Resolutions: A 2015 Retrospective

Last year I made several New Year’s resolutions. Some turned out the way I expected. Some didn’t.

I did not read everything from that “books I should have read in college but didn’t” list. In fact, the only thing I did manage to read from the list was Slaughterhouse Five. Okay, so I started Catch-22, but I didn’t finish it. But, and this is a big but, I read a ton last year. In April alone, I read 19 books as a part of a mid-grade reading project I assigned to myself. That’s pretty good, I think. What I discovered about myself is that I want to be able to enjoy reading. With two little ones, a job, a house to manage, and everything else, my reading time is a precious escape. I want to be able to enjoy what I’m reading. Part way through my April Mid-Grade Challenge, I made a new resolution: If reading a book becomes a chore, cast it aside. There’s no point in taking up my valuable (to me) reading time torturing myself with something I don’t enjoy. So, even though I didn’t read everything (or anything) from that list of books I posted last year, I feel like this resolution was a success in its own way.

Another resolution I made last year was to start sewing again. Specifically, I intended to begin sewing a Victorian dress starting with the underthings and working out. Well, I got the chemise (basically a nightgown looking thing that goes under a corset) completed! And it is very pretty. I still need to finish the drawers, but there is a buttonhole involved and button holes make me nervous. Also, I’ve been too frightened to start the corset because corsets are less of a sewing project and more of an engineering project. That said, I’m still reading about corset construction and fit, so I haven’t cast this one aside. I’ve just put it on pause, that’s all.

I did grow in my sewing confidence enough to bite off the truly terrifying task of sewing Halloween costumes for both of my children. And they turned out pretty well! I had to remember all of my middle school 4H sewing skills, but the costumes turned out great! Scary zippers and all! And I can still topstitch like a boss! So, I’m going to call this resolution a win as well. I thought I’d be farther along with my Victorian dress, but I didn’t specify a timeline back in January, so I’m okay with where I ended up. And I can say that honestly and without feeling like I’m settling or making excuses.

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A mouse and Marshal from Paw Patrol!

 

Probably the most important resolution I made last year had to do with writing, and apparently, I didn’t post about it which is weird because I was sure that I did! What I was sure that I had told you was this: I wanted to concentrate on short stories. My goal was to produce three finished short story drafts and start trying to sell them. By “sell them” I don’t mean post them on Amazon for folks to read, so you won’t be able to find any of my work anywhere to read yourself right now. When I talk about selling them, I mean sending them to the editors of the short fiction magazines I listed in my resolutions post (among others) to see if they are interested in publishing them in their magazines.

And you know what? I did it! In fact, I produced four pieces of short fiction that I’ve been shopping around! I’ve racked up around nearly 20 rejections, which is hard, but expected. It’s important to note that my goal was not to get three short stories published, but to get them polished and sent out. This was a goal about improving my writing and conquering the fear of rejection. I’ve got plenty of time, and a year later I still get up every morning at five and write. Even on vacation.

So, when I look back at the resolutions I made in January, I would call 2015 a success, even if I wasn’t successful in quite the way I thought I would be.

Did you make any resolutions for 2015? How did you do in keeping them?

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It’s New Year Resolutions Time!

Happy New Year to all of you, my dear readers.

I ended last year doing big, scary things.  I started writing a book!  Okay, I finished writing one book and started writing another.  I say that is a big and scary thing because I’ve dreamed of becoming an author since I was a kid.  Books are magical for me, and the idea of creating my own worlds and sharing them with others has a dreamlike appeal.  Still, I haven’t written creatively since college, so starting up again seemed daunting.  And nothing is more frightening than chasing a dream you’ve held close to your heart.  I had to be willing to open myself up and become vulnerable and answer that most frightening of questions: What if I fail?

This November, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I discovered through the course of that that while failure is certainly a possibility, even, dare I say, an eventuality, the greater risk is never trying at all.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. –J. K. Rowling

While the fiction I’m producing right now might not be great and certainly isn’t ready to be sent out anywhere, I’m practicing.  I’m chasing the moths out of my creaky, dusty brain.  I’m learning.  I’m creating.  I’m starting somewhere, and even though that first step can sometimes be the hardest, it is often the most important.

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2015 will continue to be a year of doing big, scary things.  I see it as a year of creativity, growth, and fun.  No, I’m not going to make any big resolutions to lose weight, get fit, or go to the gym.  But I have promised myself to try new things.  No big goals.  Just tiny, achievable things.

In addition to writing every, single day, and, as Natalie Goldberg suggests in Writing Down the Bones, filling a cheap spiral notebook every month, I want to read more, more, more.  I’ve subscribed to a number of fiction magazines.  I’d like to work on honing my short fiction skills over the next few years, and the best way to do that is to read, read, read and (of course) write.

If that doesn’t seem like enough reading, I’ve also decided that I would like to read some of those classics that I really ought to have read in college.  Heck, even with a degree in English, I managed to avoid many works that people consider classics today.  I will read one of these books each month.  That’s not too hard, is it?  Here is the list of those books in no particular order:

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Phillip K. Dick
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  • Cosmos – Carl Sagan
  • East of Eden – John Steinbeck
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
  • The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Ecco
  • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  • In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  • The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger

I plan to start with Catch-22.  I’ve already got it downloaded to my Kindle in fact, thanks to my local library’s amazing e-book lending abilities.  You can keep up with my progress over on goodreads.  Look for the goodreads widget over on the left-hand side of this page to keep track of my progress, and of course, I am sure I will include some of my thoughts here.

As a third and final project for the year, since three is a good, round number, I’ve decided to start sewing again.  I have always loved the ideas of costuming and cosplay.  And with my NaNoWriMo novel, which was a pseudo-steampunk piece, I found myself growing interested in Victorian clothing.  So, my plan, over the long term, is to build a Victorian dress from the skin out.  I’m going to go a piece at a time, starting with the chemise and drawers to refresh my sewing skills before moving on to the more daunting task of constructing a corset.  Once I have my underpinnings complete, I can move on and decide what kind of dress I want to create, whether that’s a true historical dress or more of a fun, fantasy, steampunk mishmash.  Tons of flexibility, no pressure, and I can quit any time, she said trying to keep her voice convincing.

So you can expect to see pictures of a very frustrated me, bent over a sewing machine, biting back curses.  But hey!  At least I won’t have to deal with zippers or button holes.  And if you’re lucky I may even post a few pictures of my in my underwear!  Which isn’t nearly as scandalous as it sounds since Victorian underwear covers you from shoulder to knee, but it sure was fun to write that!

So that’s my tri-fold plan for the new year.  Of course, I will continue all of the things that made 2014 great: gardening, cooking, and having an awesome time with my family.  But I’m excited about the new projects, and I’m looking forward to allowing myself to indulge in my creativity.

What are your plans for 2015?  Are you trying anything new this year?

 

 

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2013 New Year’s Resolutions: A Time to Start Fresh

I haven’t gotten to experience much of the darkness and stillness of winter.  Living in California, there isn’t much reason to go inside to escape the cold and the snow.  Here, life simply moves on at the same pace year round with the early dark of daylight savings time offering one of the few clues that winter has come.

Still, I have been feeling introspective during the last few weeks, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what 2013 will bring and what I want it to bring.

Looking back at 2012, I feel like I did a lot of overspending with time, money, and activities.  I’m really good at biting off more than I can chew, so this year I want to focus on simplifying my life.

So without further ado, here are my goals for the year.

Spend with intent.

My husband and I have talked about it and we will be creating a budget and sticking to it.  We’ve spent the last year tracking where our money is going, and based on that we should be able to create an accurate and achievable budget with money set aside for the unexpected and ways to save money for bigger purchases that we know we will need to make in the future.

I also want to learn some new skills.  Specifically, I want to learn some of the things I remember my grandmother doing: canning and preserving food, growing more of my family’s food, baking bread, and so forth.  I suppose these would be considered homemaking skills, but like many skills our grandmothers had, they seem to recede further and further as technology and mass-production continue to expand.  These skills also tie into my first goal because doing all of these things regularly can be a big money saver.  In order to preserve these kinds of traditional enterprises (and even not-so-traditional ones) I would like to

Learn some advanced homemaking skills.

Student cooking in homemaking apartment in Lod...
Student cooking in homemaking apartment in Lodge, 1917. (Photo credit: Cornell University Library)

It would certainly be easy for me to learn how to do these things from the internet, but there is so much love and sisterhood to be gained from passing knowledge down directly person-to-person.  Unfortunately, my grandma is half and continent away, so I can’t learn from her directly.  Thankfully, I have a group of local mom-friends, each with her own set of skills and passions, all willing to share.  We’ve created a small group, a Mommy University, to help connect moms who want to learn with moms who want to teach.  Not only will we all learn new things, but we will also connect with each other in new ways and have time together to unwind and have fun.

I also want to find more ways to give back to my community.  It’s so hard to find time to give back between working at the office and being a mommy and a wife and trying to eke out some time for myself.  Still, despite the hard work that it often entails (and perhaps because of it), there is something healing about volunteering, so I will

Volunteer for a local organization once a month.

A coworker invited me to help out at a local horse rescue organization, and, though I don’t know much about horses, I’m excited about getting started.  And maybe I will learn another set of new skills along the way.

Some things I will not be able to change.  I still have to work full-time.  We still have to rush, rush, rush with work, school, daycare, and everything else.  That is our reality and that won’t change.  Wanting it to change only makes me sad.  So here is my final resolution:

Find peace with what I have.

I suspect this first resolution will be the hardest and also the most important.

Do you have any goals for the new year?  Did you make any resolutions?