So we’ve left 2016 behind at last. Not a minute too soon, methinks. I remember how hopeful and excited I was to make 2016 a year I could look back on and be proud of how much I had accomplished. How 2016 was going to be different. Amazing, despite the changes that had already happened in 2015. I had a novel I was working on! I had just gotten promoted at work! I was making more writer friends! How bad could the coming year be, right?
Maybe it was because I placed too much hope on last year. I asked too much of it. And when my hopes and dreams failed to materialise, my morale and my spirit shrivelled away day by day. I grew lonely, sometimes withdrawn, occasionally cried in bed, and tried to convince myself that I was fine. That this was just a rite of passage, all this shall pass, and that I didn’t need anyone or anything else to make me happy.
But happiness isn’t dependent only on the self. We can’t simply find fulfillment within ourselves and remain in that state of contentment just because our sense of self is so strong. Our state of mind, whether we believe it or not, is ultimately still very much affected by the world in which we live, the world that happens to us, and the world we choose to see.
So there were good days and there were bad days. Some days were particularly awful. Some days allowed me some reprieve and I saw a glimmer of hope and joy. Granted, there were days where I chose to see only the bad and neglected the good. Then there were days where I opened my eyes to the good and the beautiful.
There was the good:
- I visited Europe for the first time with my friends. Alone! But with besties! And in Italy!
We had a grand ole time there, and I saw so much beauty that restored my spirit. Truly, it doesn’t get any better than that.
2. I met three incredible ladies online and we forged a friendship so swiftly and easily it was like we were fated to meet in the vast cybersphere all along.
Nicole, Meredith, and Becky (and all the other writer friends I’ve met along the way) have been such a bright spot in the dark days of despair, self-doubt and loneliness. I find myself eagerly awaiting their long emails, craving the connection, and somehow we all just get one another. We exchanged stories about our lives and stories we write (which we publish on our short story blog Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand), and that’s how we’ve been pulling each other through it.
3. I travelled to Beijing with my dad like he had always wanted.
Climbing the Great Wall was at the top of his bucket list, and he had always wanted me to go with him before he was – in his words – “old and grey and arthritic”.
4. I received several personalised rejections, a couple of revise & resubmit requests, and even went on a Skype call with a literary agent who was incredibly kind and generous with her feedback, advice, and compliments for NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND.
Yes, the rejections bummed me out (SO close!), but they also offered clarity and hope.
But there was also the bad:
- My work BFFs left at the end of 2015 and early 2016, which left me all alone in the company. Okay, not quite alone. But with my old tribe gone, I suddenly felt stranded, exposed. And I had spent my entire time at work with these people, so I wasn’t as close to everyone else. It would be strange if I just attached myself to new people all of a sudden. I felt like a square trying to fold all my angles to fit into a circle.
- 2016 was the only year since 2009 where I didn’t finish writing at least one novel. I had completed at least one manuscript every year, sometimes 3 a year, until 2016, even though I started the year with BEFORE I REMEMBER YOU and planned to finish it by August at the latest. Nope. Didn’t happen. I wrote draft after draft, wrote myself into a corner, wrote the story to death before it finally spluttered to a stop at page 207 (48K words).
- All the deaths in 2016. Illnesses and wars. Need I say more?
- Singlehood. While I generally believe that it happens when it happens, and that I would rather be single than be with the wrong guy, that I’m a loner anyway and I don’t really need anyone to feel complete since I’m happy with my own company and my thoughts most of the time, that my books and manuscripts are all I need to keep me entertained… Yeah, in spite of all that, there are still moments – a Saturday afternoon with no particular agenda, for instance – when the loneliness creeps in and I wonder if there really is something wrong with me after all, that maybe I’m just too weird to ever find someone who would know me inside out and love me anyway.
- Trump. Don’t even want to talk about it anymore. I am entirely disgusted by the whole circus.
- And as if 2016 didn’t suck enough, I ended the year with a sprained foot after taking a tumble to the ground. Spent the last two weeks at home and in pain.
Yes, all in all, I’ve still got it good. Despite the bad outweighing the good in 2016, I’m still alive and kicking, I have the people I love around me, I have a relatively cushy job
that drains my soul once in a while, etc.
Yes, I get all that. I get that I should count my blessings, that I should be thankful. And I am. I am absolutely grateful for all that I have. But I don’t think I’m being unappreciative to want more than this – this routine life of the 9-to-5 white-collared worker. I know very well that this is not where I want to be, and I’m barely there yet. This is a mandatory period of struggle and frustration all aspiring authors have to go through in order to reach where we long to be. So is it wrong to want more than this, to not want to settle for the safe, predictable, comfortable life?
This period of time when one year ends and the next one begins is a pretty strange one: it makes us nostalgic and retrospective, but it gives us slightly clearer vision and hope for better things to come.
I’m tired of wanting. Or wanting and not having. Of feeling trapped. Of staying at the same spot. I don’t want 2017 to be just another extension of the unproductive 2016.
So this is what exactly I plan to do this year in order to reach my writing goals:
- Finish My Shit
I’m committing to writing – and COMPLETING – a manuscript, be it the problematic BEFORE I REMEMBER YOU that has been full of false starts and no end in sight or LAND OF SAND AND SONG, the first of a fantasy series that’s been brewing in my brain for a while. This year, my motto is to finish what you start, dammit!
2. Write Something Every Day
To write consistently every day. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes, even if I can only snatch a pocket of time during lunch, on my commute to work. Every little bit counts. The idea is to keep advancing with the word count. No excuses. Not even the demands of the day job is going to keep me away from the WIP. And certainly not my own self-doubt and fear of failure or imperfection.
3. Make NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND Come to Fruition
I still believe in this story. I believe in the emotions it pulled out of me, and it emotions it can evoke in my readers. I believe in it because there are others who believe in it – friends, agents, beta readers, critique partners. People I cannot let down. People who are rooting for me (bless their hearts).
I know what the problems are with this manuscript (and if I don’t I will find out), what makes it less perfect than it should be in order to get represented and published, so it’s high time to whip this thing into shape.
4. Live a Little More Bravely
Okay, this one is not exactly writing-related. And I say this almost every year, but this year I resolve to live a little more. Take a chance. Head outside. Attend gatherings. Date more. Meet new people. Make new friends. Maybe open myself up to love, even though
Let someone into my world. Speak my mind. Wear my heart on my sleeve. Then see what happens. I might be surprised, I might be mortified. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
So, dear readers.
Thank you for staying with me throughout the last year. I’m looking forward to more new friendships, soul connections, thought exchanges, and the kindness of strangers this year. What are some of YOUR New Year’s resolutions, writing-related or otherwise? Share them in the Comments section below. I would love to hear from you, as always.
Happy New Year and may 2017 bring you everything you ever wished for and more.