The year that was, the year that is

I’d been seriously considering taking a pass on a ‘The Year in Review’ post — or a resolutions one. I thought perhaps I should do something else, something less inward-looking, as my first post here in what’s been way too long. Because, as anyone who’s been paying attention (which means, you know, me) can attest, I fell off the blogging horse at the end of the summer, and I’ve been delinquent in posting since.

And that was for all the usual reasons: Lack of energy and mental focus, lack of time to write, which meant not only not having the time to blog, but not doing any other writing that might have been worth blogging about either.

But that’s a self-perpetuating cycle, unless I do something to change it. Besides, as much as I know there are good reasons to disdain the practice, I actually like New Year’s resolutions. I like the extra motivation they provide to think about goals, to introspect and consider reasons that I haven’t met those goals in the past, and how I might better plan to achieve them in the future.

And one thing I want to do this year — one of many — is get back to my blogging. I am someone who does better at hitting my milestones when I have some sort of external markers of accountability, and an audience is one of my favourite ways to hold myself to account.

So, although it may be a seasonal cliche, it’s a seasonal cliche that works for me. A look back, followed by a look forward, seems timely and appropriate.

2014 – The year that was in writing

I spend a lot of time last year frustrated at the trouble I was having making time to write — or using that time effectively when I managed to make any. It wasn’t one of my more productive years, especially considering that the lead-up to the year included me successfully completed NaNoWriMo in November, 2013. I wrote just over 50,000 words that month. I didn’t come close to equalling that in the entire year of 2014, when I eked out:

About 5,000 words added to the novel-in-progress

2,900 words of my only new short story of the year

18 blog posts (five on my erstwhile blog, thirteen here), which I’m not going to bother totalling the collective word count of

And rather a lot of editing — of my previous novel, cleaning up the work-in-progress for submission to my writers’ group, and of some of my short fiction

So no, not a stellar year. I need to do better if I hope to finish this novel, and revise it, and get it out into the world — not to mention all the other novels I want to write!

2014 – The year that was in submitting

It was a better year for the skin-thickening process of continuing to get my work out there, though.

I had 6 short stories complete and ready for submission to various publications at various points over the year, and I made a total of 21 short fiction submissions in all. That looks like a fairly low average number of submissions per story, but it’s deceptive. The turnaround time for those publications varies tremendously. Just one market had just one of my stories in the queue for much of the year, for instance, while others got back to me within days. So some stories were submitted five or six times, some only two or three.

I received 20 short fiction rejections in 2014. Three of those were for submissions from the previous calendar year. Because I made a big push to get submissions out in December, 2014, I have 4 stories with a response still pending.

I had no sales.

However, my efforts compare favourably with what I think were 14 submissions in the previous year (my record-keeping was a bit spotty in 2013).

But this means that I do need to get my other two finished stories back out to market!

I also, back at the top of the year, queried 8 agents with my first novel. That was a small number of queries, but the speed and uniformity of the rejections I received led me to hold off on continuing that process pending further revisions to the novel, and more importantly, a major overhaul to my query letter. I’m planning on revisiting that this year, after I finally finish the first draft of the novel-in-progress.

My combined efforts did, however, lead to the day, hilarious in retrospect but kind of a kick in the teeth at the time, where between agent queries and short story submissions, I received a record 5 rejections in a single day.

Now that’s a record I hope not to beat — not in 2014, and not ever!

2015 – The year that is and my New Year’s Revolutions

In 2014, I had to recognize — contrary to my usual boundless capacity for self-delusion — that my lack of progress was less a problem of time than a problem of time management. And that was true not only of my writing, but also of other areas of my life that have been languishing, like exercising more and eating better.

In other words, I was thinking and acting like I needed to somehow make more time (news flash — that wasn’t going to happen), when what I really need to do is make better use of the time I already have available.

When it comes to exercising and getting healthier, that means working out in the windows between the end of work and my children’s bath-and-bedtime routines — or giving up on social media noodling after they’re in bed and working out instead. And, when the weather’s warmer again, it’ll mean walking home from work as often as I can. It means menu planning and preparing healthy lunches in advance, especially on the weekends. Automating the processes, essentially, so that I don’t have the need or opportunity to make less healthy choices on the spur of the moment because I’m short of time or energy.

And as for writing — which, as interesting as my health is to me, is probably the reason more of you are reading this?

Again, it’s simply a question of taking the possibility of making bad — or, let’s be fair, less productive — decisions out of the equation. I need to, inasmuch as possible, use the time I have available when I have more than a few minutes to myself and I’m reasonably awake.

That means my lunch hour, most weekdays.

I really found myself pushing back when I came to that conclusion. Part of me wanted to hold out for longer windows to write, told myself that the 45 or 50 minutes I’d be able to write wouldn’t be enough to make real headway — which is entirely untrue; I proved during NaNoWriMo 2013 that I write quite effectively in smaller increments.

Besides, those hypothetical longer windows of unbroken writing time? Don’t exist. Not if I want to do my job, take care of my family, exercise and get enough sleep to maintain my health. I need to, as I said, maximize my productive use of existing time, and that’s my lunch hour at the office. Not that I might not be able to squeeze some more time in once in a while. But squeezing some time in once in a while is how I successfully added only 5,000 words to my novel over the course of thirteen months. So you know, not the most awesome solution.

Setting aside weekdays when I’ll be at home with the family for one reason or another, and days when I’m at work but other commitments will take priority on my lunch hour, I can probably use that time to create 18 or 19 writing opportunities a month.

That’s… a lot of time, in the aggregate. And it just means being zealous about taking my laptop to work, and using it to write for 45 or 50 minutes a day. I’ve tried not writing, and it hasn’t been good for my writing. I think I’ll try writing again, instead, see if that gets me anywhere.

As far as putting all this into practice? I’ve broken my goals for 2015 down into some more concrete resolutions, on a piece of paper with notes scribbled all over it — and a lot of exclamation marks. I’m not going to describe its contents here, because the parts that I haven’t already articulated above are either obvious, or private.

But I have seen a lot of people summarizing their aspirations or goals for the year ahead in a single word — a theme word for the year, to act as a focus, or a guide. That wasn’t something I’d thought of doing for myself, what with my tendency to run off at the keyboard. But then I read Rachel Hartman’s post on her one word for the year. And I starting mulling. And as I thought, and as I wrote the words you’ve been reading, I realized that there is, in fact a single word that sums up and exemplifies all of them, all my New Year’s resolutions and revolutions.

My theme, my word for 2015: Organize.

COMING UP NEXT: I have some Breaking In interviews that I didn’t run before the wheels came off the blog. If the subjects are still amenable, I’ll get those into the pipeline. I’ve also been reading Anthony Trollope’s Phineas Finn, and I have some thoughts about it that I’d like to share. After that, it’ll probably be time for an update on my writing, and for me to get back to Ulysses if I really want to finish the darn thing by next Bloomsday.

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2 thoughts on “The year that was, the year that is

  1. Hey, glad that one-word summation exercise can be useful to anyone! And yes, unfortunately, you can’t wait for big chunks of time to materialize out of nowhere. Even 10-15 minutes is enough to mess around with a few sentences or a paragraph and make it better. Doing a little is infinitely better than doing nothing.

  2. Pingback: Three Words for 2016 | stephen geigen-miller

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