Looking back at my Words in 2014

If you’ve been following along with my writing updates this year, you know I was pretty slammed with projects even though I promised myself I wouldn’t over do it like I did last year.

Last year I posted about how many words/projects I set as goals to finish through the year. You can check it here. But tl;dr is this:

January: 80,123
February: 75,011
March: 35,170
April: 27,351
May: 30,005
June: 46,289
July: 4,054
August: 27,077
September: 0
October: 30,002
November: 50,000 – won NaNoWriMo WOOT!
December: 8,250

Total words for 2013: 413,332

Novels: 4; Novellas: 4.

That was a ridiculous year. At the end I felt drained and tapped out. So I told myself I wouldn’t do that to myself in 2014. This year I would take my time with projects and write at my pace and allow myself to take time out if I needed it. But, keep in mind, I am a full-time writer. So here is 2014 at a glance (I rounded down this time):

January: 30,050
February: 30,050
March: 40,240
April: 10,000
May: 0 (editing)
June: 17,775
July: 57,250
August: 14,300
September: 55,700
October: 15,000
November: 50,050 – won NaNoWriMo WOOT!
December: 35,000

Total words for 2014: 355,415

Novels: 4; Novellas: 0.

I don’t even know how I did that. I didn’t even set word or book goals for myself. I told myself this year would be slower, easier on me. But I still managed to keep writing the same number of novels. The first was written from Jan-March (Time of Ruin). April was the first 10k of a novella that I shelved because I wasn’t digging it – see! Giving myself a break! June through August was the second novel (Yuletide). The third novel was written from August-September, which is where I started to lose steam, so I took the first half of October off to recharge and outline the fourth book I wrote this year from the end of October to mid-December. But telling myself to take time off only meant that I had about a 60k word difference from 2013-2014.

But I suppose that’s what forming a habit breeds. I write full-time. When I take too much time off, I start to feel guilty about not writing and when a particularly difficult book is looming, like the last book I wrote this year, I start to get nightmares. Very vivid nightmares. The monsters need to get out and if it’s not on the page then they’ll take my sleep.

But I finished writing the last book on December 8th. Somehow I wrote 30k words in less than a week (5k was adding to the third book after I took a break). On the last day I wrote over 12k words and walked away from my desk a little glassy-eyed and manic. Then I refused to do anything for 7 days. I watched holiday specials and Christmas movies. I wrapped presents and listened to carols. I went to parties and spent time with friends and family. I lit a fire on the Solstice. I didn’t have anything to write or edit. I didn’t even really read that much that week. Then, knowing that my deadline for my third book was looming and the book was 5-10k too short, I felt good enough to add those missing 5k words in 2 days and make my deadline days ahead of time. And you know what? I haven’t done anything since. This is the most I’ve written since sending that project off to my editor.

I’m going to start beta reading a book this week. And next Monday I’ll start going over the rough draft of that fourth book I wrote. But taking these three weeks off has been amazing. I had no idea how much work I’d done because, though it seems all back-to-back, I take weekends off and plan outlines. So, the other night, we were driving home from seeing The Hobbit, and a song came on the radio and a new character burst into my mind like Athena from Zeus’s head – fully formed and ready for her story to be written.

She is still a glimmer, not much more than an idea right now, but because I’ve taken time off, finished one trilogy, I know I am ready to start again in the new year. I’ll give myself the same break I gave myself in 2014 because it obviously worked well. I was almost as productive as 2013 without finishing the year feeling burnt out. Maybe it was a good thing I didn’t get any goals for myself. Maybe I won’t set any for 2015 either and just see what happens.

So take your time. Let your projects form organically, but don’t dismiss the need for discipline and goals. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish too.

Bring It On, 2015

Well, here we are. It’s the last few days of 2014. I don’t know how it’s been for you, but a lot of 2014 has felt like this for me:

robin meltdownAnd I know I’m not the only one. Just in my circle of friends, we’ve had deaths in the family, threats of foreclosure, divorce, illness, ends of business relationships, books cancelled, plans shot to hell. There have been some good things, too. Property bought. Business relationships begun. Toxic ties cut. Friendships and partnerships started. But the highs have been not nearly high enough to drag most of us up from the lows, and at times this year’s treatment of me and my loved ones has felt like Achilles dragging Hector’s mangled corpse behind his chariot.

My husband and I have been trying to close on a house since December 2. Our new closing date is tomorrow, 12/30, and I have no idea yet whether or not we’ll actually manage to sign the paperwork and transfer the keys. Especially since we were supposed to do a walk-through today, and no one could FIND the keys.

It’s the last few days of the year, and instead of celebrating, I feel like this:

stressed gif

This year has punched me in the teeth repeatedly. This year was the tenth anniversary of my older breath’s death. My mom’s sister died suddenly on my mom’s birthday. I’ve watched relationships around me crumble, seen friends suffer and suffered some myself. My career is going through tough new growing pains, and I spent a large portion of the year struggling to even put words to the page. The first house we were under contract for, hubs and I ended up not buying, and the fights we had during that time were among the worst we’ve had in the ten years we’ve been together.

I’m so ready to see the back of this year, I may well just sleep through the ball dropping and do my celebrating once it’s actually 2015.

“So, what?” you’re asking. “What does any of this even mean, beyond serving as the biggest buzz kill since they offed The Mother on HIMYM?”

joy thief

Honestly, I’m not sure. It probably doesn’t mean anything. Lots of us have had crappy years. Some people will have crappy years next year, too, and some people will have great years. Still more will have highs that balance out the lows, and 2015 will pass in a blur of excitement and disappointment.

I don’t want to bid farewell to this year on a negative note. I know there’s every chance 2015 won’t be remarkably better. But if I give in to the negativity that has threatened to crush me and mine almost every week since this time last year, I won’t be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning.

frowny face

This has not been my best year. But when I think about where I was last year, in spite of all the suffering I’ve experienced and seen, I know things have improved in a lot of ways. My professional situation is better, even if it feels like I’ve taken three giants steps back. Hubs and I will likely have a new home very soon, even if it doesn’t happen in these last days of 2014, and our relationship is even stronger than it was before we got started down this road. My friends, despite some very serious troubles, will come out the other side stronger, and we’re lucky we’ve been there for each other. My poor family has been through worse.

And while it feels like tempting fate to try to count my blessings, like searching for the silver lining will only cause a cave-in of the mines of Fate, I have to hold on to the wonderful things that have happened this year. Things like seeing my writing friends at Sirens Con in Portland, experiences like learning to spin and making my own yarn, bonds like the ones I share with my husband and my best friends—those are my talismans against another year of struggle. Even when things got bad, my loved ones held my hand and helped pull me through it—and, even better, I think I’ve done the same for some of them.

friend

Yes, this year sucked. But I bet all of us can find a few nice things to say about 2015. And in spite of that irrational (and incredibly common) fear that focusing on the good might bring on the negative, most of us have a few bright moments to cling to, a few friends to hug tightly, a few smoldering hopes and dreams that only need a breath of air to spring back into the burning fire that keeps us going.

Even if 2015 isn’t a whole new world, it is a good breaking point, a natural end and beginning. Maybe it won’t be your best year yet. Maybe it won’t be mine, either.

But maybe… just maybe… it will be.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

Drum Up The Sun

night sky looking towards Orion
night sky looking towards Orion (Photo credit: kronerda)

This time of year is a dark, quiet one. The sun rises late and sets early — and in some places, it hides its face from night and day alike.

We try to fill the void of the sun with colored lights and candles, festive trees and bright decorations. It’s a time of year when the night rules the calendar. The symbolism in the many holidays that cluster around midwinter is rife with images of renewal, rebirth, of beginnings. The New Year, Christmas, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Hannukah — all these holidays are rooted in light, hope, and the start of something new even when they look toward the past.

Frankly, this winter has gotten off to an awful start for me. As of writing this, I have been sick for over three weeks. It started with a sore throat and stuffy nose and morphed into a racking cough, followed by earaches and a resurgence of symptoms. Pneumonia. Bronchitis. Sinusitis. Ear infections. I’ve had all of that since Thanksgiving.

It’s been a time where my husband and I had thought we were at financial rock bottom — only to find out that we had pickaxes in hand and were hacking away at the ground beneath our feet. I had to humble myself and ask for help. Publishing grinds to a halt, and my inbox has been a world of silence on my many queries.

And Sunday was the year anniversary of my cousin’s tragic death, the memory of which has fogged my emotions with the smoke of grief that still hasn’t faded. One of my closest childhood friends lost someone he loved on Sunday in an eerie parallel to what happened to my family one year ago.

Friday was a day none of us will easily forget. A day when we were reminded that no matter how much joy exists, there are people who cannot or will not drink from that cup and instead sow anguish and reap nothing but death.

The holidays will forever bear deep sorrow for Newtown, Connecticut and for the families who will spend these days crumpled by the agony of 26 small children and adults snuffed out from our world forever.

 

Bear with me. There’s a point buried under all these Job-like afflictions.

This is a dark time, both literally and figuratively.

But you know what they say about the darkest hour.

Three days from now will be the darkest day of the year. The sun will rise at 7:23 AM EST and set at 4:50 PM EST. It will be the longest night.

Five years ago, I had just returned from Poland. It was one of the darkest times in my memory. I had left a place I loved and come back to a city I didn’t want to call home. And on 22 December, I bundled up early in my warmest clothes and drove my sputtering, 15-year-old Nissan Sentra up to Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Winter at Red Rocks
Winter at Red Rocks (Photo credit: mattsantomarco)

I gathered there with about fifty other people. Most of them had drums. And as the sky began to pale with the shy blush of the returning sun, the drums began to thrum. They started slow and sleepy, dimmed to a muted hush.

As the sky grew brighter over the Denver skyline and the flatlands of eastern Colorado beyond, the beat turned to a pulse. The cloud-dotted expanse above turned from jewel blue to pastel to the crystal white of milky quartz. The first golden rays of the newborn sun reached shining fingers over the frozen foothills, and the pulse quickened in both drums and veins until hands beat drum-skin and knees alike, lit with the fire of the world of day given first breath.

English: Christmas Dawn The sun rises late in ...
English: Christmas Dawn The sun rises late in midwinter this far north. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A month ago when we discussed the topic for this round of posts, I knew I would write a solstice post. I didn’t know just how much life would emulate the darkening celestial events. For many people, this time of year means deep pain. Loneliness and sadness, loss and grief.

But beyond the bustle of holidays and buying gifts, beyond seasonal depression or tragedy, the sun will return.

Whether you believe in the birth of the Christ child to a virgin or the festival of lights or if you track the sun’s path as it falls through a cross-shaped constellation before rising anew — whoever you worship or not at all, the sun will return.

It will warm the planet and birth new life. It will brighten the skies and nourish our bodies. The sun will return.

The darkest hour…

Well. You know the rest.