The end of the year is a perfect time for reflection. It can be really easy to focus only on what’s to come — what new goals we’re setting, what new accomplishments we’d like to achieve–and not look at what we’ve done. I think this can be particularly true for writers– we can have a tendency to get obsessed with what we’re working on, or dwell on what we haven’t accomplished, instead of looking back on what we have done. In a profession that requires so much waiting on things that are ultimately outside of our control, it’s particularly beneficial to remember what we can control, and to focus our attention on it.
In keeping with this idea, I asked members of the DIY MFA team to tell me about a writerly “win” they had this year. It could be anything at all in relation to their writing life, any way they created success for themselves. Personally, I found the exercise incredibly encouraging. I hope you do, too!
Elisabeth Shared Her Work
This year, this 2016, has marked some major growth for me as a writer. I’ve been sharing blog posts and articles with the DIY MFA community and more for a while now. But 2016 is the first year I’ve shared my fiction. Before this year, I was too afraid to share, even with my most trusted friends and family. Too afraid of rejection, too afraid of criticism, too afraid that someone would tell me I shouldn’t write anything else ever again. But this year, I made the leap. I got inspired. I met a character I loved and I wanted to introduce her to others, so that they could love her, too. I decided that if I wanted to grow as a writer, I had to be brave.
Best decision ever, BTW. If you’re hanging on the precipice of the choice between being brave and sharing, or being afraid and holding back, choose being brave. Was it scary? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’m addicted to it now, to learning what works with my writing and what needs improvement, and to telling and sharing the stories that I’ve been holding onto.
Leanne Found her Focus
I’ve had a lot to be grateful for this year. I signed with a fantastic agent after querying for over a year; I completed my first NaNoWriMo win. But the most important takeaway I have from 2016 was what you might call an epic fail, or at the very least a colossal waste of time.
I began the year feeling conflicted and directionless. I didn’t think I was getting anywhere with my fiction writing, but I seemed to be having some success pitching and writing nonfiction; I enjoyed both. I decided to work on two books at once, a historical novel and a nonfiction book about creativity that would begin as a website. I spent the spring and summer researching, planning, and launching the website. I made progress with my fiction as well, but by summer’s end it was clear I had to make a choice: the nonfiction project was snowballing to the point where I would have to give up some of my fiction-writing time.
While attending a nonfiction writers’ conference, I was inspired to think deeply about my writerly path, and I left the conference with a clear mind and a firm decision. I will always love writing nonfiction, but fiction (and occasionally memoir) is where my dreams lie. I’ve committed to my novels and short stories completely, and I’ve never had a happier writing life.
Emily Published a Book and Built Her Community
This was such a big, amazing year for me as an author. My first book got published! Along with this has come a lot of other firsts (my first reviews, my first readers, my first book selling events), and a ton of learning experiences, too. I also won my first author award–my debut novel earned Florida Writing Association’s top honor Book of the Year! When I look back at it all, I hardly know what to do with myself.
But best of all is that my first book release has brought me even deeper into the writing community, and as a result I’ve gained some amazing author friends and mentors. What a wonderful year! All I can hope is that these adventures have allowed me to learn enough to keep building on these successes in 2017.
Bess Learned to Trust Her Process
My writing took a super happy turn in 2016–after receiving an R&R from him in April, I signed with my awesome literary agent in August. I couldn’t be happier. My writing is so much stronger because of his editorial eye. Having him in my corner is beyond a dream come true. My fifteen year old self is still screaming about it.
But something happened after I signed that I really wasn’t expecting. Usually, when I finish a book, I’ve got another one simmering, ready to write. But now? Nothing. I don’t know if it was fear or adrenaline or exhaustion, but I was drained of ideas. I even went on a writing retreat, and pulled out an old story I wanted to revise, but it didn’t sing for me. I started to fear nothing new would, that I’d peaked with my last book. That fear was crushing.
But then, on the train home from the retreat, a friend said something super random that triggered a spark in my imagination. It wasn’t a lot to go on: just a character, a phrase, the first sketches of a new world. But it was enough. I knew it was. I’d had this feeling before. It was such a relief, even if I felt a little foolish for my earlier fear. Professional wins are, of course, awesome. But at the end of the day, it’s the writing wins that bring me the most joy, and keep me coming back to the blank page again and again.
Robin’s Perseverance Paid Off
My win for 2016 was my perseverance–my fortitude and drive to not give up on my writing.
I had three different books NOT sell this year. Blow, after blow, after blow–it was rough. The first half of 2016 were barren and brutal for me and my writing. But after each setback, I went back and wrote some more. And it paid off. In June, I hit a three book deal with a big five publisher–a digital first deal–but still a deal. Thank God! Phew! It was the ultimate validation and solid proof that in publishing the additive is true–just keep writing, dream big and don’t give up.