Starting Fresh

I know, I know, fellow Scribe Liv just wrote a post about New Year’s resolutions. But it’s that time of year when we all look back on the old year and welcome in the new, and I’ve been doing a fair amount of reflection on the things that have served me that I want to welcome along with me, and how to say goodbye to the things that didn’t.

2018 was a big year for me! Most notably, it was my publishing debut year. That came with a lot of incredible firsts for me. My first glimpse of the cover artwork for my book, which coincided with another big landmark–my 30th birthday! I signed nearly twenty thousand copies of the book for a total of six (!!!) different book subscription boxes, and then had to keep that fact a secret for nearly six months. I got my first trade reviews, including my first run in with the dreaded Kirkus monster. I got my first glowing peer reviews, and then I got my first scathing peer review. I corresponded with my first “fans.” I tried to ignore being tagged on social media for one-star reviews.

I laughed. I cried. I tasted each sugary high and bitter low and tried to savor them both, because they were all part of this crazy dream coming true at last. But now–just over one month after release–I’m looking into 2019 with a few new intentions, while also trying to bid farewell to a few old habits that are no longer serving me.

Overcoming the sophomore novel slump. Oh, friends. Let me tell you, the sophomore jinx is real. I’m not allowed to give any details about the book I’m writing yet, but I will say that it is breaking me. I was warned about this by friends, fellow writers, even my agent, and I’m ashamed to say I didn’t believe them. “But I’ve written five-full length novels before!” I said, carefree and cocksure. “How could this be any different?”

Well, it feels super different. But I plan to keep reminding myself that this book begins with a first line, and ends with a last. I’m the same person who wrote my debut and all those other books before it, and that means that I’ve only gotten better than before. I have to keep trusting myself and my writerly instincts, and putting in the work until the thing is done.

Breaking up with my phone. Hi, I’m Lyra, and I’m an addict. It’s gotten pretty bad, people. I feel like I’m constantly reaching for my phone in every spare moment, scrolling mindlessly through my social media feeds or swiping dully at Candy Crush or some other dumb games. I really really want to cut down on phone time, so if anyone has any genius tips or apps (ironic, I know) to help cut the proverbial cord, let me know!

Inviting more ambient creativity into my life. Somehow, along the journey of turning my writing into a profession, I forgot how to create for fun. I used to draw, and sing, and write bad poetry, and read for pleasure. Now it seems like I’m either grimly plugging away at a book or story I’m trying to sell, or dicking around on my phone (see above) while watching Netflix. I want to pick up a pencil and doodle. I want to journal again. I want to try my hand at a Bob Ross tutorial. I want to join a choir. I want to write something no one else will ever see, in long-hand.

Sometimes I feel like by becoming a writer, I opened a front door of creativity but then closed all the windows. I want to open those windows again, to let some of that light back in.

What are your intentions or resolutions for the New Year? Let me know!

The Things I Never Thought I’d Do

Sometimes I stop what I’m doing, look at my life, and say, “Wow. Of all the things I never thought I’d be doing… well, this is one of them.”

I don’t mean only bad things or exciting things. Some of them are really mundane, grown-uppish things, like paying my HOA or going to the hardware every single weekend because we still don’t have the right part for the stupid broken garbage disposal. Some of them are pretty cool, like selling jewelry on Etsy. A few of them are really freaking bad, but we don’t need to talk about this here. This isn’t a post about bad or sad things. It’s a post about exciting new horizons.

Every year, instead of a resolution, I try to pick something I want to learn in the coming year. One year it was spinning (fiber, not one of those stationary bikes), another year it was guitar. This year it’s dyeing fiber, though I have so much going on that I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t get to it. I don’t look at a new year as a chance to stop doing something, or a time to reinvent myself; rather, it’s a new opportunity to grow and learn. I don’t want to stop being me, and that’s so often what resolutions are about. But I can help me to become more like the me I’ve always wanted to be.

That sentence got away from me a little.

Here’s what I mean: once upon a time, a sixth grade girl liked wearing jewelry and listening to Celtic music and reading about Arthurian queens who spun their own yarn. While I’m not still her, not completely, I still like all those things. And every day, I like to try to do something that helps me satisfy that core me. I still like Celtic music. I make some jewelry now. And by golly, I do spin my own yarn.

But at the same time, I’m now a 30-year-old woman with a mortgage and a house that needs decorating and repairing. I need to satisfy her needs and wishes, too. So maybe instead of taking Irish dance lessons, like that sixth grade girl would want, I take a class about color in design, and that applies both to the jewelry-making and the house decorating.

Do you see what I mean? Sometimes doing the things we never thought we’d do—and never doing the things we always thought we’d do—is a good thing. It means we’ve grown and changed, that we’ve lived long enough to develop new wishes and dreams. And it means that every time we do one of those things, we’re taking a chance and making a new opportunity for ourselves.

And that’s pretty exciting.

What do you do now that you never thought you would? 



The Act of Finding

I figure, since I’m writing the last Scribes post for 2013, it’s sort of my DUTY to write the obligatory New Year’s thoughts and resolutions post.

Image by Sally Mahoney

I may not be the best person to be writing about 2013, though. In spite of reassurance from my friends and family, I look at 2013 as a bust. This was a tough year for me, and that toughness doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. But there’s something to simple difference of writing a new number at the end of dates that gives one a feeling of freshness and new beginning, and I’m damned ready for some new beginnings.

I have big plans for 2014. Not unrealistic plans, I hope, but plans. And I’d like to do some learning and growing along the way. They may be cheesy and abused, but resolutions are a good tool to help one do some of that growing.

I looked up “resolution” in the dictionary, and discovered that it has, well, pardon my French, a shit-ton of meanings. Aside from the standard “something that is resolved, i.e. when one makes a definite and serious decision to do something,” resolution can mean, “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the act of resolving something,” or, “an answer or solution to something.”

The act of finding.

I like that rather better than “a serious decision to do something.”

It fits with my own theory of resolutions, as well. Every year, the Spouse and I make a list of our resolutions and a set of joint resolutions and post it on our bedroom wall. Last year’s list included “Yoga!” for me and “Finish data-gathering project” for Spouse, while together we resolved to read nonfiction together each month.

We had mixed success, but I observed that, in general, we did better when we resolved to a process or a series of goals rather than one lofty end. If we had committed to reading together, for example, we might be checking that off the list, while if I had said, “Learn about different types of yoga,” I might have made some progress. Spouse could have focused on learning the skills that would have helped him finish his programming project. But by giving ourselves impressive goals (“I will be a yogi by the end of 2013!” “I will have a completed web-app by 2014!”), we essentially set ourselves up to fail.

To go all fortune-cookie, self-help on you, when you focus on the destination, you forget about the journey—and you may realize you have absolutely no idea how to get to that magical destination. When we say, “I will lose 10 pounds by the end of the year!” we neglect to give ourselves the guidance and support we need to reach that goal—and then, when we fail, we blame ourselves for being lazy or uncommitted or whatever adjective suits the situation.

But it’s next to impossible to simply BECOME or DO something that you are not and cannot, certainly without guidance or reasonable expectations of a drawn-out process of learning. How can we not fail, when we expect ourselves to change without even the aid of a magic wand to make the transformation happen?

We’re too hard on ourselves. All of us.

So this year, let’s focus on finding instead of on doing. I’d like to find the right school of yoga for myself. I also want to learn to play my long-neglected guitar. I want to learn a little about using my fancy DSLR camera, as well. Those are all good, specific, manageable goals, but, more importantly, they’re processes. I’m committing to a journey of learning, not a destination of being a yogi or a rock star or a photographer. I want to find new hobbies, new skills, and I want to incorporate those skills into my life. These are long term commitments, not idealistic wishes.

So I ask, with our new definition in mind, and a spirit of searching rather than doing: What do you want to find in 2014?

Resolving Like a Boss

I tend to go nuts with resolutions. I make lists and pin them to the wall in my bedroom where they can taunt me each time I walk by. I do fairly well at keeping them, too, though the occasional project keeps getting rolled over from year to year.

Like losing the ten pounds I’ve gained since leaving grad school. I’m starting to fear that one will stick with me till the day I die.

This year’s list was simple:

1. Yoga: I’d like to actually develop a home practice, and stick with it.

2. Schedule: This means I’ll keep my self-imposed work schedule, which includes two hours of reading on weekdays, and (generally) sixish hours of writing or at least starely blanking at Scrivener. In other words, I’m treating my writing like a job.

3. Read more new fiction: This is an important part of the writing job. I need to know the market, and I learn something from every new book I read. The more I can take in, the more I can learn!

Nope. No bacon that way.

There’s actually a theme here. All of these goals are about routine and sticking with it. They’re about taking myself seriously, at work and at play.

So many writers, crafters, photographers, runners, WHATEVERs always excuse themselves from real work and real success by saying, “Oh, I’m an aspiring writer,” or, “Oh, I just run for fun,” or “Oh, I just take pictures of my kids.” And while those things are all great, they’re also a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you treat yourself like an amateur, you’ll continue to work at an amateur level. We get from these things what we put into them. No matter how much the doggie wishes, no bacon will appear in his tummy unless he raids the fridge and steals some dang bacon.

This year is the year of treating myself like a professional, putting in professional levels of work, and getting some professional results.

Like a boss. (NSFW!!)

How can you take yourself more seriously this year? What have you wished you could do or be better at?