So, it’s now officially been the new year for about thirty minutes.
Culturally, the new year has been a time for new beginnings and goal setting. It’s a beginning, an end, and a middle all at once. It is this year perhaps more than before a time of contemplation for me, and the reason why is 2015.
2015 was a year of great change for me, most of it good and some of it less good. So let’s review.
In 2015, I decided to take my writing more seriously. I mean I did that in 2014 as well, but I did a rather ham-handed job of it, setting up a writer’s group, and then pursuing a set of nebulous goals, without much direction or success. In 2015, I wanted to ramp up production to what could be considered a professional level, and by the last third of the year I had done so, writing 100,000 words in four months.
A note on this figure: extrapolated over 12 months, it met and exceeded my goal of 250,000 words per year. That’s less than I would hope to do writing full time, but with my other commitments, I consider it an acceptable rate of production. If I were writing full time as my job, I would expect something more along the lines of 600,000 to 1,000,000 per year. The above figure does not include blog posts, which over the course of 2015 have largely been on the business blog at barelysalvageable.com.
In 2015, I went from being a writer to being an author. A Guide to a Happier Life is perhaps not a great book, but I think it’s a pretty good book, and I will always love it. I learned so much writing it and pushing it through the production process and into existence as a published novel. I learned from both my mistakes and triumphs, getting a feel for how my own writing rings in the mind when it’s been tightened up a little. I also learned that after a thing has been published, it’s already past time to start thinking about the next one.
In 2015, I started a business. I joined forces with my long-time friend and recent colleague Tina Shelton and together we set up Barely Salvageable, our tiny fledgling imprint currently in use for our work, perhaps in the future for the work of others. This is one of the best decisions I made, as it encouraged me to think of my writing as a business, and made the above accomplishments possible. I don’t know that there’s anyone else I would rather do this with than Tina; she’s an excellent friend, a shrewd thinker, and a great writer. If nothing else, it’s a boon knowing that each of us has someone to talk to, brainstorm with, and complain at when necessary. Neither of us are in this alone now, and that’s something special.
In 2015, I went back to college. Community college, to be precise. With the help of family and the support of friends, I am an adult college student trying to finally get my degree. I’m the last of my brothers and sisters to get a college degree, and I kind of defaulted into it; barely employed and on the edge of homelessness, I couldn’t see any other options. It’s been a good thing, though. I have gotten straight As since going back, I have dragged Tina and one of our other friends back with me, and I enjoy it. Most of the time.
Some stuff that happened during 2015 I don’t like. I have fallen so far behind on so many things. I’ve fallen down on my friendships, the absence of which I feel in my life almost every day. With the exception of my writer’s group, I have felt very lonely and isolated during the last half of 2015, and it’s because I’ve been pouring so much of myself into the above things. I have let important relationships start to wither. These people don’t deserve that kind of treatment from me.
A minor but annoying back injury before Christmas has shown me that, between homework, lectures, the office, and writing, I have become much, much more sedentary than I used to be. There are extra pounds as well, but the back injury is the more important detail as it indicates an underlying loss of muscle tone and strength which is vital to long-term health.
I have also sacrificed my housework, to the point that the idea of cleaning the apartment is now utterly overwhelming to me.
So, now that I’ve reviewed the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2015, let’s take a look at how this influences 2016.
If anything, I hope to write more in 2016 than I did in 2015. I think I’ve found some productivity tricks that will help me cram a greater word count into the same time frame. I am more self-assured as a writer, and I have some idea where the road leads because I’ve been down it before. Fear will not hold me back this time. But I have also learned where my limits are, and at least until college is finished I don’t think I can devote more actual time to writing. I can be better at using the time I do devote to it, though, and that’s a goal for the coming year.
In 2016, my plan is to publish, at minimum, two more books. I’d like to do three more but as Tina says to me on a near constant basis, I need to know my limits, and 2015 was a year of finding limits. I am going to experiment with forms that I haven’t used before, in genres I haven’t written in before. I was considering doing the Ray Bradbury Challenge since my short story game is not tops, but I’m hesitant to commit to that just yet. That having been said, I do want to write more short stories and do it better than I have in the past.
In 2016, I will complete my transfer degree from the community college and move on to a four year university in pursuit of a degree in business. People have asked why I’m not majoring in English, and the simple answer is this: What I have left to learn about writing, I will learn from writing and from reading. And watching movies. And looking thoughtfully at the world around me. I do not need to spend thousands of dollars doing those things. The business piece is what I need help with. And so that is what I will work on in school. Besides, it’s a great fall back degree for when I need to give in and sell my soul to the corporate machine again. Man.
In 2016, I will start saying “yes” to social invitations again. I’m not really sure how to do this, because people have largely stopped inviting me to things at this point, but we’ll see. All I can do at this point is remain open to moments when people reach out to me. I’m an extrovert at heart, and I need other people around to feel centered and connected. It’s time to get more of that back.
In 2016, I will do better at commitments, not just those to others, but those to myself. I will keep the house up. I will stay on top of auto maintenance. I will keep my new journal up to date (more on that later) and I will write to-do lists and do my best to complete them. But if the to-do lists aren’t complete, I will not allow them to slide into the black pit of failure. I will walk, at least a half-hour a day, until I’m back to where I was a year ago, or even better. My back will stop hurting, and I will be strong and hardy.
So I close out 2015, and look forward to 2016. I look forward to more friends, more fresh air, more photos, more words, more drawings, more books, more As, more engagement, more blog writing, more roads to travel down, more fires to warm myself by,more world, more beauty, more me.
What are you looking forward to in 2016?