I’m a Survivor…(take 2)

So the Mayan Apocalypse has come and gone. What do we do next? How do we live our lives without the end of the world looming? We prepare for the next apocalypse, of course. We throw ourselves in to being better people= better friends, better spouses, better parents, better coworkers, better neighbors, better puppy-mamas. We do this by re-evaluating what’s important in life and what accomplishments we’ve made in the meager lives we’ve lead thus far. And then we strive for better.

Huh. Apocalypse preparation sounds a lot like New Years Resolutions. Every year, I set New years goals. I’d rather strive to do something than resolve to do it. The verbage is just more inviting, The goals are all over the place, but I usually try to set goals that pertain to body wellness, mind wellness, heart wellness, and “soul” wellness. I put soul in quotes because I think we all define that word a little differently.

This year, like last, many of my goals have to do with writing. Last year I wanted to develop a writing habit and write a lot. And in reflection I really did. Sometimes it was easy, most of the time it was tough. But when I take stock of what I accomplished toward my 2012 writing goals, I feel proud. I am currently sitting on 8 pieces of writing in one stage of completion or another. Eight pieces of writing done in one year, while I worked full-time, and for most of the year worked as a classroom teacher, the most time-consuming job I can think of. It’s something to be proud of.  So here’s a recap of 2012 writing:

1 short story written, revised, edited, and submitted. Submission accepted and published in an online literary journal in May and then republished in a hard-copy anthology in July (https://www.createspace.com/3947262).

1 short story in draft phase, taken from a writing exercise I began a few years ago.

1 handwritten novel in draft form, perhaps 20-30,000 words done. This was the piece that propelled me into writing this year. I had this glimmer of an idea and then everywhere I went I heard news stories, saw movie titles, read articles about the topic. The universe was talking to me, loudly, so I listened. I’d love to get back to this piece soon, I’m just putting it off because of the dread of having to first read my messy draft scrawl and then having to type it out.

1 late-chapter book/ early middle grade story that is being revised with the help of my writing group. I picked this story up when I dropped the handwritten one. This was meant to be a picture book, but the character came alive to me, so I kept writing his story. I completed one draft of this, had a former student read it and give me some notes, then reworked it a little.  I’ve been working with my writing group on notes and am currently rewriting the beginning and trying to carry some of those new threads throughout the rest of the story.

1 middle grade stab at supernatural/ fantasy-ish. It’s probably 20,000 words in and then I got stuck. I have the story outlined, so I know where i want it to go, but I need to do more research on Salem and magical gems.

1 YA novel, draft 1 completed during Camp Nanowrimo in June.

1 adult-ish, I’ll admit veering dangerously close to chick-lit, novel started before Nano. One chapter, about 20 pages written.

1 YA novel, draft 1, completed during Nanowrimo in 2012. That’s a lie, 50,000 words of it were done in November. I kept writing it to bring the story to some sort of completion for my writing group. It’s currently in their hands. We have plans to spend the month of February revising our work together.

So, proud as I am about my first year of really trying at this writing thing, one big thing jumped out at me when I reflected on all this work. The word draftdraftdraft. I wrote a lot. I got caught up in story telling and embedded myself and my characters in new worlds and new activities, but I didn’t get past that fun part of making stuff up. So my 2013 writing goals are simple enough. Get over making stuff up and start making stuff better. This is my year of revision and editing. I’m going to rework, reimagine, rethink, reinvent, redraft, redefine, retell, and revise my little writer’s heart out this year.

The ultimate goal of all of this will be to get 4 pieces revised, redrafted, edited, and ready for submission by the end of the year. Next November, I’d like to be sitting down to write my Nanowrimo novel knowing that 4 of my novels are currently out there in the world being read and reviewed by people who could make publishing a reality.

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Following My Bliss

So much has changed and so much remains the same.

In August, I left my teaching job. After 10 years of being a classroom teacher, I made a change.

For the last 3 months and some odd weeks I’ve worked for an educational software company. I was hired to write instructional content for the language arts portion of the software.  While the company was still deciding what that would look like, I was asked to consider applying to become the manager of the reading and language arts department. So I did and now I am. Without even doing the job I was technically hired to do, I’m now managing people who are doing that job.

Last week the company had layoffs. The grief I feel for my former coworkers currently outweighs the understanding of why it happened. I do get it, but I don’t get it and I certainly don’t like it. The corporate world is far different than the world of public education. I saw a lot of commonality at first, but now I’m feeling like I’m in a foreign land with no passport. I’m still working, I kept my job, but others didn’t. How do you weigh the sorrow versus the relief.

So I took to my notebook. I had to write it all out and let the ambiguous and contradictory feelings flow on paper. Thank the heavens for writing, clear train of thought or not, the ability to mind dump onto the page is a savior. As I wrote I came to one big realization.  What I’m doing in life is fleeting. I thought I’d teach forever. I thought I’d writing language arts lessons, I think I’ll manage (in more than one way). What I did realize is that if, and probably when, the same fate happens to me, I want to act with grace, dignity, and self-respect. I will be upset, no doubt, but I will hopefully look on it as a blessing.

With that in mind I went back to writing. I finished a story this summer, during the June CampNanoWriMo. I worked on editing it a little and then dropped it. I briefly considered doing CampNano in August, and then school started and then I left for my new job. Feeling a loss, my great friends Candace and Lizzie agreed to start a writing group with me. We decided to Skype one a month after sending each other 5 pages of a draft in order to get feedback and guidance.

I wasn’t ready to share my June piece, so I submitted the first part of my children’s chapter book “Raleigh.” I got great feedback and immediately felt reinspired to work on writing. I began redrafting the back story and beginning, with what I think are pretty good results. In October, Candace introduced us to her friend, Victoria, who was looking for a writing group. So now we’re four writers, with very different styles, but a whole lot of support for each other. Candace dabbles in realistic lit and romantic comedy-ish stuff, Victoria is working on romance and mystery pieces, Lizzie tends toward Supernatural YA and my recent pieces are more realistic YA, though Raleigh is a talking raccoon chapter book.

The four of did Nano this past month together. Every day we sent emails with word counts, musings, or grumblings. We made our writing intentions public to each other and it was a great motivator.

Over the past weekend when I thought about the layoffs and felt sad or cynical, I kept thinking about writing. Even though it’s tough and sometimes feels like work, it’s so endlessly rewarding. A string of thoughts that once only lived inside my brain can now be printed on paper. A plot, a character, an emotional quote that didn’t exist before my fingers set to the keys, are now things, they exist now in the world.

So writing will get me through. I have so much to work on and so much to do.  The events at work just highlighted the urgency that I need to bring to my writing. I must spend my time drafting, revising, editing, plotting, reading, thinking, writing. I want to bring my commitment to writing to the next level: submitting pieces to agents, finishing half done work, believing in myself.

So for public accountability, here’s my quarterly plan:

  • Finishing my Nano draft by Dec 14
  • Editing my Nano draft and sending to my writing group Dec 15
  • Whole month of Dec- Plotwrimo with Punx Not Dead Piece
  • End of Dec- Draft 2 of Raleigh
  • January- Draft 2 of Punx Not Dead
  • January- Revising Nano piece with Plot Wri Mo
  • February- Draft 2 of Nano piece
  • March- Have 3 pieces ready for submitting- Punx Not Dead, Raleigh, and Takes One to Know One
  • March- drafting Rose Quartz