My Year in Writing

This is the time of year when everything comes under scrutiny. Too much chocolate. Check. Not enough exercise. Check. Too many episodes of The Office. Check. Writing? Another slow year, but some progress all the same. I look at the past writing year as the Year of Scaring Myself or perhaps the Year When It Finally Made Sense to Scare Myself.

As ever, I write this more for me than anyone else. But I put it on the blog, because somebody always has a good idea, some good news about their own writing, or they’re of the misery-loves-company ilk and we can just nod our heads knowingly before we get back to work.

Blogging & Social Media

In a few weeks, I’ll have been blogging for seven years. Normally, I’d do the will-I-or-canstockphoto14933208won’t-I-continue-blogging evaluation, but I’m skipping it this year. Each time an anniversary rolls around, I look at the blog’s stats, think about engagement, and all the other metrics that I’m supposed to care about. Then I willfully ignore it, because it’s highly unlikely I’ll change anything. It’s just an exercise in self-flagellation.

Blogging is an odd little art form. It’s like that middle-aged person who keeps showing up at college parties, head bobbing, trying to look cool and fit in, but everyone else gives side-eyes and smirks. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and WhatsApp stand around exchanging witty zingers and astronomical stats while the Blog laughs in the background like it actually gets the jokes.

Twitter and I will never be friends. In the last couple of months, I’ve developed an impressively long block list as a way of curating out people who don’t understand word definitions or whose profiles are either bragging, threatening, or so loaded with hashtags and emoticons as to be eyesores. Nor am I going to look up the pretentious Latin to find out if you’re a complete wanker in more than one language.

I am not well-suited to the medium, but it’s useful for keeping up on the dismantling of democratic norms. Last week I again reported the President of the United States for targeted harassment against news reporters. Happy times.

Facebook is such rubbish aesthetically that I don’t have the patience to read feeds for long. I use it because an organization that I volunteer for needed a page. And I can now answer in the affirmative when people ask if I’m on the damned thing. I keep getting friend requests from people I’ve never heard of and I wonder at the pathology of it all.

I haven’t yet bothered with LinkedIn or Instagram or tumblr (for the lack of capitalization and shitty spelling) and it’s unlikely I’ll ramble any further afield in social media unless I hit it big and can pay someone else to do it.

So I continue to write blog posts, mostly because I don’t fit in with the cool kids. I’m not capable of snappy one-liners and photo editing on the fly. Blogging is just the right speed for me and there are still a lot of people sharing my lane.

Shifting from Playacting to Action

If there were ever a case of How To Be a Writer By Doing Everything But Writing, I’d been that for years. I’ve done workshops, conferences, read how-to books, designed business cards, etc. I was doing more peripheral activities than actually writing. On the plus side, I am a fount of writing knowledge, have great editing skills, and recognize good writing when I see it. On the down side, I’m in ongoing recovery from the imposter syndrome.

canstockphoto35901016The last couple of years have been about putting meat on the bone. Writing more, playacting less. This has also meant getting a painful reality check. Recognizing the gap between my skill set and what kind of writer I envisioned myself being. It meant cutting the daydreaming and fantasies out and looking at what I was actually capable of – my bucket of cold water moment as a writer. Awareness is the first step apparently.

The shivering, stripped-of-delusions writer arrives at the crossroads. Give it all up, contemptuously shoving drafts away and picking up watercolors or stamp collecting. Awareness is giving way to courage or perhaps simply bullheadedness. I don’t know anything else I’d rather do. I don’t know if I’ll ever “make it” as a writer, but I am still breathing, so I will continue.

I am easily discouraged in one moment, but barrelling forward in the next. I’m in my fifties, I don’t have an MFA, I don’t have connections, I don’t have a platform that anyone cares about in particular. I haven’t been published. Every morning I get up and I still write. I wasn’t doing that ten years ago.

I submitted work this year, even though each time I hit the “Submit” button, I wanted to vomit. My work was rejected. It didn’t bother me (I really thought it should). So I have learned what I have control over as a writer and what I don’t. I read work out loud on a weekly basis in front of people, through heart-pounding anxiety. I wasn’t doing any of these things a year ago. It makes me look forward to wherever writing takes me next year.

canstockphoto293181In talking with other writers and doing some mentoring, I’ve discovered a passion beyond just spitting out my own words. I love working to help people improve their writing and I know a lot about how to do that. It’s also forced me to review grammar, sentence structure, and the rhythm of language (why one phrase or paragraph reads better than another). Editing has become a discovery process and it is pushing me to be more experimental with my own writing.

The Year Ahead

I don’t have concrete goals at the moment. Those are in development. I have nebulous intentions: be more brave, work harder at writing. These things go hand in hand. It takes a certain kind of bravery (or obliviousness) each day to wake up and do a thing you love, that may never be anything more than what it is.

How was your year? What do you look forward to in the upcoming year?

44 Comments on “My Year in Writing

  1. Remember: You are writing, and you are published. You’ve been published with every post in the last 7 years, presenting life through your particular lens, which is all that writers of any ilk do. 18,736 people are following you here – 18,736 votes of confidence in your writing ability. No small thing, I assure you. Most (including me) can only aspire to that kind of attention. I get that you want to see your byline on a book or in a magazine; that spells “success” for you. Don’t overlook this success, though. I, for one, am very glad you’re going to continue your blog, and I can’t wait to see what happens for you in the coming year! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • To be fair, 12,378 of those followers want to sell me a handbag, a most beautiful woman, or real estate on a sandbar. But I get your drift. If I were to be baldfaced honest (as I have a tendency to be), at this point success needs to come in the form of recognition and money. It sounds superficial, but my husband deserves to retire on time and I have a kid who whispers Juilliard, Juilliard, Juilliard to her viola before she goes to sleep each night.

      I’d write regardless, but I’m severely torn by monetary consideration and devotion to “my art” (said in a very pompous voice). On the other hand, I have no real control over whether my writing will eventually yield dividends, so back to investing in the process, not the outcome. As writers do…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Like you, Michelle, I’ve been thinking a lot about my writing goals for 2019. No specific goals are surfacing yet, but I know want to be more playful in my writing, take myself less seriously, and be bolder. This year, I learned how much I value fun in my daily life. Fun has always seemed like a frivolous value (and not one I should ever admit to), but as I look back on 2018, I see that the moments of deepest satisfaction—whether related to writing or something else entirely—were also moments of exhilarating, eye-opening fun. That doesn’t mean I won’t still address serious issues and read serious books, but I hope to approach them with a spirit of curiosity, joy, and fun. Since there is still a part of me that equates “fun” with “shallow,” I have my work cut out for me. Hmmm, this may become a blog post….

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    • You’ve had such a big year, Donna! There is room for fun. There has to be. And I say this as the least fun person I know. I think there must be something joyful, too, in completing a project and then just leaning into all the engagement related to it, as you’ve done.

      The struggle over the last couple of years to regain footing amidst political anger and disappointment, when so many important things are at stake has changed how I think about writing. But one of the great things about our brains is the ability to hold multiple ideas, perspectives, and moods. Sometimes all at once. They don’t all deserve equal weight or time, but we each have to figure out what that pie chart looks like for ourselves – for our sanity and for our wholeness as human beings.

      And curiosity is my watch word these days – I think it leads to all matters of kindness and joy and knowledge. I’ll be looking out for that blog post!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post….I’m a total wanker in one language, but I can fudge myself through wanker in French….

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    • That was a good post to read. Thanks, Tish. I think of creative destruction for me is pushing beyond what I’ve been willing to do. When I’m writing, as soon as I hear “don’t do that” in my head, I try to make myself to do whatever it is I’m trying to stop. His point about letting go of control is really the crux of my issue – I will go no further in my creative development until I stop trying to leash my writing (at least in the initial stage of creation).

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Even after all my years of blogging I am still amazed that people look down on it. I’ve come to the realization that people in my persoanl life who attempt to demean my chosen way of communicating are jealous that I’ve done this and they didn’t. We all had the same chance to start blogs back in the day, and many people said they wanted to, but did not do so. I followed through and that’s what rankles people.

    “…curating out people who don’t understand word definitions or whose profiles are either bragging, threatening, or so loaded with hashtags and emoticons as to be eyesores.” YES! You are into something sane with this idea. I am loathe to befriend, even on Twitter, someone who cannot describe themselves accurately, using real words, avoiding hashtags.

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    • I’ve never gotten any push back about blogging, but it does carry a patina of “less than” writing. But then, so did self-publishing (still does in some circles). It makes me think about the point and nature of creating things. Being older and raised in more traditional ideas of writing and books means that I have to constantly re-evaluate my own snobbery and challenge it. Venues change, materials change, but the nature of writing really doesn’t.

      When it comes to Twitter and Facebook, I’ve turned into one of these people that gripes about things I’m not legally bound to use. But there is this push-pull of commercial concern versus being creative. The reality is, unless you’re already established, you don’t have the luxury of remaining above it all. Still, what a visual mess some of these platforms are.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This resonates so much, as all of your blog posts do. Does that put me in the misery loves company pile? Ha! I’m thinking much of the same. Although I’m publishing in the magazines I write for, I’m not submitting enough of my stories, essays, and cnf to lit mags. That’s my real goal for 2019. I want to submit much more, and that takes a lot of time! I’ve organized and planned for the past few years. Now it’s time to do it. Also, keep blogging. The world needs your words more than ever.

    Like

  6. I haven’t visited in a long time. I come back today after saying good-bye to my cat, Henry. I need help holding my grief. Your humanness helps me do that. I’m glad you’re still here.

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    • Hi Sandy. I’m so sorry to hear about Henry. This is the season for grieving. We lost my mother-in-law a few weeks ago and now our kidney cat is taking a turn for the worse. The only comfort I ever find in these situations is that we did our best to make their lives as good as they could be. That matters so much. Be kind to yourself and I’ll be in touch offline as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think it’s pretty brave to scare oneself on purpose. I also think it’s a civic responsibility when so many others are running scared or, worse, feeling safe. Ha, did I just say that out loud … ?

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    • Complacency, that inert thing, is as damaging in the long run, as overt destruction. This is the thing I’ve had to face. I’m trying to be less of that person and more daring, but I think being an introvert plays a strong part. Trying to find how to use one’s strengths without depleting one’s inner resources is a challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. wow I am glad there are smart people like you on the internet, your own kids must be very lucky to have a wonderful mom like you.You are an inspiration to all young internet users online.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Definitely enjoyed this post! Your writing journey is inspiring, especially as I can relate to much of what you wrote above. It sounds like you have already “made it” as a writer though, in the sense you are writing for yourself but you also have so many readers! 🙂 Best wishes for the new year!

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    • Thanks. I think I’m getting there. I have to make myself keep submitting work, because I’d like to be published in the next year. But it’s been a long journey and I have to make myself be patient.

      Best wishes to you in the new year as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This was such a good post. I am new to blogging and I see that you have been doing it for 7 years. That’s amazing. I’m an aspiring writer so I’m hoping my blogging will help me achieve that dream. You have such good insights. I like your opinion on social media. While I don’t feel the exact same way, I do feel some of it is useless. I use it mainly to stay in touch with family. I love this blog.

    Like

    • Thanks – congrats on taking a step to support your writing!

      Social media is a mixed bag, but I know it can be useful. I think the distraction factor can be a huge issue if your work, like writing a novel, requires focus. Also, too many people are willing to out themselves as ignorant or lacking in empathy in a bid for attention. It can really taint one’s view of humans, so limited time spent in that world is probably a good thing.

      Best wishes on your blogging journey!

      Like

  11. Glad I stumbled upon your post! As they say, you have to start somewhere and here is my where! Art teacher by day, artist by afternoon and writer by night…you are an inspiration! Kudos!!!

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  12. I get paid to blog (very part-time) and write a weekly article for an online newspaper, and yet everyone still thinks I need to get a ‘real’ job. Insert eye roll here. I just ignore them and keep on writing because it makes ME happy.

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    • It’s hard to shut out the many voices that sound like “shoulds”. You should, blah, blah, blah. I’m a few years into this not having a “real job” deal. It took me a long time to undo the programming in my own head that said I should be doing something else. Once that happened, all those voices didn’t have much impact. Sounds like you’ve got that down as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh I so love your honesty! You’ve just made me laugh, ponder and because I’ve been so enthralled, burn my supper. I don’t care. That was a wonderful post and I look forward to reading more. Katie

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  14. I’ve stumbled across this blog and I love this post. I say stumble because, like you also seem to be, technology doesn’t seem to be my thing. I can’t deal with twitter, I deleted Facebook last year (and I don’t miss that one bit!). I do have Instagram because I like looking at pictures. I’ve only just started blogging, we’ll see how it goes! I write but I need to write more, and most importantly, actually finish pieces of writing! So thank you for your post, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one!

    Like

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