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?

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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One space or two?

I sometimes find myself angsting about minutiae.  Today, it is the humble space bar.  How many times do I strike it between sentences?

I’m not old enough to have ever used a typewriter, except for that period in high school when I convinced my mom that a typewriter would help get my creative writing juices flowing better than the computer.  She lovingly found a beautiful electric typewriter for me at a garage sale, cleaned it, and presented it to me.  Initially, I was ecstatic.  Now I could be a real writer!

Then the realities of actually working with a typewriter set in.  I hadn’t realized before how much computers actually did for me.  Simple things like line spacing became a nightmare.  I am thankful for my electronic helpers these days.

Still, when and why did I begin putting two spaces between sentences?  It is a deeply ingrained habit, one that I didn’t think much of until recently when I started seeing some posts from friends on facebook about the issue.  I began to worry.  Does my double-space make me less cool?  I became convinced that people were reading my work and mocking the spacing.  I could practically hear the whispers and giggles!

I tried to break the habit, but that only made things worse.  Some sentences got a single space while others received the double space.  What to do, what to do?  Would anyone take my writing seriously with the grotesque double-space leering up at them?

In the end, I am still unsure of how to approach the ends of my sentences.  Habit and muscle memory dictates the double space.  Yet correct grammar informs me that a single space is the only correct ending to a sentence.  Perhaps the most important thing is consistency.  Double or single, I should probably pick one and roll with it.

So how about you?  Do you double- or single-space?

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

It’s time to come clean and confess.

I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life. I spent my childhood adulthood devouring book after book after book. I dreamed up worlds and characters and stories and conflict. In college, I took a few creative writing classes, but I told myself that I wouldn’t be able to make it, so I focused on technical writing. My passion for reading dissipated in the face of book assignments for classes. As an adult, I discovered that, while I could write a damn fine user manual, the process was bone achingly dull.

Still, writing books was in the back of my head, and my husband would remind me sometimes when we were both feeling glum. “Hey, hurry up and write that book, so we can buy a house by the beach.”  No amount of explaining to him has convinced him that this is not how writing works, but that’s another story.

A few years ago, I noticed something popping into my blog and facebook feeds. What is this NaNoWriMo thing? National Novel Writing Month? It annoyed me. Here were people doing what I had longed to do. I felt a twinge of resentment. I told myself that things had changed and my priorities had shifted and that I was okay with that. I made excuses about why this thing with the annoying name that got stuck in my head was definitely not for me.

I was busy, alright? I had one kid. Then another. I was writing a blog. I was reaching out and helping other people. I was doing a service. And darnit, I had a full time job, okay? Didn’t I have enough on my plate already? I didn’t have time for anything else. So I ignored it. Except when I rolled my eyes when I saw that silly word pop up in one of my feeds.

Then I met a friend who reminded me how much fun it is to read. I started picking up books at the library. She showed me how to check out e-books from our local library. My imagination started working again.

A few months later, I joined the Writing 101 program that wordpress put on with the idea of helping me get a jump start. At first, I was turned off by the assignments. This felt a little more like creative writing than blog writing. Who wants to read that?  But I had signed up for it, so I went ahead and gave the assignments a try.

I discovered that I had forgotten how much fun it is to just… write!  And read!  I found other bloggers who were having just as much fun as I was!

Then I remembered that NaNoWriMo thing, and the book that had been pouting around in my brain since college gave its bedroom door a good hard kick.

So I’m hear to announce that this year, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo.  In the month of November, you won’t see many post from me.  I will be working furiously on my book.  I will be trying to get down 50,000 words in 30 days.  I keep telling myself over and over that that’s just 1667 words per day, the equivalent of just 2 and a little more blog posts.  That’s not so bad, right?  Will I create a polished novel at the end?  No.  The goal is just to write a first draft.  Get it out.  Get it on paper.

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So that is my goal.  I’m telling you all here, right now, so that I can hold myself accountable. Sometimes I need a kick in the pants and a deadline hanging over my neck, so that is what this post is.

Is anyone else doing NaNo this year?  What got you started?

 

 

Featured image courtesy of the NaNoWriMo website

Coming Back to a Blog

I don’t normally follow craft or fashion blogs, but something about Wanna Be Sewing Something caught my eye.  I read Najah’s post, How to Return to Blogging with a Vengeance, several times before commenting.  It seems that, like me, she had a long hiatus from blogging due to a new family addition, and like me, she’s working to get back into it.

Her post got me thinking about how radically different our lives become when our little ones are born.  How suddenly things we once cared so much about and spent so much time on slip away.  And, you know, that’s okay.  There’s something powerful in babies and children that reset your life perspective forever.

And that growth isn’t a single moment, either.  Both of my girls help me to grow and change each day.  Priorities shift and change.  What was once important becomes less so.  And yet, as I grow and change as a mother, I still maintain the core of who I am.  Writing is still a passion for me (rusty though I am) just like sewing is still a passion for Najah.

I am eager to continue reading Najah’s blog and fantasizing about what I might like to sew.  She seems like the kind of person with whom you just want to sit down and have a cup of tea and a good chat.  Her fashion sense has incredible flair.  And I can’t wait to see what comes from her next as she, like me, rediscovers blogging.