2016: A Circus in Review

Wow, if I could go back in time to 2015 and tell myself what was in store for the year ahead? I wouldn’t, I would say, “No, that me was in bed by ten o clock, let her sleep in quiet, safe oblivion for just a little longer.”

Needless to say, even though we shall all still say it, this year sucked. But I can say I’ve learned a great deal about myself, the world, and writing. On a personal level I struggled through the fall with nearly overwhelming depression, but came through with a few 2 AM revelations that have at least helped me put things into perspective. I’ve started to feel the pavement beneath me on our walks again, and the birdsong filters in through the windows as more than just noise. Despite the myth of creative types needing some inner darkness to create, really the demons just make you blind to whatever may be inside that could come out…

So here’s a look back at what I’ve accomplished, and a look forward at what I hope to achieve.

  1. The novel. Oh man, how many others out there fought the same battle? With my first draft complete I realized that it all was… well, a series of unfortunate events. None of the things happening to my protagonists were really relevant to their story on a personal level. I learned my lesson just by rereading it, and have been meticulously devouring Story Genius by Lisa Cron as I attempt to rein in that crazy plot and have it work around my story, not against it.
  2. I went on some amazing trips that afforded me great photography opportunities. Time off is hard to come by; but we take the occasional two-nighter to the coast or the mountains, and our last two visits to Lake Tahoe were stunning. The first in May, with snow still falling, then in October, when the world was gold. We also visited Fort Bragg, California, with it’s dark cliffs and towering redwoods and quiet autumn streets.
  3. I began to work on my old loves- short stories and poetry, once again. My first attempt at rediscovering poetry led to a four part series where I researched the relationships between writers and their lovers, building found poetry around their letters and journal entries. I especially enjoyed learning about Emily Dickinson; she’s no longer a strange “lady in white” ensconced in her attic, never speaking, pining away for unloving gentlemen. Now she’s a women of flesh and blood and humor and wanting, and it’s made her work so much more alive.
  4. My reading, I feel, was a little lack luster. I’ve still got a stack of books from April waiting to be conquered, with more added from Christmas. You can see the book reviews I did here, but here’s a quick summery of the highlights.
  • Quiet, by Susan Cain. I joined the masses in reading this, and came away with a better understanding of myself. Habits and reactions I’ve had since I was a child make sense to me, and it gave me the peace of mind I needed to feel (a little) less like a complete misfit.
  • On Writing, by Stephan King. I’ll admit it, I’ve never read anything by the man. But! It’s not because I don’t appreciate what he does, on the contrary, I appreciate it so much that it terrifies me. The Anita Blake series gave me nightmares- I don’t know if I’m strong enough to handle Mr. King’s works of fiction. That being said, this book is lovely. Gave me the kick I needed to dive into the second draft, I intend to pick it up again once spring returns, as a reminder that the struggle is real, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.
  • Martin Marten, by Brian Doyle. Written from the perspective of a young man in high school (Martin) and a local pine marten, this books tells the tale of growing up in a small mountain community. It is sad and happy and beautiful and violent and very, very human.
  1. This blog has had it’s ups and downs as well, considering while I was at my darkest moments I accomplished almost nothing creatively. I’ve found a steadier rhythm now, and have set aside (to some extent) the crippling self-doubt that was telling me every idea I had was stupid. I know everyone has this problem, and if we all listened to that voice, nothing would get accomplished.

So, what’s in store for 2017?

Well, besides striking a careful balance in which I try to stay well informed on important world news while also not climbing under a rock to spend the rest of my existence? (“No, no! It’s fine! Don’t move the rock, I’ve just now gotten comfortable with the damp and earth worms.”)

  1. I want to read outside of my usual circles. For so long I stuck to white, male fantasy, mostly because that was what was available in my small town libraries and bookstores. This year I want to read more, not only from different genres, but different people. Native Americans, North Koreans, Black activists, transgender students, and on and on, never limiting myself.
  2. I’d like to tackle my own NaNoWriMo, probably in the summer months, so I can hole up in the back of the apartment for long periods of time without getting hypothermia. I’m developing the basics for this project while taking notes from Story Genius and refining my novels story development.
  3. I’ll be studying short story formatting and poetry next, and would like to try my hand at different forms of verse. I’ll probably dig out some of my older work and refine that as well. I completed a series of four vignettes based around the seasons that has inspired me to find other collections to write for (the days of the week, the zodiac, the months, etc.), and am looking forward to the challenge for interweaving seemingly disconnected narratives.
  4. Go somewhere new! Try something different. I find myself feeling very frustrated with the stagnant life. I need knew sights and sounds and challenges. This year we went whale watching, next year I’d like to take a trail ride on horseback on the coast, go to some museums, explore more, even if I’m stuck to staying within a days drive of my home.
  5. Start drawing again. Basically I want to channel as much of the creativity that I used to as possible. I’ll never be a realist with my art style, but I’d love to be able to illustrate simple cartoons.
  6. Take things less personally and ignore the negative. I’ve got a lot to do, and I don’t have time to be bogged down by other peoples anger. There will be highs and lows, good days and bad. But there is a light and it never goes out…

 

So there it is, happy new year to each and every one of you. Good riddance, 2016! May we be bold, strong, true and loving. Here’s to a year of creativity and hope.

 

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