It’s that time of year again…
The time where we put the last year of our lives under the magnifying glass and take a good look at what we accomplished and where we went wrong. We make goals, usually lofty ones. Personally, when January comes along and I’ve spent the past week eating Christmas cookies, I find myself swearing off sugar forever and promising to drop fifty pounds immediately. While that would be amazing, just saying it won’t make it come true. I need a plan. I need smaller goals and a way to get there. I need systems in place and routines I can stick to.
Writing, for me, is the same.
Last year my goal was way too obtuse. “I will get an agent.” Obviously, that’s out of my control. I realize now a better goal would have been “I will send out manuscripts to 30 agents.” Much more measurable and doable. This year, I decided to take a different approach altogether and joined a group of writers who were also thinking about the best way to start fresh in 2022. I stumbled upon 12days4writers with Julie Hedlund, author of Over, Bear! Under, Where? and knew it was just what I needed. She led us through exercises daily to get us thinking about all of our writing successes from 2021. She also took us through our failures from the year. One of the most meaningful days for me was the day she asked us to pick the biggest, fattest, meanest thing that we were thinking about our writer selves and say it out loud. Boy was I good at that. But then she had us tear those big fat lies apart and think about what we know in our hearts to be true. By facing the those awful thoughts, much like thinking about a nightmare, I was able to break them apart and see how silly they really were in the light of day.
I could beat myself up for not finishing my novel or I can celebrate the fact that I wrote 30,000 words of it, with three small humans around me 24/7. Between remote learning and quarantines, I have not had enough hours of silence to do what it takes to write a book. Super Secret Spoiler Alert: “What it takes” is the ability to think. Thinking thoughts in a quiet room is actually a necessity for writing a novel. Who’d have guessed?
I could tell myself that I’m never going to be published and I don’t have anything to say. Or I can look at the fact that a magazine published two articles I wrote this year. They didn’t do that because I’m not good enough. They loved my words.
I could believe that I’m not a “real” writer because I didn’t write on my novel every day. Or I could look at the stack of notebooks I have full of morning pages, the dozens of picture books and chapter books I started or the nonfiction book on teaching I drafted. I could look at the thirty plus blog entries I have written and was too afraid to post. (Will I be brave enough to post this one?) I could look at the letters I have written to my daughters every month to put in their baby books and the daily lunchbox notes I write to each one of them. I could take a look at the journal by my bed full of the mad ramblings of a woman who woke up at 3am to write down (in the dark) an idea that she knew would slip away. I walk my kids to school every morning and think about my book the whole way home.
Does that sound like something a pretend writer would do?
Were other writers more committed than I was this year? Absolutely. Did I spend precious hours watching The Bachelor when I should have been writing? You bet. But I DID write. I also blocked out time to attend conferences, support book launches of fellow authors/illustrators, volunteer in my local writers group and moderate for my local book festival. I read LOTS of books. Comparison truly is the thief of joy and we should all just stop doing it.
Through this week of introspection, I realized that I give a lot of my time away. Very easily. I’m always thinking about things I can do for others and saying yes too often. Like most parents, so much of my time is spent doing things that are “invisible” like cleaning, reading to my kids, doing dishes and playing board games. Honestly, just doing the laundry for the five of us feels like my part time job. When I’m feeling like there’s never enough time, I think of Jane Yolen who said,
“Well, no little time fairy is going to drop a package of it on you. You have to TAKE time. STEAL it by the bucketload from the rest of your life. Be selfish. Ignore lunching with friends until the work gets done. Just write the damn book.”
So my goals for 2022… Yes, I would love to drop 50 pounds, finish the damn book and find an agent who loves it as much as I do. But I think my priorities will be:
1. Be kind to myself every day.
2. Find the joy in every day.
3. Make time to write every day.
The book will be finished when it’s finished and not a moment sooner. My daily routine could use improvement. I need to stick to writing first, scrolling later (why is it SO easy to procrastinate?) and impose word count goals on myself. Maybe I’ll sub out the chocolate in my top desk drawer for carrot sticks. Maybe not, let’s be real.
Who knows if my books will ever be published? What I do know is that I am so grateful to be in a position where I get to live this dream.
What are your goals for 2022?