If my writing life were corporate America, someone from HR would be sitting down with me and my boss and reviewing my metrics with a tense smile and platitudes about getting back on track.
Thank God my writing life isn’t corporate America.
Because honestly, does it really matter that I was about 36,000 words shy of the random number I thought I could hit? Am I less of a writer because I was two new works shy of what I wanted to write this year?
Not one bit.
I’m not saying that goals don’t matter. I’m not saying that pushing myself doesn’t matter or that I have no room for improvement (excuse me while I vomit at that phrase) or that I’m going to write-off objective metrics for 2018.
But I am saying the sum of what I’ve one this year can’t be characterize by what I didn’t do. That 36k, those two short stories: writing crap just to hit them wouldn’t have done me any good. Not spending time with my loved ones during two painful family illnesses and subsequent funerals wouldn’t have made me a better writer. Letting my kid watch another 36 hours of TV instead of reading or playing together wouldn’t have been worth it just for a “HOORAY LOOK WHAT I DID” blog post and ephemeral back-pats.
So how would I characterize my successes this year? Let’s see.
I wrote when I was furious, grief-striken, exhausted, depressed, sick, migraine-ridden, afraid, and sad. And I did it because I had work to do, a story to tell, something of myself to give.
I wrote when I didn’t want to write, when I only wanted the reassurance of having written, when I didn’t know why I was writing. And I did it because some days you know you need to sit your butt in your chair and do the work even when it feels like work.
And sometimes I didn’t write. Because I sat down and there were no words to give. Because I was consumed by research. Because I didn’t want to. Because I had obligations away from my computer. Because I was lost or exhausted. And most of my zero-days were worth it in the end, because they gave me space, context, and fuel (be it a better idea or the angry energy to just pound out words).
I wrote happy things, sad things, scared things, scary things. I put parts of myself on the page that I wouldn’t talk about outside fiction. I tried new forms and pushed my craft with new elements of all sorts. I entered friendly contests. I sought out new readers and new sources of critique. I submitted to markets big and small. I got rejected everywhere, sometimes with the most wonderful and inspiring comments about my work to see me off. I cried about a rejection this year–THAT was new. And I survived it.
I think that’s one of the most important things any of us can say about this last year: that we survived.
But I did more than that, didn’t I? I worked. I wrote. I wrote more than I’ve ever written in one year. I wrote better than I’ve ever written. I took the risks I set out to take and then some. And that’s what makes a writer.
Here’s what I want my 2018 in words to look like. Sure: I want to wrap the year with at least one new novel drafted, revised, and out in the world. I want new stories in my stable. I want a whole host of other’s books in my have-been-read pile. But really, I want to wrap the year confident that I didn’t dither away my precious writing hours. I want to wrap the year confident that I’ve grown. And I know that’s doable.
So, for whatever it’s worth, here’s the breakdown by numbers and bullets. Do with it what you will. Just promise that you’ll think the same way about what you’ve accomplished this year. Because you’re worth way more than your numbers, too.
My Year in Words
PART 1: Personal Accomplishments
- Words written: 164,495
- New works completed:
- 1 novel drafted
- 1 novella (drafted, revised, submitted)
- 6 short stories (drafted, revised submitted)
- Other works:
- 1 novel critiqued, revised, and queried
- 6 additional short stories started
- Submissions to Paying Markets: 76 (8 outstanding)
- Books Read: 30 (ok, I’m finishing one today; hold me to it)
PART 2: Extrinsic Accomplishments
- Sales and publications: 2 (Shimmer and Cast of Wonders)
- Non-paying reprint: 1 (inclusion in Event Horizon 2017, the anthology for Campbell Award-eligible writers)
- Rejections: 64 total; 45 forms, 19 personal & higher-tier
- Moderated and participated on two panels at conventions
- First reading!
- First review of my work
- First story podcasted
- 50th lifetime rejection (current tally: 98)
- First-place in my division of a Codex Contest (for the novella; still blown away by this btw)
2018 in Preview
Because I like having metrics, even when I don’t/can’t meet them
- Words written: 200,000
- New works to complete: 12
- Books read: 30