Reflections on a Busy Writing Year

As I mentioned in my last post, NaNoWriMo was really good for me this year, in no small part because I was writing steadily each day. I’ve never felt so calm and focused while undertaking a NaNoWriMo challenge (I did have one especially great year in Camp NaNoWriMo, but that was April and this was November, when the stakes are considerably higher). As a result, I made it through the month with a renewed commitment to my daily writing practice, and for that I am very grateful.

This year, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my growth as a writer. A little over six months ago, I set out on a two-year plan. Some of the plan is personal, separate from my writing life, but of course much of it has to do with writing. And on reflection, I’ve realized that this was a much busier year than I thought it would be, in the best way.

In the first quarter of this plan, I’ve accomplished more than I honestly thought I would. I had set out to sell two stories within the two years, and I managed to do that in the first six months. Sales are always something of a crapshoot—given the work is already good, you need to have your finger on the pulse of what a particular market wants, and there are no guarantees that when you send it, they’ll be seeking it. So while timing was kind to me more than once, it’s also been a great feeling to be able to check that box and set my goals for coming sales a little higher.

But there are other things I’ve wanted to achieve that are taking more time than I’d hoped. I’m a pretty consistent writer, but I do want to work up to writing at least a thousand words every day without fail, whether or not it’s NaNo season. A lot of writers I’ve encountered argue against writing daily, while some strongly advocate for it. My feeling is: I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone, and I am not saying my way works for anyone but me. That said, I find it troublesome that I can be (and often am) scheduled for a 7-day work week at my day job—that I can do that every day—and then I somehow end up not doing the work I’m most passionate about daily. There’s a contradiction in there that disturbs me, and the way in which I feel I can best combat it is to ensure that I am writing every day.

I’m also working on getting healthier. For those of you who have people in your life who’ve joined fitness cults, please don’t worry that this is about to become a fitness cult post! I am vehemently anti-opinions when it comes to other people’s health. Everyone has specific needs for their life and their body, and how we each choose to stay healthy is no one else’s damned business, anyway. For me, healthy means: getting my asthma under control through hydration, anti-inflammatory foods, maintaining an extra-clean sleeping environment, and using antihistamines and prescription asthma medication as needed. It also means continuing regular ballet work and progressing towards strength that I never quite achieved in my feet and ankles when I was dancing in college, enough to dance en pointe. And it means giving myself the time and space in my schedule to cook for myself and my family, and to actually sit down and enjoy both the meals and the company instead of always eating on the go.

A lot of this is time-consuming, and I feel like working writers who are maintaining day jobs as we slowly break in are always starved for time. The initial instinct is to cut back on sleep, but that’s not really an option. My body has made it very clear that sleeping less than seven hours a night will result in it just refusing to work properly, and I can’t afford that. Falling ill from lack of sleep certainly won’t give me more time for writing in the end, either. The balance between work and rest is never an easy one to achieve, but I’m doing my best!

One happy event that had been on my list of things to achieve was finally having a wedding. After three postponements due to the pandemic, we finally got our day together! It was magical, and my now husband and I couldn’t be more grateful that even during such difficult times, we managed to have such a beautiful day. As for how it impacted my writing life, being able to successfully plan and carry out a wedding that was totally DIY has done wonders for my confidence in terms of what I’m capable of when planning writing events. I learned a ton, and I’m excited to apply that new knowledge to future endeavors.

I’ve also thrown myself into reading about all aspects of the writing/publishing process that I’m weakest in; namely, marketing and legal. I even made myself a syllabus, I guess because I was in college for so long that I don’t know any other way to learn (big nerd energy over here!). I’ve made slow progress—the reason I’m weak in those areas to begin with is because I’m not particularly interested in them, but indie writers can’t be choosers! And I’m determined to keep pushing forward and learning steadily.

The year’s not over yet, I know! But December always carries an air of finality about it, and there’s a sense of wrapping things up that kind of runs throughout the month. My freezer is full of soups, chilis, and stews I’ve made in preparation for days where I’d rather put my feet up than cook; my shelf is full of winter reads I’m planning to tackle with a steaming mug of cocoa on especially chilly nights; and my calendar is as empty as I can make it, because when given the option, who wants to leave the coziness of home for frigid blasts of wintery wind?

I hope your year is wrapping up well, with good books and delicious things to warm your heart and stomach,
Melissa

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