Probably a lot of people looked at the date for the new year and thought about themes of “seeing clearly.” It is the start of a new decade as years go and has that nifty connection to the “good vision” rating ophthalmologists like to give.
I’ve never had good vision. And I’m not saying that because I’ve worn glasses with corrective lenses since I was 4 years old. I seem to also have problems with achieving goals I set for myself. I did resolutions: lose weight, go to the gym more, write or at least journal daily. Pfft. My good intentions falter before the end of January. I have, well had, journals I’d gift myself every December only to stop using them by mid-February. And every day? Forget it.
The best goal-setting (and -getting) I ever did was announcing to a party of a few close friends and family on my 30th birthday that I wanted to be a published author by the time I was 40. First novel was written within the next two years, edited, submitted to publishers, rejected, edited again, submitted and rejected again. Then finally it was picked up and published (Turning Point in 2007). My age? 37. Even reached the finals for a debut author award the next year. My second novel was written, picked up, and released by the same publisher (Turn for Home in 2010), just 3 months shy of turning “the big 4-Oh.” Mission accomplished. I also had a smattering of shorter stories see print in that decade. I even turned to editing for other authors and had a podcast interviewing other authors while part of an active author community. By most reckonings, that was an incredible productive time in “my writing career.”
Then, it was like the bottom fell out. With a year of my 2nd novel’s publication, I changed jobs and all my social writers group connections atrophied and died from lack of attention. My writing time vanished as I tried to do everything at my new job to keep our family afloat. When I wanted to pick up the pen, the ideas were sparse. I started a dozen different projects, writing a couple hundred to a few thousand words, but then the idea would languish untouched for weeks until I’d get back to it and my inner-critic would pooh-pooh the idea, or I’d have no recollection where I’d wanted to go with it in the first place — a loss of the spark, even with copious notes. Yes, I did finish a few short stories here and there. Nothing truly “original”, nothing publishable, and I felt defective creatively, like I’d never have a good idea again.
I finally had another brainstorm and a third novel made its way to a publisher over the course of about 18 months. It has made it out into the world (We Three in 2019). Then my personal relationships that sparked that novel fell apart within a month of release. I did put a few of my short stories out as an indie collection (So Many Ways in 2019), and a couple novellas (The Queen’s Gift and Book’s Pass, 2018), also independently.
I struggle mightily with my introversion demanding I retreat to recharge but I know putting energy into making connections is important for any author. However, maybe it’s the effects of the ennui of dealing constantly with highly politicized online (and offline) communities: everything and everyone seems to be in a state of perpetual offense and activism. Most communities are wearing me out to the point of wanting to purge my lists again.
It’s enough to make me want to stay in bed most days. I don’t like the feeling of “turtling” through life, so I know I’ve got to keep going.
I’d like to say I have a clear vision of what will be the fruits of my writing labors or even my life, home, health, work, and family, by the time 2021 or 2030 arrives. But honestly, I don’t have the first clue. Scary and frustrating for someone who is not a pantser in my writing or life.
I really need to claim writing time to explore possibilities. I spent the last week of 2019 cleaning my computer and writing files, looking at all the starts and spurts and bits and pieces. I tossed a lot of it as not worth trying to fill out or finish. A few I set aside as “maybe.” Nothing made it into the “I’m excited to do this one. Yes!” column.
So, on the first day of 2020, I’m going to just work on making my SMART goals more specific. Here’s the vague project wish list:
- Write 1 original short story, 6-10k words.
- Write 1 original novella, 20-30k words.
- Write 1 original novel, 60-80k words.
- Read 1 book for pleasure a month. Review and track these on Goodreads.
- Find, join – and be active – in a community of writers trading writing and critique in constructive ways.
- Get 1, 2, and 3, cleaned up (edited, formatted) and distributed to readers in some form.
First I’d like to have titles or plots for the three ideas above. I also have a dream goal of completing more than just these 3 projects, but after the dry spell and struggles, starting with this modest goals seems best.
Wish me luck? Share your writing goals for 2020 or your struggles so I know I’m not alone in this. Thanks. And I hope everyone has a safe start to the year.