Celebrating 2017

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):

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:

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?

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  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    Wow, Annie – I love this post (well, not the part of your disappointment on the word count; I GET that). I love seeing how much you accomplished, and especially this: “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.” YES to this! Hard work deserves celebration! And lots of it.

    So, congratulations on all that hard work and its payoff! Happy New Year!

    PS Also enjoy your nerddom. Your post is quite similar to my end-of-year post (in the respect of loving your journal. I started bullet journaling last year, and it made a huge difference. I will NEVER be as organized as you, but it’s a start). And, in fact, this morning, I related to your “I showed up” note, too. The goal is to be up by 5 or 5:30 writing and not turning any email on, etc. until 9. And I did that this morning, and plan to do this daily. Well, today… I was tempted by your post, so I cheated on the email/Internet. But it’s going off NOW.

    • Thanks so much, Melissa! Sorry I tempted you off your daily plan, haha. 4 hours of work-first time is an amazing goal! I’m super impressed by that. And I can’t wait to hear about your bullet journaling! Off to find your post!

  • Regina Richards

    Great gains in 2017! Wishing you a fabulous 2018 as well!

  • Caitlin Cunningham

    I teared up when I got to the post-it note. Goosebumps all around <3 I think I'll adopt "showing up" as my mantra for 2018.

    • Aw, thank you sweetheart! That makes me feel good. It’s a powerful mantra for me. A lot of times I feel like all I can do is show up, but then I can do more than I thought I could once I’m there. It’s basically a way to show myself some grace on hard days. I hope it helps you too. <3

  • Carie Juettner

    Congratulations on all you accomplished this year! You work so hard and deserve all the success you get. 🙂

  • These are my favorite posts when you step back and bask in all that you’ve achieved. They’re so inspiring (the fact you revised a novel and drafted nearly 200K words is INSANE). I totally, totally get your crying about the word count not being as high as you expected it to be. And I know you already know this, but damn, 196K to write in a year is a metric shit ton. I enjoyed and empathized with your illustration of a writer’s output versus tangibility of work and income. Regarding showing up, I remember many times this year you posting or tweeting about feeling ill or not wanting to work (because I’m a good stalker like that), and you were there in your chair anyway. And that is something to be proud of. Your discipline amazes me. You amaze me. Celebrate all of your victories and imagine what more you could possibly be setting up the framework for for 2018, given all you achieved with your hard work in 2017. Good job, my friend. Thank you for letting US be happy with YOU!

    • A metric shit ton indeed, haha. I do know, but it’s very nice to be reminded. <3 I actually do need to sit down and do some dreaming about 2018. I've spent plenty of time basking, but I haven't set aside time yet to really do the dreaming yet. Thank you so much, sweet friend. Happy New Year to you!