So, it’s a new year. This time of year often elicits a sense of purpose, motivation, and promise to do things differently than they were done during the prior year.
And as the new year rolled around, I found myself with this gripping sense of…
Now, I’m not a big resolutions kind of person. Those fall flat for most people by the end of January. But I do believe in setting goals. Not just at the beginning of the year, but throughout, and so usually I do reflect and think about what my goals for the new year will be.
But not this year. The end of 2015 knocked me on my butt for a variety of reasons, leaving me to feel overwhelmed and defeated.
I got a text from my sister on January 2nd asking me what my goals for the new year were. I stared at my phone and finally set aside because even thinking about it overwhelmed me. Later I texted back and told her I simply didn’t know.
Maybe it was the three rounds of stomach flu I was inflicted with in December. Or the chest cold, or the sinus stuff. Maybe the fact I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep most of the month had something to do with it. Maybe I was just too overwhelmed between my day job, two kids, the Christmas hullabaloo, the travel, trying to keep up with social media, my own fear of failing at it all.
Most likely it was a combination of all factors, plus some others I hadn’t considered. But whatever it was, it worked its way into my writing as well. I’d lost motivation. I’ve been earnestly working at preparing my debut novel, and in the month of December I lost my mojo. Thoughts of discouragement crept in and, on its heels, the gripping fear of impending failure settled into everything I did. I still worked at it consistently, but in the back of my mind I had the sense that all my work would end up in vain.
I was beginning to dwell on my negative thoughts and make plans for my failure. “I give myself this long and if I can’t make a career of it, I’m done.” I actually told my husband that one day. I gave myself until my youngest was in kindergarten to really make a go of it. Then, I’d decided, if I hadn’t, it wasn’t worth the blood, sweat, tears, and time.
I’d fallen into a total funk. Motivation eluded me, and writing and connecting became one more thing I had to do when I had no energy to do anything else.
This led me to a place of evaluation. Why do I write? Is it because I seek success? Do I want the approval of others? If everything I ever writes falls flat on its face, do I still want to do it? It can be an ugly process turning the mirror on your motivations, but it came to a place for me that either I do that or give up on my dream all together.
Here are three things I came out of my self-evaluation with:
1. I write because I like it.
I’ve always had an active imagination and I need an outlet for it. Story has been stirring in my soul for as long as I can remember, but it took me a long time to wake up and realize it. And despite success or failure, acceptance or rejection, I have to do it for myself.
2. There is always room for growth and improvement.
So, annoying tick about me (annoying mostly to myself). If I don’t excel immediately at something, I conclude I’m just not good at it and walk away. Eesh, that makes me sound like a quitter, doesn’t it? It wasn’t always that way. I remember learning to ride a bike at the age of seven in one day. It was my first bike, no training wheels, and my dad and I spent the entire day in the parking lot until I got it. I came home bruised and scraped that night, but I could ride a bike. Somewhere along the way, I’ve forgotten that, to be good at something, you have to work hard! I’m not a savant and yet I put expectations on myself that I should be. I want to be that girl again–the one who keeps at it, despite the bruises and bumps, until she has it. This applies to writing. I was good at it back in the day, but I haven’t done it for a long time. So, when this process started, I had to hone my skills. I have learned SO MUCH through the process of writing and editing my novel, and I know that because of that, I’m better than when I started. And because of that, I can continue to improve, even if it leaves some scrapes.
3. It’s better to be a part of a community than to hole up alone.
Writing is a solitary experience, but it’s not one I can keep to myself. I’m constantly running through potential story lines or angles, bouncing them off my husband (or anyone who will listen). Part of the learning process for me has been the discovery of communities of writers (like the lovely Wenches!) out there working for the same thing as me, with characters and stories running around inside their heads, too. It’s fun to connect and dream and cheer on the success of others. If I give up in a few years, I lose all that. I feel like I’m just on the cusp of connecting with others, and I know there are so many deeper ways to connect. As someone who enjoys learning about others and building relationships, why would I ever walk away from that?
At the end of the day, I don’t want to quit. Even if my family and a select few friends are the only ones who ever read what I write, that’s okay. I have to do it for myself. I have to move forward in relationships with others, and I want to grow.
It’s January, and while I don’t have a long list of resolutions or an enthusiastic sense of motivation, I do know what I want and have a good sense of my goals, at least when it comes to writing. And for me, that’s as good of a start as any to 2015!