Reflections, Changes, & a Writing Update

Reflections, Changes, & a Writing Update

Each year, I celebrate three “resets.” Similar to how society treats New Years’ Eve like the end of a chapter, there are three events each year that I use to cleanse, reflect, and evaluate where I want to be in the new year.

  • My birthday – August 31 (actually seven days after my birthday)
  • Samhain – October 31
  • New Years’ Eve – December 31

Because they’re evenly spaced apart, I can use them as deadlines to check in with my progress before committing to the full year ahead.

What would make me feel successful (as a writer)?

What would make me feel successful (as a writer)?

Variations of this question get asked in workshops and writing circles, a lot. It’s something I get asked frequently now that I’m involved with a writing community and speak with other authors, essayists, and aspiring writers on a regular basis.

It’s a good question! It helps me visualize the future that I want for myself as a writer, but it comes with a reality check from experienced (read: published) authors… It’s often accompanied by comparisons, statistics, and advising the writer to set more attainable aspirations so they aren’t “let down.”

Some people do dream about becoming household names, seeing their books on the shelf in their favourite bookstores, going on national launch tours, being interviewed , finding a fan base to interact with, or having their work adapted into other forms of media (movie, television, graphic novels, etc). I love those dreams! I would never fault someone for their heart-wants. Dreams don’t hurt anyone, keep dreaming big!

What would make me feel successful as a writer? If someone (anyone, only one person) wrote fan fiction based off of my story.

Core Beliefs and a Lack of Clarity for Reflective Writing

Core Beliefs and a Lack of Clarity for Reflective Writing

My writing mentor asked me two questions during out last session together:

  • What is something you’re very knowledgable about?
  • What is your core belief?

I know a lot about metaphysics because I’m a tarot reader. I began researching different religions and cultural practices when I was fourteen, and I never really stopped. I’ve been practicing tarot for more than twenty years now. The cards are a great ice-breaker, a good way to get to know people, and a wonderful tool to help with journalling, focus, and writing.

There’s something my grandma Agatha told me when I was very young and I’ve always remembered. I don’t recall the exact wording, but the gist is “anything worth knowing can be read in a book.” I think that has stuck with me because much of my life necessitated independence. I constantly found that the authority figures in my life were not around to provide answers, or were not able to, so I took it upon myself to read and learn what I could on my own.

The answers to these two questions prompted a third inquiry: What story could I tell incorporating those two things?

I could tell the story of my life.

Learning to Dream

Learning to Dream

I’ve always felt self-conscious about sharing my writing. School assignments, blog updates, and my stories. Ridicule and criticism were the most regular parts of my life growing up, and somewhere along the way I began to believe that was all I could expect from other people when I shared any part of myself.

Last year, a few months after I began volunteering with the Writers’ Guild, I connected with some critique partners and began exchanging writing pieces. It stressed me out. I lost sleep. I would edit until two (and sometimes four) in the morning whether or not I had work the next day. Their feedback was positive and supportive. Afterwards I would always wonder why I was nervous to begin with.

I’m well read enough to know what makes a good story. I’ve written entire books that I’ve never shown anyone. I’ve been studying the practice of writing, editing, story structure, character development, and more for the past two years while I work on my novel. All of that has been a slow build towards transitioning to life as a writer. I love my job, and my quiet little life, but I’ve always wanted to be a full time writer.

In November, I applied for a program with my local writing Guild to work as an apprentice with an experienced writing mentor. Last week I found out that I was selected.

A Year in Words

A Year in Words

Last year was the first time I actively tracked my word count for an extended period. I found a great tracking spreadsheet in the 20 Books to 50K Facebook group that I used for the year. It was created by one of the group admins and has sections to support up to 12 projects, and areas to set writing goals.

I tracked my novel and blog content production.

It had ups and downs; chronic pain doesn’t care about my writing ambitions, and neither does COVID. There are some areas with nothing recorded because of that. Those empty sections grated on me. It was difficult to keep up motivation and hard to build up momentum again. There are also streaks where I wrote daily and achieved consistent word counts. My longest streak was 19 days. Even though the pendulum swings both ways, I still mentally berated myself for the patches with nothing recorded and hardly acknowledged my consistency.

I hold myself to high standards, and set greater and greater goals, because I know I’m capable of more, and I want to keep urging myself to surpass previous achievements. I know that it’s productivity anxiety that makes me feel like nothing I do is enough. I’m still learning how to combat that negative thinking. Despite completing my first draft, revising my outline, roughing details for the rest of the series, and starting my second draft, I still antagonized myself, and felt like I wasn’t making any progress.

Last year I wrote 73,877 words for my novel.

The Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans

If I had known a year ago how much getting involved with my local writers’ guild would change my approach towards writing, and help me get out of my shell… I wouldn’t believe it. When I signed up to volunteer at the beginning of last year, it was because I wanted to meet people with similar interests in writing, and build up my confidence to share my work.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.

Star Systems

Star Systems

I consider myself well-read, and I’m actively trying to increase my reading this year to broaden my horizons when it comes to writing. As part of my reading goal, I want to try book reviewing so I can build my own reference archive of books, plots, and characters I enjoyed, as well as a list of authors that inspire me.

In 2022, I started reading manga, wuxia, and danmei, and it was absolutely delightful year of discovering content that I didn’t even know existed. Everything I knew about wuxia came from films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero, but those are nothing like what I’ve read and watched since.

This is going to be tricky because I will be reading more, but also need to backtrack and create reviews for books that I’ve already read and want to keep track of in the same way.

I’ve come up with a rough metric for the rating system, and will have to see how it plays out when I finish reading Babel: An Arcane History at the end of the week.

52 Books 2023

52 Books 2023

Giving this challenge a try for the new year. I joined GoodReads a few months ago and have read 28 books in since signing up, so I don’t think this will be difficult. Reading has been a lot easier since I changed to a dyslexic friendly font on my Kindle Fire (and I just figured out how to enable it on my Paperwhite, so I’ll be able to read faster more often since I always have that with me). This will give me an excuse to finish books that I’ve put off reading, or have always meant to read but never found the motivation to do so.

There are different GoodReads lists available on the 52 Book Club website to choose content from, and I’ve started my own reading list to keep track of what I want to read for each weekly theme.

And because I work better from plans (haha, plotter), I’ve picked all of the books ahead of time…