Over Twitter a little while ago, the author Sequoia Nagamatsu posted this:
I don’t have the same feelings Mr. Nagamatsu has about literary Twitter–I think I probably read Twitter with full knowledge that the medium is totally curated–but I think it’s good to take real stock of what the hell happened over the course of the year.
Like, how the hell did I get to the point where it’s year-end already, three full years after I decided to write a new novel and had already decided what it was going to be about, who the heroine was, etcetera? How much time have I spent on Netflix? How many books have I re-read because I couldn’t take starting anything new???
Here’s my loose stock-taking of some things that mattered to me:
Some shows I binge-watched that I can remember:
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Grace and Frankie
Death in Paradise
Great British Baking Show
Books I re-read because they were “comfortable”:
God knows how many Dick Francis novels*
*I did not count many of these in my Goodreads reading challenge
Books that I didn’t finish reading, lying open on their fronts next to my bed:
Lord Jim (Joseph Conrad)
Midnight in Broad Daylight (Pamela Rotner Sakamoto)
Redeployment (Phil Klay)
The Man with the Compound Eyes (Wu Ming-Yi)
Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes)
Books on my TBR pile, depicted with photo evidence:
(This is only a partial pile.)
Number of words I wrote towards WIP: about 10K
Number of new works produced: 11 (counting articles for The Writer magazine)*
*I’m being generous here. Works on commission truly should fall into a different category.
Number of new works published: 7 (but 1 written in 2017)
Classes and workshops taught: 6+
So…okay. Looking back, not a great year for creativity. I did a couple of drawings, and made some new friends, so all of that is really good. But the last time I wrote anything new and fresh (excluding lesson plans) was in October, and that includes anything posted to this blog, which is kind of sad. Because writing is like a muscle, and if you don’t use it, it will eventually atrophy.
The good news is, there is a backstop for writers, and it is called The Cranky. It’s the natural enemy of atrophy. If I don’t create something new every once in awhile, I get cranky. The same goes for my relationship with exercise: If I don’t run or get on my bike or something involving sweat and the outdoors on a semi-regular basis, I get very hard to be around.
When I was younger I used to say that I longed for a life in which exercise was a natural part of my life. You know, like, I’d get exercise by clearing out my yard, say, chopping wood or feeding chickens (???) or something. I have a yard now, and I could spend all my days raking and pulling weeds and pruning things, but I don’t.
I can, however, exercise something similar when it comes to writing. Regular blog posts and newsletters are like the gardening of the exercise world. It can be done everyday as part of your tasks, even without your realizing it. But it must be done, because otherwise, the balance of one’s writing life gets tipped.
This year, my friends and I produced three issues of our literary magazine and managed 2 writing retreats. I taught one college-level class and one graduate class, and a handful of workshops. I came up with a bunch of new ideas for posts, got excited about them, and then distracted with some other things and lost those ideas to the wind. I don’t know that I’ll ever get them back. As of now, at the end of the year, I’m starting to feel really, really sad that I let those ideas go away. And I’m starting to realize how important it is for me to be better about balancing the work you do for a paycheck with the work you do that addresses your need to put some new ideas out into the world, ideas that are your own.
Here are some things I did right:
- Started using a desktop app called SelfControl that blocks me from certain sites while I’m working, an hour at a time
- For a time, I was writing first thing in the morning before it got light and then going for a run or other exercise immediately after
- I logged most of my hours, whether it was time spent on retainer or time spent on project-based fee work
So I guess I’ll close with some new resolutions for 2019:
- Write when the mood strikes, even if it’s just writing ideas you had down someplace
- Be cognizant of what I’m doing with my downtime
- Balance client work better with creative work
- Take forced time off
As I get older, I’m learning more about my work processes and my particular failings. I suppose the good news is, there always seems to be another year to rectify and adjust. But it’s good to continue to take stock.
How did you do this year? What did you do that you’re proud of, or not so proud of? Tell me in the comments below.
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