Sometimes life finds a way (to derail your progress)
Toward the end of last year, I felt a little (a lot) pleased with myself for all I accomplished with my writing.
Last year I:
created blog posts about writing (and deeply personal things related to writing) and shared them even when it scared me to do so
had my first fiction publication
joined several more writing groups
made new writer buddies
submitted multiple short stories to markets and anthologies (many are still pending decisions)
sent my last novel out on query. Got rejected, kept trying anyway
had my first podcast interview
finished NaNo at 85,000 words with an almost complete first draft
finished the NaNo first draft on December 8.
2022 was a great writing year for me.
In every other aspect though, 2022 was a raging dumpster fire and I'm glad it finally fizzled out.
We started the year with both my wife and one of our dogs becoming critically ill
my wife's health continued to decline the first quarter of the year before finally somewhat stabilizing
4 different toilets in our house broke... as well as the pipe handle on the wall behind one of them, which caused high-pressure water to spray all over our bathroom
we found out the flooring in our entire house has to be replaced. It was the subject of not 1, but 2, class action lawsuits over damaged coating that makes this bamboo warp with even the hint of water
my bipolar symptoms came back with a vengeance after about a decade of not having any
talking about bad things which happened to me years ago gave me closure. They also opened a whole Pandora's box of knowledge about other things that were done to me & people I cared about during that time period. Some of it was extremely hard to learn & hear
work drama for both my wife and I which left us feeling exhausted
we ended the year with one of the dogs (the same dog as the beginning of the year) critically ill right before Christmas. That she made it home from the vet hospital after several nights of round-the-clock care was a surprise to everyone
I entered December full of hope and promise that I'd finish draft two of my book by the end of January. After all, prior to the final bullet point I'd managed to get a lot of writing done last year.
My goal was to send it in for manuscript swaps in February, then get the third draft done and start sending out queries by April.
Yeah, that didn't happen.
With everything going on in my life, I managed to edit less than a quarter of my novel. With the additional time to think about the original draft, I also thought of several other changes I want to make which would negate everything I'd previously edited.
There was a time when the reality of all that wasted work would've killed my desire to finish the book. Indeed- my hard drive and google drive are littered with 3/4 finished books and short stories where I got overwhelmed with life and/or the amount of edits needed and I simply walked away.
The version of myself I was back then felt like there was some secret editing magic that other writers had which had passed me by. Without that magic, I was nothing but a cheap imitation of the real artists.
Spending time speaking to other writers in the last year really drove home the following point: in the beginning, writing is hard- but not impossible- for everyone. There is no secret magic, no knowledge brought down from the oracle on high, nothing to save you from putting in all those unpaid hours toiling on things which may never see the light of day.
There is also nothing which saves you from the other hard truth about writing. You will fail, a lot.
You will face rejection after rejection after rejection.
You will send stories and queries out into the world and never get a response.
You will have something published and hear nary a peep, or see a chorus of dissatisfied readers ripping your work to shreds.
You won't be selected for a ballot, or you'll be selected for a ballot and lose out to someone more famous than you could ever hope to be.
There are many ways to fail as a writer. And one of the first is failing to finish your work at all.
I've decided this year to extend the same amount of grace regarding my work that I extend to others.
To that end, I am not a failure because I couldn't get my book ready for a manuscript swap in February. But I am a failure if I shelve the book instead of working to get my book ready for the next swap.
I am not a failure if I don't get a short story published this year after multiple submissions to various publications. But I am a failure if I decide not to try submitting at all.
This list could go on for several paragraphs, but you get the idea. This year is about trying. And this year is about showing life that it can derail my progress temporarily.
But like a train slid off the tracks, eventually someone comes along with the right tools and gets the train running the way it should be moving. And this year, the person with the tools is me.