This year was big.
I signed with a major literary agency, did my first solo reading, went to my first writers’ retreat, sat on an editorial panel at a writers’ conference with a major acquisitions editor from Penguin (looks like I haven’t told you guys about that yet, but I’ll get that story out to you pretty soon), and finished a massive re-write of The Color Eater.
Do you like how I snuck that last part in there? The part about finishing the rewrite. Well it’s true. I sent it off to Lucy on December 8th, and now we wait to see what she thinks. The book grew significantly jumping from 76,500 words to 101,000. A major character was added, and a handful of minor characters were given larger roles. I added a few new fight scenes, a rip your guts out and make ’em cry scene, and a whole lot more. I’m proud of how it turned out, and know I turned in a better book than the last draft.
You were with me for all the setbacks along the way, but overall I’m calling 2017 a success. Thank you adventuring with me and all your support and cheers.
Of course my 92% analytical mind wanted to figure out what made this year a success. And since everyone loves list posts I decided to make a list of what I had done differently in 2017. Turns out more than one of the things that made me a better writer, also made me a happier, emotionally-healthier person as well.
Here are a handful of things that helped me become a better writer in 2017:
1) Reading. The penultimate teacher. By reading books in my genre I learn about the business. By reading writers I admire I learn about style and craft. By reading non-fiction I learn about reality and how it can inform my fiction. By reading all of it I learn about the world, others, and myself.
2) Setting up a proper workspace. I bought myself a weirdo kneeling chair and a monitor riser, hooked my laptop up to a hand-me-down gargantuan monitor and plugged in a full size keyboard. My body is much happier with me now. Turns out looking down for hours on end a day, while working on a laptop, while sitting in bed, or hunched over in a chair, is really hard on your body. My body still gets mad at me, but I’m doing much better since I set up a proper desk.
3) Communicating like it’s 1999. I had email and the internet back then, but it wasn’t hot-glued to my hand. I know I’m dependent upon my phone, but didn’t like how dependent I’d become. I turned off 99% of my phone notifications. Now e-mail from my agent is the only email that pops up as immediate reads. I block out my time and respond to emails a few times per week, instead of daily as they come in. I respond to phone calls when I have time to focus on the person I am talking to, as opposed to feeling obligated to respond immediately which often led to less quality interactions with whoever wanted to speak with me.
4) Extricating myself from time draining commitments I was not passionate about. Turns out they don’t just take up time; they also take up a lot of emotional space. By only working on things I am excited about I have more energy for my work as well as the work of others.
5) Setting boundaries—be it with my time, my emotions, or the expectations others have of me verses what I am realistically able to do. I haven’t figured out how to do it in the pretty, no one gets upset way; but I’ll get better with practice. I have learned to look at the upcoming week and make sure I have not overscheduled myself—this means being vigilant about adhering to my calendar appointments and not allowing last minute pop-up social events take over my scheduled uninterrupted writing time.
6) A major social media scale back. I removed social media apps from my phone. I schedule a block of time to address my social media accounts, and do my best to close out of them for the rest of the day. For me, social media makes it too easy to get into dangerous comparison games. If I see how fast another writer writes, or what type of media attention their book gets, or how many speaking engagements they have it makes me think I’m not trying hard enough.With less exposure to social media it’s easier for me to focus on the work I want to accomplish and not worry about how it stacks up to the rest of the world.
7) Embracing Airplane mode on my phone. I keep my phone in airplane mode for the majority of my workday, and if it’s not in airplane mode the ringer is off. This means text messages don’t immediately come through and interrupt my writing time and I can respond to people when I’m ready for a work break or the next day.
8) Meditating. My attention span is longer; therefore my writing sessions have been more productive. I’m curious how the whole 2018 meditation experiment pans out, but early test results are extremely promising.
I hope your 2017 was filled with good learnings too. Happy Holidays and thanks for spending parts of your year with me.