I love the New Year. Honestly, it’s not so much about the fresh start as it is about the closed cover, the checked marks, the lid snugly fitted on the pot. I like to finish things. I like things tidied up, accounted for, and filed away. That’s my nature. So while, yes, a fresh start looks awfully pretty, for me it’s less about the opportunity to change things and start over than it is the reminder to pause and look back. It’s time to appreciate, reflect, and let go.
So I’m looking back on 2017, trying to get the taste of the year as a whole.
A couple days ago on the 31st, I sat down with my brand new planner all spread out with stickers and pens as per my annual tradition. (Yes, bask in my nerdom; isn’t it glorious?) I love filling out my new planner with all I know so far: birthdays, plans, trips, appointments. And I love filing away my old planner, all stuffed full and marked up. One of the final things I do with it is total my word count for the year. A few weeks before the end of the year I let myself get a preliminary total just from curiosity, and I was at 216,000. I was pleasantly surprised by that, especially considering that (unlike 2016, my year of 1k a day) I was not trying to get tons of words in 2017. No concrete daily goals, nothing. I was just working.
A month of thinking my total would be at least 220k, my best year yet, and then I counted up the year. 196,500.
3,500 words short of a nice even 200k, and thousands less than I’d counted. (And I still don’t know how I miscounted that first time, or maybe even if I missed recording some words somehow.) Not gonna lie to y’all: I cried. I was so disappointed. I knew it was stupid even as I was crying, but I felt how I felt. I know that 200,000 is an arbitrarily even number and doesn’t mean anything. I know that 196,500 is a fantastic word count. I wasn’t even trying for high words this year; my intent was to focus on the work and not the numbers—which I did beautifully until I saw 216k and got all happy about it. If I’d never had that number, I would’ve been content with my 196k.
The thing is, my job is so intangible. It’s a privilege to be able to write full time; don’t think I don’t know that. But it’s also really hard to work my ass off all the time and have so little concrete product to show for it. I don’t get a regular paycheck, and the income I do make is meager. Word count is one of the most concrete things I have to point to (for myself; no one is demanding this but me) to say, Look how much I’ve done.
Clearly this is an opportunity to get a better perspective and grow. I know. I knew it even as I was being all disappointed.
The next day, January 1, I did my traditional ordering of the year’s financials. (Again, glorious nerdom; try not to swoon.) For several years now I’ve used New Year’s Day to get all of my writing receipts and records in order so that taxes will go smoothly. And I am about to try to sell you here, but I swear every word of this is true: my traditional largest-chunk-of-the-day tidying has whittled itself down to ten minutes thanks to my Writing Expense and Income Tracking Spreadsheet. Yes, I use my own resource. And yes, it works really freaking beautifully. I opened it to delete the rows I never used and input my utility bills for my office portion of the house. That was it. It took ten minutes. Tradition happily spoiled.
[Even more blatant selling pitch: I love my spreadsheet so much, and believe in it so genuinely, that I’m offering a New Year’s discount for writers who want to start their own. You can use it year after year. Enter the coupon code New2018 to get $3 off, which means it’ll be 6 bucks. Steal.]
So anyway, I finished up my financials for 2017 and found one happy surprise: I’m in the black this year. I’ve made income for several years now, but by the time I deduct every last work expense allowed to me (retreats and conferences and printer paper and website hosting, etc.), I’ve always ended up technically in the red, even if it’s just a little. This year I’m in the black, and that gives me something tangible I can point to.
I made this family $32.07. 😀
Joking aside, it does feel good to have some concrete stuff. I also took a good hour or so making a big list of work things I did in 2017, which I’ll share here for anyone to skim or pick through if they’re interested in catching up (but feel free to skip down if you’ve been following me already):
- Presented the April DFW Writers Bloc
- Presented at DFWcon
- “Using the Query Pitch to Troubleshoot Your Novel”
- “Build Your Writer’s Bio”
- sat on a problem-solving panel
- gave 3 private feedback sessions
- Revised a novel
- Drafted the WIPbeast
- Wrote *almost* 200k words
- Broke 300 subscribers to this blog (want me in your email?)
- Received over 175,000 pageviews on my site
- Published 24 articles with LitReactor. Top 4 most popular:
- Published 6 blogs with Writer Unboxed (all about the same popularity)
- Placed 1st with two poems in the Poetry Society of Texas annual contests
- Placed 1st with a poem in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies annual contests (buy the Encore anthology here)
- Created my Work Mileage Tracking Chart (free)
- Created and filled out the Giant Chart O’ Poems to organize my poetry for submissions and contests (free)
- Created my Writing Expense & Income Tracking Spreadsheet (on sale for $6)
- Went on a retreat with one of my writing besties
- Broke my single-day word count record with over 6,000 words
- Broke 100 total works in my publication list
- Read 35 books, including whoppers like Anna Karenina and S as well as several series/authors (a re-read of Anita Blake, plus binging all of Sarah Waters and partway through Tana French) but not counting manuscripts by me and my critique partners
- Revamped The Decorative Writer (again) and added an album by Sean Easley
- Guested on HWA’s blog
- Did a giveaway
- Shared my first poem reading video
- Did an interview
- Gave interviews:
- Had new publications come out:
- “That Which Never Comes,” Tales from the Shadow Booth Volume 1
- “So Sings the Siren,” Apex Magazine Issue 101
- “The Lighthouse,” Fearful Fathoms: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror (Vol. I)
- “Unravel,” HWA Poetry Showcase Volume IV
- “The Fox,” Encore: Prize Poems of the NFSPS 2017
- “Something in the Attic,” A Book of the Year 2017
- “Aerial Silks,” A Book of the Year 2017
- Had reprints come out:
- Got acceptance news:
- “Dealing in Shadows” (short story), Suspended in Dusk 2, Grey Matter Press
- “Advancement” (poem), A Book of the Year, Poetry Society of Texas
- “Their First Kiss” (poem), A Book of the Year, Poetry Society of Texas
- “Cilantro” (short story), TBA
- “Light and Liquor” (poem reprint), Undead: A Poetry Anthology of Ghouls, Ghosts, and More, Apex Publications
- “White Paint” (short story), Cemetery Dance Magazine, Cemetery Dance Publications
- In an extra pleasant surprise, I was nominated in the Published Author category for the Denton Arts & Music Awards by The Detonite, a local paper. (And yes, you can go vote for me!)
I admit, I felt surprised by the time I’d finished that list. I did much more than I’d felt like I did. And when I went through my Joy Jar, I realized why:
Some days the best you can muster is showing up. Not every day can be a kickass, fine art, save-the-world day. That’s okay. Just show up.
— Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) March 28, 2017
It’s because day after day, week after week, month after month, I showed up. I did the work. I made the effort. Even when it didn’t feel good, when the work was slow or hard or crappy, I showed up. And that’s why, piece by tiny piece, I was able to cobble together a year worth making a list about. I’m proud of that. I wish it didn’t take a New Year’s list for me to be proud.
Which brings me to my resolution for 2018: I’m going to celebrate more.
Most writers don’t share the bad news. It’s not good business to share every rejection we get, each time we’re heartbreakingly close, each time we have to scrap or trunk or overhaul a thing we love. But this job is filled with more nos than yeses. I promise you, no matter how successful the writers you follow, they have heartbreak and trial and rejection going on behind the scenes—probably much more of it than the good stuff you get to hear about.
I have a tendency not to want to share my good stuff too much because I’m afraid people will feel like I’m misrepresenting the bigger picture—or worse, bragging. That’s bullshit. I know it’s bullshit, and I’ve already been working on it, but this year I’m going to work on it with more intention. I shouldn’t feel like I need to apologize for landing an amazing story publication or being endorsed by someone I admire or working my ass off to get an ambitious novel written. Each announcement doesn’t need to come with a humility caveat. I should just be happy, and share it, and let the people who want to be happy with me be happy with me. (And the others, well…)
So I will, and I hope you will too. I love to be happy with you all as well.
What do you have to celebrate from 2017? Have you named a resolution for 2018?Share this: