By Jennie Jarvis
Each December, we here at 5writers.com like to look back at the year and reflect on how we did with our writing goals.
Sadly, this year, I completely sucked.
I started off the year feeling strong. I was ready to get my standard two novels a year written, and I had the ideas all worked out and ready to go. All I needed to do was finish the revisions on my most recent novel (then titled Expectation BLVD, now titled Rough Cut based on a suggestion from my agent). I finished those revisions and then…
Cue the downward spiral.
I don’t mean to say that getting pregnant was a bad thing in any way. My husband and I had been trying for over a year. But due to my age and some questions of my fertility, we had just gotten to the point where we accepted we might need to adopt. We were okay with this; we just needed to start figuring out how much money and space we would need for that to happen.
So getting pregnant wasn’t unwelcome. It was just unexpected.
When we first got the news, I was determined to stick with my writing goals and get those novels written. In a way, I had this sense of urgency now – if I don’t write them before the baby is born, I may not get to write them for several years!!! Unfortunately, I’ve never been one who was good at writing under pressure. This is why I’ve never – EVER – been able to successfully participate in NaNoWriMo. Something about that looking November 30th deadline shut me down for the entire month.
Plus – and I know some people will argue with me on this – pregnancy brain is a real thing. The baby took all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients he needed in order to make his own brain, and my poor noggin’ paid the price for his. For the entire pregnancy, I had the hardest time thinking straight.
I was fortunate enough to be able to get a lot of smaller writing projects done, such as articles for the Florida Writer Magazine and posts for this blog. But somehow, these smaller writing projects didn’t feel “good enough.” Because I wasn’t writing my “larger” works – because I wasn’t completing the novels I had planned – I felt like a failure.
“Writers write” right? Not me. At least, not this year.
Now, as we enter the last month of 2015, I can confirm that neither of my novels will get done as I wanted. But, as it happens every year, when I look back and reflect on what I was actually able to accomplish with my writing career, I’m not quite as big a failure as I first thought.
Yes, I got those “smaller” writing assignments done, but I also attended workshops and panels that let me continue to grow and learn as a writer. I read books (more this year than last year) to help me study my craft.
Most importantly, I continued to be a strong support person for my writing group. Even if I didn’t have anything to bring, I was still always there for my fellow writers. I reviewed their pages, analyzed their writing, and gave them the feedback they needed to move forward. In return, they were there to support me emotionally, helping me through this soul-sucking period of stifled creativity.
I’ve said it many times before: writing is about Community, Not Competition. By being there for my little writing community, I was still being a writer. I was still doing something worthwhile, even if it wasn’t what I originally planned to do. And so while 2015 may not have been the most prolific year for my fiction works, I still did something to make me a better writer – I showed up for my community.
Sometimes, it can be so easy to just throw our hands up and quit because we aren’t accomplishing those lofty goals we set out for ourselves. But we have to be kind to ourselves and realize that sometimes life shows up. If we aren’t flexible and willing to work with the Universe, then we are going to be really discouraged.
And that doesn’t help anyone.
Taking this lesson forward into next year is going to require me to remember that I have a new child. As a first time parent, I really don’t know what to expect (except to expect the unexpected). So, when I set my goals, I need to build in room for NOT getting things done. I need to plan on one novel instead of two (half my usually yearly output), and I need to learn how to take care of this little guy.
What did you accomplish in 2015? Did you show up to support your writing community?