1. Take a few minutes to reflect on the previous year. What are you happy with?
Jan.: I’m happy because I felt my writing took a leap. I met some wonderful people, and strengthened relationships with friends. I became clearer on my own boundaries.
Dec.: That was all true. I’m also happy that I left the show. It was causing too much stress, and too much conflict with the rest of my life. I’m also happy that I’ve gotten better at pitching and landing freelance jobs, better at drawing boundaries, better at chasing down money owed and cutting away deadwood, and that the quality of my writing improved and continues to improve.
2. What are you unhappy with?
Jan.: I’m unhappy that I’m not farther along in the transition, even though I know it was mostly due to the pressures of The Situation.
I’m unhappy in that I feel I lost a part of myself that was optimistic and kind in the Situation, and I don’t know if I can heal enough to regain it.
I’m unhappy in that I feel I spent too much time in groups.
I’m unhappy because I feel I got too caught up in the “busy-ness” of the writing “business” and neglected the art and the craft.
I also feel I often got caught up in other people’s “stuff” – which is very different from being supportive of friends who are going through a difficult time.
I feel I often spun my wheels, instead of settling down to do focused work.
Dec.: Yes, I’d say all the above was true. I started to get back towards the art and craft of writing later in the year (once I left the show). It also helped me stay out of other people’s “stuff” and not be as affected by it. Cutting back on forum time has helped a lot. I still visit and seek out blogs; but I’m spending less time on forums. On one hand, I know that I should so people get to know me; on the other hand, too often, it’s the ones who have nothing better to do but hang out on forums and stir up trouble that spend the bulk of the time there. The forums drained too much energy from my work, and I need to find a better balance. I’m frustrated that I haven’t moved yet, and I’m fighting the feeling of failure connected to that; at the same time, because I want it to be a move to the place I’ll live for a long time, I have to be particular.
3. What unexpected joys did you discover during the year?
Jan.: Getting to know some wonderful people.
Even sporadically, the time spent in yoga made a huge difference.
Strengthening bonds with some of the people close to me.
Dec.: That, yes, I can cut it as a professional writer. And I can be happy outside of the theatre. I wasn’t sure that was possible before.
4. What were some of the unexpected obstacles that came up, and how did you deal with them? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
Jan.: Regarding The Situation, I would have struck back sooner and harder, and worked less from a position of fear. Spent less time in a tizzy, and more time acting. I also feel that I got caught up in a cycle of loyalty again, often with people who did not deserve it, and with that, I worked against my own best interests.
Dec.: I put aside my own needs too often for the needs of the show; even though I tried to negotiate a better balance. I felt I wasn’t listened to or respected, which meant that I had to leave sooner than I originally planned. Yet, that opened up all sorts of new opportunities for me. If I had to do it again, I think I would have left sooner.
The floods were another obstacle, and losing the car. Although I ended up with a much better car, it set back the move, and that was – and is – frustrating.
My biggest obstacle is myself, and that’s always the hardest with which to deal. Note the pattern of putting my own needs aside. I thought I was better about that this year, but maybe not.
5. What expectations did you find you needed to let go of?
Jan.: That I have full control over the transition.
That I have as much stamina as I need.
That other people are going to listen carefully and actually respond to what I say/write, instead of skimming it and imposing their own frame of reference onto it.
Dec.: The same. It took me the whole darned year to really let go!
6. Looking ahead, how do you want to structure next year to support your writing?
Jan.: Say “no” more
Put the writing first
Not get caught up in the web of what other people say one “must” do to become successful, and follow my own path to my own kind of success.
Dec.: I did all of the above, and it made a huge difference. I’m still not necessarily someone else’s definition of “success”, but I feel like I’m growing into myself, if that makes any sense (and even if it doesn’t, that’s how I feel)!
7. How does the rest of your life support your writing?
Jan.: Most of the rest of my life does, because I’ve learned to redraw boundaries this year. I need to push harder with the business writing. I need to manage time better and stop making excuses. And I need to worry less about other people not fulfilling their potential. It’s their choice, not my problem. I have enough to juggle.
Dec.: I agree with the above. I’m getting better at letting go when others choose not to fulfill their potential. After all, they have to deal with the consequences; I don’t. And what annoys me in others, as usual, is what annoys me in myself. So work on myself first. The house move will be the biggest support I can give to my writing, because I will have a dedicated office/library, with my books and files and everything else I need.
8. How can you change/compromise on the non-supportive elements?
Jan.: Hold to the boundaries drawn.
Remove unsupportive people from my life (who are different than the supportive ones who give me a reality check when I need it).
Dec.: I agree with the above. The third factor was to leave the show, and that made a huge difference.
9. What new aspect of the writing life do you want to try next year?
Jan.: I’m not sure. Every year, I keep saying I want to expand more into travel writing and food writing, and I keep holding back. Maybe this is the year I take the leap? I want to keep playing with cross-genre pieces and write whatever interests me. I want to learn more, listen more.
Dec.: I worked more in the fantasy and the science fantasy realms this year, wrote more in the paranormal, and some in the YA, which was fun. I also got more into the novella format, which I loved, and wrote a couple of how-tos, which was both fun and challenging.
10. Where do you need to be more disciplined?
Jan.: Time management, especially with less time on the internet.
Dec.: I have to add less time spent on forums to the latter. When I up my physical activity, such as yoga, weight training, etc., I’m more productive in writing, so I want to up the fitness regime even more. I believe in making time for friends and colleagues, which includes things like reading blogs; however, I need to limit my time with the wanna-bes and energy vampires on forums.
11. Where do you need to ease up on yourself?
Jan.: I need to make sure I leave time for fun, and don’t let writing become a job, even though it’s a vocation. I need plenty of percolation time, which I didn’t give myself this past year. This past year, I had it when I collapsed out of sheer exhaustion and stress. I want to build it in for the coming year.
Dec.: Committing to the daily yoga practice helped that a great deal. The additional work out routines still need to be refined, but a commitment to fitness and health gives me a lot of what I need to be more productive writing wise.
12. List your goals for the coming year.
–Finish at least three unfinished projects that are sitting around –honestly, I don’t know if I’ve done that. I’d have to read back through the whole year. I know several projects I wanted to get back to, I never did.
–Do the first drafts of at least three new novels – TRACKING MEDUSA, GOOD NAMES, so it was only two full-length finished. EARTH BRIDE would have made three, but it’s still growing. Novellas: TOKEN AND AFFECTIONS, REVENGE TANGENTS.
–Get the relocation DONE — no
–Expand the business writing — done
–Get the websites up — done
–Commit to both the fitness/yoga practice and redevelop my spiritual practice — done
–Keep 13-in-Play/Focus on finding homes for every piece – hit and miss with that; I concentrated on longer works instead of shorter. And I pursued so much of the paid, non-fiction work that the fiction suffered.
–Not let a backlog of projects accumulate – if anything, I have a bigger backlog, not a smaller one.
In addition, I had an essay in the anthology Perfectly Plum; wrote several months’ worth of articles for Blessed Gardens; wrote articles and am still chasing down the money from two other publications; covered The Triple Crown, The NHL Draft, America’s Cup, Empire State Games, Central New York Scottish Games, and Breeders’ Cup for Femmefan; moved the blogs to Word Press; joined and completed Kristen King’s Query Challenge (by the end of the year, I sent out nearly 200 queries – the goal was 120); landed two ongoing confidential jobs; attended PEN events and worked on their Core Freedoms/Freedom to Write campaign; traveled to Iceland; survived two major floods; presented a workshop at The Muse Online Workshop; had a story in the FULL MOON anthology;
13. List three positive, active steps to take on each goal to get it going.
Dec.: Not necessary to go over these; obviously, if I’d done them, I’d have finished more.
14. List your dreams for the coming year.
Create a secure, peaceful environment for my family and my writing.
Dec.: Still working on both.
15. List three positive, active steps to transform each dream into a goal.
Dec.: Again, not necessary to go over these.
16. List your resolutions for the coming year.
–Try to find the kindness and compassion that was stomped out of me during The Situation—Tried, did not always succeed.
–Sew more – not much more.
–Paint more – didn’t happen.
–Take more quiet time for myself – started to happen more in the latter part of the year.
17. List three positive, active steps to help you stick to them.
Dec.: Again, no need to go over them.
Overall: I managed to make the career transition; but not the relocation. The relocation will take a lot of the financial pressure off, because the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is higher where I want to move. I worked on less fiction and more non-fiction this year, building up the business writing segment. That’s good, but I have to get things back in balance this coming year. I tripled my writing income from the previous year, but it’s still not enough to keep the worry wolves from the door. It was a very difficult year, but at least there’s some progress, however small. For all the frustrations, I feel that I’ve set some solid groundwork, and now it’s up to me to have the creativity and the commitment to continue the growth.