Some people I know keep a record of the number of pages or words they’ve written over the course of a semester. I’ve never been good at keeping track of that. I think it would stress me out – how do I count the pages of my novel I’ve revised for the tenth time? Do I include strongly-worded emails, risky texts, handwritten notes from retreats, patchwork journal entries, comments on other writers’ stories? What about the many rounds of the everyone-writes-a-sentence game?
But I enjoy the sentiment behind such an effort – looking back on what I’ve accomplished. As this calendar year draws to a close, I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can look back and say that I’ve learned a lot. It was an emotionally taxing year for many reasons.
Early on, I dubbed 2018 the year of honesty, of saying yes to things that scared me, of taking good risks (I still have much progress to make, but it was a start) and coming out transformed.
And I like to think it all started with writing. Yes, I have my (many) journals in which I try to ground my scattered thoughts. But more than that, last February, I sent out my very first query for my book (another thing I wouldn’t know how to include in my Official Word Count: queries and synopses). I didn’t get the results I wanted, but I took a step to put my writing out into the world. I’ve revised my query so much since, I barely recognize that draft.
March brought me my first #PitMad event, and a full request from a real agent. This was one of the first signs that, HEY, someone outside of my small circle of friends, professors, and family was interested in reading my writing. You can guess how it ended, since I’m still planning on querying in the New Year. But that rejection provided me with valuable feedback. Through the realization my book wasn’t ready, I resolved to make it better. I could write a whole lot more about how I’ve come to view rejection as a redirection, but that would be a whole other post.
At the same time I was condensing my 300-page novel into a few paragraphs, I was taking a creative nonfiction class. Here I was challenged to unpack the significance of my real-life experiences. I found ways to write about topics I never thought I’d be strong enough to touch, much less share with my peers. I found my voice, on the page and off.
May and June challenged me particularly, mostly off the page. They still showed me how to use my voice and walk away from messy situations empowered. And perhaps some of those “real-life” challenges made my writing an escape again. I finally wrote out a prequel to my novel that I’d been sitting on for years. I submitted a piece to a psychology blog. For the first time, I got paid for my writing (sadly, the website I contributed to has since shut down).
The fall brought a new semester. Amidst adjusting to being a senior, I had to isolate my own voice from other opinions of who I was. I questioned if the goals that were once so clear to me were even worth the struggle. But I kept refining. I worked on my personal statements to articulate my multifaceted interests to potential graduate school programs. As mentioned before, I sent (more than) several strongly-worded emails. I fell in love with poetry, wrote a 12-page capstone paper, delivered a 30-minute presentation, and compiled a 56-page portfolio of short fiction.
I read two of my poems at an open mic night. I’m still actively submitting my work for publication and I’m always on the lookout for appropriate magazines, journals, blogs, or other places to give my reflections a home.
All these things I would’ve thought impossible at the beginning of 2018.
For all the uncertainty it holds, I can’t wait to turn the page into 2019.