Back when I was in elementary and middle school, my teachers used to do an activity on the first day back to classes. They’d pass out funky paper, fun pens, and they’d tell us to think long and hard about our resolutions for the new year. What did we want to see in the next year? What kind of things did we want to do, to achieve? How did we want to improve the next year? They gave us about two minutes to do that whole “think long and hard” thing, and I know most of them were probably hoping that “study more” would appear on the lists somewhere.
I hated it. Every time.
‘Cuz here’s the thing: if I want to work to improve myself, why should I wait until New Years’ to do it? It seemed pretty lazy. And then, of course, there’s the prevailing attitude that New Years’ Resolutions are things that are set up to fail. They’re the promises you make to fit in and feel better, the promises that tend to flow with the champagne, and then they bite the dust two weeks into January. I can’t even think of the last time someone I know has made a NYR with any sincerity, much less put any effort into fulfilling. I know I’ve personally been avoiding them like the plague ever since those silly assignments. I felt like a fake writing down stupid little goals that weren’t any different from what I was already doing (trying to get good grades, etc).
As I’m getting older, I’m understanding the appeal the making goals for the coming year. It’s not a wish- not magically hoping that I’ll lose twenty pounds or become a princess or anything- it’s a decision. These are things that I’m deciding to do. It’s looking at what I’ve achieved in the previous year and using that as a guage for what I can reasonably expect to do in the next year. And then it’s adding a little something purely for the challenge, so I can continue to grow and expand, so that I can push myself in ways I otherwise might not.
In 2011, I:
-started this blog. I wrote out book reviews before but just kept them in a notebook or maybe posted one or two on facebook, but I’d never really thought about doing anything with them. Then I woke up one day and figured why the hell not? Customers at work always seemed interested in my opinions on books, why not see if others are too? And I’ve learned a ton by writing these entries. Reading books with an eye towards writing a review makes me look at it more closely, makes me figure out what I like or don’t like about it- and why. I have to be able to be specific, which means I’m recognizing patterns across YA writing as a whole, recognizing how certain authors both carry and vary style across different books and series. It also means that I’m learning how to apply that understanding to my own work.
-finished two first drafts. One of these will never, ever see the light of day. It is a trunk novel, and needs to always remain that way. I’m still glad I wrote it, I learned a lot from writing it, and I’ll be pillaging from it like crazy because it’s got a lot of good bones, it just doesn’t all belong together. As for the other, well, that leads to the next point.
-I edited one of those drafts, multiple times, and- completely unexpectedly- I fell in love with what resulted. Usually I adore my first drafts, I let them sit for a little bit so I can come back to it a little more neutral, and then it’s a coin toss for which of two things happen. 1: I’m too attached and can’t see where I can make changes, and then I get frustrated, and then I get angry, and then the prospect of sitting down to real editing becomes mentally- and almost physically- painful. Or 2: I start getting into the edits and I find a ton of things to change and then I get depressed because really, if I’m having to make this many changes that means I wrote a crap first draft that I was nonetheless very proud of. And I KNOW that first drafts are meant to be crap. They’re meant to be refined by edits and subsequent drafts. But knowing that and actually being able to process through that are very different things. But as I was doing these edits, I was able to make the changes I needed to make and still be absolutely in love with it.
-I queried. Two different projects, actually, NOT AT THE SAME TIME. (That’s a very important distinction). About halfway through the year, I realized as I was looking at my rejections that the project I was querying probably needed some tweaks. I was getting some bites but not much in the way of feedback, which after a while I took to mean that it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t enough. It needed more-…something. I haven’t necessarily figured out what yet. But the number of rejections had gotten high enough that I decided to stop sending that one out, let it sit for a while, and then get back to it to see if I can ways to inject that elusive more into it. So I tackled that edited piece, drove myself crazy writing a query letter, discarding it, writing another one, discarding it, writing another one…I went through over a dozen drafts of a query letter before I finally produced one I was happy with. And I started querying. Again. But it meant I was still going. I wasn’t giving up. I was moving forward. And this time I saw the difference.
-I researched. I always research for my projects, but this next project has a massive amount of research needed for it, enough that even after six months I’m still a little scared of it. But I’ve been tackling it, and tackling it, keeping at it, and I’ve made a TON of progress. And it’s not just that I’m learning the details and timelines that are essential for getting very important things right, but the research is also educating me on my story. I’m learning exactly how my characters are fitting into the bigger picture, learning the events that change them in significant ways. Most importantly, I’m not half-assing it. I’m not skimming through things and calling it good enough, I’m not just looking up a date here or there. It’s hard work, at times frustrating, but I’m doing it, and the story will be much, much better for it.
-I didn’t break into my savings account. I’ve only had a savings account for a little over a year, and even that’s pretty astounding. I largely live paycheck to paycheck, even though I have no life and therefore spend very little outside of bills and books. Money is really tight for a LOT of people right now, and I happen to be one of them, but despite some close calls this year, I was able to make it through without breaking into that savings account. There’s not even that much in there, but it’s more than I’ve had in there before, and I’m trying to put that to a very specific purpose. I’m rather proud of myself that it’s all still there.
So, that’s 2011. And looking at all of that, looking at the year ahead, I’ve decided on a few things that I want to do. Are there mistier goals that would be really, REALLY nice to achieve? Absolutely! But these are purely the things I have control over. These are the things that I can directly influence and work towards. For lack of a better word, we can call them Resolutions.
In 2012, I will:
-finish this set of research. I can see over the stack of books now, so there’s actually hope. Rather than give up, rather than shave off books in the name of possibly finishing sooner, I will do all of my research, and I will not procrastinate. I will get it done.
-write two first drafts. Given the necessary balance of full time job, home responsibilities, blog, reading, and research, this seems like a fair goal for a year. More importantly, these will be the ones for which I’m doing all this research.
-edit at least one of those first drafts. The time it takes for me to let a book stew and then do the edits is usually about as long as it takes me to write the draft in the first place. These edits will be even more involved, as they’ll involve a LOT of fact-checking. But I WILL do it.
-maintain the blog. I have a way of giving up on things, or maybe just after a while getting a little bored with things, or maybe bowing under the pressure of a lot of different responsibilities, or maybe even just running into walls and finding difficulties in writing the posts. There are a lot of reasons to fall behind, and I am determined not to do it. For this, I’m counting on all of you to keep me accountable.
-keep querying. Keep learning, keep adapting and tweaking, keep sending. Basically just keep putting myself out there. I’d love to be able to say my resolution is to sign with an agent, but realistically I have no control over that. What I DO have control over is my decision to keep querying, to keep trying. Even through rejections or no-answers, the thing I can control is NOT GIVE UP.
-not break into the savings account except for the purpose for which it was actually started. The savings account was started as a moving fund- IF I can make sure that all the rest of the move is fiscally reasonable (as in, I won’t put every penny into the move and suddenly find myself drowning in debt once I get there). But, I’m not touching the money if it’s not for the move, and I will continue to put money into it each month.
2012 will likely be a lot like 2011. There’ll be ups and downs, surprises and let-downs. There’ll be the moments that make me want to cheer and the moments that make me want to scream. I’ll make friends and drift away from friends, I may lose people I love. I’ll both love and hate my job, for all its highs and lows. I don’t expect 2012 to be magical or astounding. I might hope that- I do hope that- but I don’t expect it.
Instead, I expect to meet the distinct goals I’ve set for myself.
And you? What goals have you set for yourself this new year? What are your resolutions?
More importantly, may you all have a bright and brilliant New Year, and thank you all for joining me here.
Until next time~