big announcements for them, and I trust that with their guidance and support, a little of that success will rub off on me as well.

EVENT: I did NOT write a new book.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This year I managed to do a LOT of overthinking, and a LOT of second-guessing of myself. It was a total waste of time. TOTAL. WASTE. I can't stress that enough. I had the best of intentions. It was all about making the right choice and finding the right idea, and basically, that's a load of crap. I am happiest when I'm working on a story. Revising, surrounded by my characters and my world, totally focused on shaping it into the best story it can be. I am least happy when deciding what that story should be. I learned that what I need to do is just write it. So many of the best bits don't even show up until I've gotten a few thousand words in. They're never on the outline or the plan. They're the surprises that keep me going. Not the idea that this is exactly the story I should be writing for (insert reason here).

So that was my 2011. Here are my goals for 2012:

- Be a better blogger. As in blog more frequently, and more personally.

- Write a book that I love.

- Read more.

And that's it. I'm keeping it simple this year and going for the joy rather than the stress. What about you? What are your goals this year? What did you learn about yourself in 2011?


dawnmetcalf said...

LOVE this!

Keeping it simple, keeping it real, (and btw loving your weird writer self)! Here's to more success and less snow: YAY 2012! Go YOU!



Myra McEntire said...

The Candyman isn't the only one who can.

2012 is your year, babe.

Kristi Helvig said...

I loved this post and know you're going to have an amazing year...and I can't wait to read that book as soon as you finish. :)

Julie said...

This post screams all of the things I want to do for's awesome. :)
Also, I've been trying to plan a weekend away for myself, just haven't figured out where yet! Can't wait.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

What an inspiring post. Thank you for sharing.

Happy New Year!

Christina Farley said...

Fantastic post! I think this is going to be a great year. I've always found my reflection years bring forthcoming years of bounty.

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