2013 The Year In Review (with highlights from 2012)

Yes, I am writing this year in review A YEAR EARLY. The way I like looking at goals is as if they are already accomplished, because this helps train my brain to expect them to happen, to expect me to do what it takes to get them done. It works…most of the time. (I’ve noticed it only works on things that I can control. Not things I can’t control, like, say, the publishing industry or the lottery…this is me, refraining from making a comparison between the publishing industry in the lottery…but not really.)

In 2012, I read 75 published books, plus many completed manuscripts for writer friends.

In 2013, I’ve read about the same amount. Maybe fewer books, because more of my free time went toward writing.

In 2012, I revised a YA novel, drafted a YA novel, revised and submitted two short stories and wrote a third (as of now, still in its first draft). One of those short stories will be published soon. Trust me, y’all will be hearing from me once it’s available.

In 2013, I’ve revised a YA novel, drafted a new one and revised it as well, revised and submitted one short story, and drafted two more.

In 2012, I had a baby.

In 2013, I have not birthed any new children. I have celebrated the ones I have, and have vowed to keep my brood at two. Two is good. Two is manageable. Two means they haven’t outnumbered us.

In 2012, I spent a lot of time commenting on other peoples’ blogs and creating blog posts of my own.

In 2013, my internet/blog presence has been limited, with me commenting occasionally on other blogs and writing one blog post a week (with a few scheduled breaks).

In 2012, I compared my writing (methods and accomplishments) to others’. I compared myself to others and fretted about success.

In 2013, I have ceased to focus on what other writers are doing (beyond the necessary and very pleasurable act of market research through reading, and, of course, commiserating about writerly angst with close friends). Instead, my focus lies in improving my own craft and honing my own ideas of what it means to be a successful writer.

In 2012, I sought balance in my personal life and writing life.

2013 has been no different, except I’ve felt more balanced and more at peace with the fact that complete, constant balance is impossible.

In 2012, vegetables were accidental.

In 2013, I have formed the habit of including vegetables with both lunch and dinner every day. Even if “lunch” consists of a bowl of Doritos and one carrot. (The image above is a captured note from habitforge.com.)

And finally, in 2013, I have ceased to spend hours crafting appropriate conclusions for my blog posts. I would also like to hear what other people have accomplished in 2013.

Dabbling

Last week’s post on piano-playing and success is still swirling around in my brain.

How many hobbies have I had?

  • Piano
  • Jewelry-making
  • Tennis
  • Rock-climbing
  • Painting
  • Fortune-telling (I was nine. My “crystal ball” was a marble.)
  • Embroidery and sewing

I’m certain I’ve forgotten some.

Writing used to be a hobby. Now I try to think of it as work, although that’s difficult when nobody’s ever paid me for it (a short story will be published and paid for soon, though!)

In looking over that list, I feel the familiar itch. Most of the supplies and gear necessary for those hobbies are in closets or the garage or the Love Shack (aka Writing Studio aka Guest Room). With enough time on my hands, I could create a new bracelet, or force my feet into the toe-bending climbing shoes. With the exception of fortune-telling, each of those hobbies are things I’d love to do, right at this moment.

But I had to make some choices, because I was dabbling. Dabbling in so many things meant I wasn’t getting good at any of them, and remember, writing used to be a hobby. I felt like if I wanted to be good at something, I had to sacrifice some of those other things, because I just don’t have the time to be good at all of them. It’s not possible – at least  not for me, not right now.

I chose writing. Maybe once Maverick starts school, or maybe even before that, I’ll find some time and energy for one or two of those other things. I mean, I wish, I hope it can be that way. Can I do them all? I don’t know the answer to that question. Because I still want to be a good mom and a good wife and while I don’t need to excel in each of those hobbies, some of them aren’t as much fun if I totally suck.

Is the choice really: dabble in many, or excel in a select few? Anybody want to weigh in with some advice?

Pianissimo

Last weekend, Homes and my father-in-law drove to a friend’s house in Mendocino and came back with a piano.

But wait, there’s more. We already have a piano. The old piano is awesome in character and appearance. It’s at least a hundred years old, I’m sure, with a marbly-looking old wood that goes perfect in our front room. The problem is it sounds awful. Even the most tone-deaf amongst us would notice that high A sounds like two adjacent notes being played together, with an otherworldy screech that echoes the screams of a horror movie bimbo.

Unfortunately, no one is willing to even attempt tuning the old beastly thing, so the piano I’ve spent years playing (or avoiding, recently, because it’s too painful to listen to) will have to go elsewhere. I’m really hoping I can find someone who wants to make it a project and replace the strings and whatever else it needs, because it’s seriously cool. Otherwise it’ll probably have to go to the dump, because we have no room for storing it and neither does anyone else, and I will cry.

(By the way, do you want a piano?)

Dueling pianos, anyone?

But that’s a rambly introduction to the thoughts I’m having, which all swarm around the idea of success and how we measure it and how we hope to live up to success…or not. And how, in the eleven years I took piano lessons (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I never thought I’d be a concert pianist or play professionally or anything like that. I played because I liked it. Other than the “assignment” songs I had to practice for my teacher, I chose my music and learned things I wanted to learn. Like, of course, Für Elise, and the theme from The Man From Snowy River, and (cringing here) Boyz II Men’s “On Bended Knee” and Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do.” Once I got a little better I branched out into other classical songs, some rag time, but the point is, whatever I wanted to learn – I learned it.

“Success” in music wasn’t in being the best. There was a girl in my class who could play much better than I could, and I didn’t care. We weren’t competing. I wanted to play well, because the better I could play, the more songs I could choose from. The only thing holding me back was my small hands (anything beyond an octave is a big stretch) but I could work around that.

And that’s how I want my writing to be. It’s not about who else writes what, whether someone writes better or has a bigger audience. I want to improve because the better I write, the more I can write, and the more I can do. With fewer limits, I can have more fun.

I’m playing the piano again, now that we’ve got one that’s tuneable. And I don’t play for other people. If I want to play Moonlight Sonata six times in one day, Maverick isn’t going to complain (but my hands will – too many octave stretches!). I play for the joy of hearing the song one more time, with maybe fewer mistakes. For the joy of giving myself the chills, even when I’m botching every other note, because the music is so beautiful, two hundred years later, even when played by an amateur.

If I can harness that kind of joy and appreciation in my writing practice? Dude, that’s success.