Hindsight and Foresight (Happy New Year!)

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you safely enjoyed your celebration last night, regardless of whether you partied it up or opted for a quiet evening. Also, I wish that 2014 is full of love, friendship, good health, joy, peace, and creative inspiration for you. 🙂

This time of year has always been a period of reflection for me. And as I look back on 2013 – the accomplishments I made, the events I attended – I see a year of progress, bolstered confidence, and inspiration. Here are some of the highlights, most of which have been covered here at my blog:

  • New poems were published in two literary magazines: “Elegy” in the Summer 2013 edition of Soul-Lit, and three pieces in the 40th anniversary issue of The Curry Arts Journal in October.
  • I passed the 5-year mark as a staff writer for the Sonic Cathedral WebZine and celebrated with a four-part countdown of my favorite artists I’ve covered to date. (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4)
  • I attended two literary events (2013 AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair, Massachusetts Poetry Festival) and participated in several open mic nights as well as my first poetry slam.
  • I attended a one-day character development workshop at Grub Street and learned how a protagonist’s goals, conflicts, strengths, and shortcomings are instrumental in storytelling. I also picked up techniques to help with character-building that I plan to use for my work-in-progress (WIP) and for future novels.
  • Finally, at this time last year, I began writing a new fantasy novel that has now passed 34,000 words. I have also developed a significant amount of world-building and backstory in separate documents to make the story as real and authentic as possible.

I’ve also learned a lot from these accomplishments and experiences:

  • Persistence truly pays off. Sure, it’s easy to be discouraged by writer’s block or frightened by the risk of rejection, especially if you’re an up-and-coming writer. And once your work is finally published by an outlet, you have to maintain that momentum by submitting to and (hopefully) getting published in others – which can be struggle in itself. All you can do to remedy this is to keep on trying. I still receive rejection notices from lit mags sometimes, but I don’t let the bad news tear me down. Instead, I say, “That’s OK. [Name of poem] will find a home somewhere else someday.” And then I move on. It sounds much easier than it really is, but having this mindset has helped alleviate the disappointment of rejection and keep me motivated and hopeful.
  • Immersion is equally as important to creative success and fulfillment. If you want to be a writer, you have to go to events where writing, literature, and/or the publishing business are the main focus. Open mic nights, conferences, festivals, workshops – I recommend you invest time and (in some cases) money in any or all of these, depending on your genre of writing. Not only do you acquire invaluable knowledge and techniques at these and other events, but you feel like you’re at home. You meet people who share your passions. Above all, they’re so much fun! It allows the writing student / geek / “inspiration sponge” within to play for a day, or longer.
  • Perfectionism isn’t worth your energy. Think about it. Perfectionism can be one of the bricks in the wall of writer’s block. It can kill your motivation and cause you to doubt yourself as a writer. It can even squash your desire to write altogether. This past year, I taught myself not to let writing-related concerns of all kinds drag me down. For example: “I don’t have time to submit poetry to dozens of lit mags or to work on my WIP every day. That’s OK. I accept that fact and fit in either when I can.” Another example: “I’m having a hard time writing dialogue for a specific scene in my WIP. But that’s OK. It’s only the first draft. I’ll revise it later.” This isn’t so much a do-now-fix-later attitude as it is accepting and being grateful for your progress, whether it’s in baby steps or giant leaps. And it’s incredibly liberating, too.

2014 has only just begun, but I already know this year will be one of change, accomplishment, and joy. I can’t divulge much about the possible changes yet. What I will say, though, is some new opportunities are on the horizon and I’m excited to see how things play out. In terms of accomplishment, my creative priority for this year (note that I didn’t call it a resolution) is to finish the first draft of my WIP. It’s a reachable goal, as long as I put in the time and effort to get there. And I believe I can do it. Finally, because of the lessons I described above, I enjoyed writing in 2013 more than I ever had before, and I see that trend continuing in 2014 and for years to come.

What are some of your creative highlights and/or accomplishments from 2013? Or your creative goals for 2014? Feel free to share them by commenting on this post.