There’s something wonderful about intending to go to bed early, and just read for ten minutes; then finding yourself at the end of a book, your feet freezing from being in such a position that they fell asleep without you.
This is what I aspire to.
As a writer – a title I am still getting used to calling myself – my goals are amorphous(?). They are shapeshifters; I want to write full-time, I want it to pay my bills so I don’t have to commute any more. I want to afford a small house where the floors don’t creak until Lucy’s old enough to sneak in, and that’s when they alert me. I don’t need to be famous, I just want my stories known.
I want to keep people up past their bedtime reading my books.
When I finished what I (foolishly, naively) thought to be my final draft of my first novel, I gave it to my closest people who would not blow smoke up my ass. They had some great notes and critiques, and told me all their thoughts, good and bad. And one told me they’d stayed up later than they meant to reading it.
I carry that like an ember.
I have done no writing this December, other than the 200 or so words above. Not a blog post, not a journal entry, not even scribbled thoughts from my walks. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe I needed that break after November, where I wrote 50,194 words of a new novel to win NaNoWriMo. That seems legit, right? That’s a lot of output for one month, especially while balancing being a solo mom to my toddler, working full time, and trying to keep up with the rest of life – which, admittedly, some of which went to crap.
Maybe I ran out of motivation; it’s not always easy to get up and moving and settling down to pull words out of my brain at 5 AM, and often harder to get back to that after putting Lucy to bed. I know my mental health took a dive; what poet Jarod K. Anderson refers to as “brain weather” was dark fog and thunder for days on end. But did that happen because it’s winter and I have SAD as well as complicated grief? Or did it happen because I stopped writing daily, all of my carefully structured routines fell away, and the darkness took the opportunity to close in?
It’s January now, less than a week left. The writer is there; I’ve got lines and paragraphs that are waiting to find a home, waiting to be taken in and finished and find their place. I’ve got quotes and prompts aplenty, creative fodder galore (quick, name that tune). I’ve updated my inspiration journal, my reading journal, my daily journal. My writing? Not so much. But she’s there; maybe buried under blankets of inactivity and depression, but there, and stirring.
This is not going to be a good blog post. This is not going to get my voice out there and be read by anyone other than those who have subscribed, and honestly? Maybe only half of those folks, too.
This blog is for me. I have other writing projects that aren’t for me. I write and edit things for work, for friends; there are a few of you who might read this whom I owe some thoughts to, and I promise I’ll get to them. I’m working on edits for two novels I’ve written, and one in progress. I have multiple short stories and flash fiction sitting, waiting for their turn. Those are different. Those are the stories I intend to put out there only after high polishing and buffing, and hopefully, professional publishing services.
This is where I practice, where I make mistakes. Where I stream it out and write from the heart, whatever comes out. There’s no guise, no plan, no plot or structure. It’s raw, sometimes more so than others. It’s public because just knowing it’s public gives me the accountability I need to return, even when the words are slow to come, even when the document sits open for fifty-one days.
My goal for this blog in 2023 is to publish 25 posts. I was torn between 24 (2 per month) and 26 (once every 2 weeks) and split the difference. In one aspect, I am already behind; I’m not going to get two out this month, which means I’m already playing catch up.
In another aspect, I’m just getting started.
I haven’t spent the past weeks since NaNoWriMo idle. I’ve been in consumption mode; I’ve been reading more than ever, searching out inspiration instead of passively scrolling. I’ve been back in the MasterClass series, hanging on the words of N.K. Jemison. I’ve got podcasts lined up, and plans. So many plans. Best of all, I finally have my pen name for what I intend to publish – with or without a publishing house.
Two major things I have accomplished since NaNo might not seem like the sort of things one would crow about, or even call accomplishments. For me, they are. One, I’ve set a date to self-publish my first novel. If none of the queries I have out to agents come back positively by then, I’m partnering with a service to publish my own novel.
The second is even more of a victory. Every so often, when I would write before, I’d come across something that sounded close to my poems, or someone who sounded more like me but so much better. And I’d stop. If I wasn’t going to be the best or the first, what was the point (I need to be cautious, my gifted child status is showing)?
This changed in 2022. I remember the exact moment; I’m not going back to check, so forgive me if you’ve already heard this story. I had taken myself on a solo writing retreat in the mountains for three days and nights. I brought along The Night Circus on a whim. On my second full day, as I added more hot water to the clawfoot tub that had gone tepid while I was engrossed in Erin Morgenstern’s world, I felt the ground shift. Beliefs and doubts, worries and hopes were tossed around like Boggle cubes and settled into a new pattern, a mosaic tableau that rolled out, just waiting for me to take the first step.
I was reading something incredibly magic and engrossing; and it made me want to write. I wasn’t dismayed, I wasn’t disheartened that I could never write that well.
I wanted to write more.
I wanted to bring people into my world, into my stories, to captivate the reader, to pull them along the plotlines and pitfalls.
It took 35 years to figure out I could be inspired, not outshone, by people who were good at what I wanted to do. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, seeing as it took 34 years to realize I didn’t want to “have it all,” as I had been raised to believe.
Better late than never.
Today, in the final days of January, I have more than doubled my word count for December. It’s nothing that will get me on the NYT bestseller’s list, but it certainly has not been a waste. I had already decided that my word of the year is “Forward,” following the concept of non-zero days, something I learned on Reddit (yes, inspiration is everywhere). Any progress is good. Another quote I’m keeping in mind, and I am not going to go down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out where it first came from, but it was still important for me to learn: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing half-assed.”
As I’m sure it is for some of you, this is a MAJOR adjustment from the idea that “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” another maxim I was raised with.
So while my blog goal will stay at 25 posts this year, it’s just that: a goal. I may or may not make it. I will absolutely try, but as long as I can continue the forward momentum, no matter how small, I’ll take that as a success.
If you’re still subscribed, or still reading after this ramble, I hope you’re coming along for the ride.