With temperatures hovering between the 50s and 70s at my house, it’s hard to believe the year is almost over. As I sit at my desk—a spot that I’ve occupied for many, many hours the last twelve months—I’ve been thinking back over how my year as a writer and reader have gone. I wanted to share my top three realizations with you all.
#3: Read for Fun
This may sound obvious, and it is. But I’m in grad school and teaching and trying to write, and sometimes I feel like I just don’t have time to read something on my “just for fun TBR” pile. Required reading, or “should be reading” books slip in and suddenly, I realize that I’ve just been pushing through. Last summer, I picked up the first book in an urban fantasy series that I remembered kind of liking but hadn’t read in years. I started with book one and am now working on book eleven. Not only has reading these books been fun, but they actually rejuvenated my desire to write urban fantasy. So find your squirreled away pile labeled “some day” and get started.
#2: Have Patience
Again, this may sound obvious and yes, it is. But it’s also really difficult. As you all know, Wake in Darkness, book two in the Selina Baker series was due to come out in November, and as the fates would have it, it didn’t. The realization that it wouldn’t hit shelves, that I wouldn’t hold it in my hands (at least for now) was really difficult for me, but I know that I will find a home for it and someday soon, you will all have it in your hands. But this realization goes for many other things. Are your stories getting rejected from every lit mag on the planet? Are you querying agents to no avail? Are you staring at that damn blinking cursor on the white page? I could list a dozen other scenarios, and I still have come away with the same piece of advice.
No, this isn’t a plea for sipping and not chugging, nor for nibbling instead of chomping. (Sorry, I’m feeling a little hungry). Moderation is for writing goals. This December, as soon as my semester wound down, I set myself a very moderate writing goal: each weekday I would write two pages of my current project. I reasoned that on those days when the only antagonist I could think about was the blank screen, I would be able to pull off two measly pages; and on days when I was really feeling it, I could bust out the word count and make some real headway. If all went well I would rack up 10 pages a week—not too shabby.
I’ve never done NaNoWriMo before—not for lack of desire, but simply for lack of time. November in the academic world is pretty much all of the circles of hell—so this was my attempt at a very toned down version. Because I set my limit so low, I didn’t feel pressure or disappointment on those days when it just wasn’t happening. And you know what? It worked. At the end of my semester I had about 43 pages of my WIP completed, and as I write this, I have over 115. Is my novel done? Nowhere near, and that’s okay with me.
A hint for those who are interested in trying this moderate method out: keep yourself accountable. I write my daily word count on the calendar next to my desk. It feels good to see a visual representation of how far I’ve come.
So that’s it. Three pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way this year.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive 2016!