2015 by the numbers

Writing

Submitting

  • 4 stories accepted for publication (2 that were published this year were accepted in 2014)
  • 10 submissions withdrawn because of acceptances elsewhere
  • 73 total submissions to literary journals and chapbook presses

Reading

  • 118 total books read of my goal of 125
  • 20 of those were audio books
  • 8 of those were poetry (2 fewer than my goal of 10)
  • 20 of those were on writing, creativity, or blogging

Life

  • 1 house purchased (my first!)
  • 1 floor of said house completely renovated
  • 1 promotion at work

A recurring existential crisis

I have this recurring existential crisis wherein I feel like if I only try harder and do all the things (specifically all the things I’m NOT currently doing) success will fold open for me like an origami flower.

Mostly this just tires me out and gives me a migraine.

I know that’s what’s going to happen. I know I need to focus on sustainable progress, but I still get caught up in these mind games with myself, spin around in mental circles, and wind up with nothing but frustration.

That’s why I’ve written down my definition of literary success and the steps I’m taking to get there. I try to look at them once a week or so to remind myself that I am already doing exactly what I should be doing to become a successful writer (writing, revising, and submitting on a regular basis).

With my work life, though (you know, the work that actually pays the bills), this is much harder. Because one of my ultimate goals is to be able to support myself financially with my creative writing (i.e. I don’t really want to be a freelancer writing magazine articles), I tend to filter everything through “will this get me closer to full time fiction writer?”

And that’s mostly fine. I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of income now for achieving my dream. But this is where we get into a bit of a catch-22, and into that recurring existential crisis.

  • I need money to pay the bills so I can focus on writing.
  • So I work 40 hours a week for pay and benefits.
  • This limits the amount of time I have to write.

Without even going into the issues inherent in a literary landscape that does not offer appropriate monetary compensation to authors, I can never figure out if this is enough.

I keep asking myself: Should I pursue better-paying employment that would allow me to out source certain things like, say, painting my house, that would allow me even more time and space to write, plus extra income to attend residencies and conferences?

Or, even better-paying employment that would give those perks plus be more intellectually stimulating?

I love my current job. It’s interesting, fulfilling work and it has a great benefits package that I would be unable to function without (literally, because health issues, fun!). The only downside is the low pay. That’s not the worst downside a job could have, but it is significant.

Thanks to the great benefits package my husband gets as part of his awesome job at a university, I have an opportunity to get another master’s degree for 10 percent of the normal cost.

In the short term this would likely mean LESS time to write and LESS money to spend on things like writing contests (my thoughts on this will probably compose another post in the near future), because I can’t afford to give up my full time job and I do still have to pay that 10 percent. In the long term it could equate to better earning potential, which would eventually allow me to attend more writing conferences and submit to more contests, where there’s a higher potential payoff than non-contest submissions.

Giving up what little time I have to write now is not an idea that excites me. And that’s before I even get to the question of which degree to pursue (that’s another post for another day).

And so my head spins round and round. Am I doing enough? What is the right decision? No one can make it for me. I suspect that I am on the right path, but I’m not sure which way on the path I should go.

While my brain spins itself in circles, I’ll keep plugging away at my daily writing practice, because I have no doubts about that.

 

Make room for the new

Every night I come home from work and think to myself, “I must write that post on X!” (where X is usually a book I’ve read that has blown my mind). But then I sit down to nurse my various aches and pains (left heel, lower back, head) and pick up a new book or put Bones on Netflix and zone out.

Before I blink, it’s way past my bedtime and I’m too tired to write anything.

Most of this has to do with the new position I started at a new library branch. Someone decided it was a good idea to put me in charge of things, so I’m using my brain a lot to get us moving toward our organization’s best practices.

Using my brain makes me tired.

But there’s more to my failure to write (fiction and blog posts) over the past two weeks. Something happened that made me think, “Oh damn, shit just got real,” and it has me terrified. I will decline to discuss the event in question, but I can sum it up like this: People are reading my stories and are responding to them in positive ways.

This makes me ecstatic, but it’s also terrifying. Writing, revising, and submitting my work alone in my house is easy. No one’s scrutinizing what I’m doing. There’s a sort of freedom in anonymity. But of course I write because I have stories to tell, and although I would write them anyway, I really want people to read and engage with my work.

And they are. And that’s wonderful, and it makes me so happy. But I suppose it’s a lot to adjust to while I’m also adjusting to a new job and new living arrangements.

So I’ve been doing what my therapist always tells me to do—I’m being kind to myself by not expecting too much right now. By letting myself read fantastic books and actually relax, for once.

TL;DR: I’m around, but not as much as I was before. I’m writing, but I’m not pressuring myself to meet specific goals right now. I’m giving myself time to adjust to the newness of things.