I had some big goals for 2016. Most of the goals were reasonable, but still some entirely unreasonable ones snuck in. These were the goals I wasn’t going to hold myself to because I had no control over other people’s actions, but I couldn’t help but keep these outlandish expectations as a yardstick.
Maybe I watched too much Parks & Rec because I made a binder for my Writing Year, made quarterly goals, and decorated it with stickers. Some of my goals I now see as unrealistic (like blog 4 times a week. Who has time for that?), and some of them I forgot to write down, because I didn’t realize that those could be worthy goals (read your genre).
In my first quarter, I knocked it out of the park. In fact, I finished early. But by the time the third quarter came around, I lost focus on my goal sheet. I should have looked at it more often, reminding myself of what I set out to accomplish. But I didn’t, and I’m at peace with the fact that I didn’t. Because the story I’m most proud of was written then. It took only one round of submissions before it was published in a magazine I’m proud to be associated with. If I had stayed on track with the binder, I would have never taken the time to write something new that was under 80,000 words.
One of my goals was to submit my manuscript THE SQUARE GRAND to 30 agents this year. Check. I submitted to 34 of them, in fact. I have 27 No Thank Yous, but it is still being reviewed by 6 agents, and one of them has requested a full manuscript.
Another goal was to submit my short story set in the Galapagos until it was published. Apparently, I submitted it 18 times to no avail. I’m in the middle of yet another massive rewrite, and I doubt it will be ready for submission before the New Year hits. This one I can chalk up to unforeseen circumstances–the circumstance being that it wasn’t as good as I thought it was. But that’s okay. Another draft, another direction. Head down, keep working.
But my big failure this year was found in my “Year Long Writing Goals” list. I wanted to finish a draft of a novel called THE BITTER KIND. I know the story, mostly. But I don’t know how to tell it. I know the characters, but I don’t know how to frame it. Above all, this story feels like the work I have to do, but I’m terrified of it. I’ve been writing this novel for so long that my first scenes of it got me into graduate school back in 2003. I’ve written drafts and drafts of it–some upward of 200 pages. I reread it, keeping only a few paragraphs. This was 2016’s White Whale.
But you can’t plan a year in its entirety. I wrote two other manuscripts, of which I’m proud. I’ve submitted those to 22 agents, with five still pending, one of which has a full manuscript.
Snowstorm of No
Earlier in the year, I wrote about how everyone says No. It was a blog post about struggling with repetitive failure, something I think artists experience more acutely than the rest of the population. This is like fighting snow. A few snowflakes are no big deal. A rejection here, a rejection there, it isn’t a big deal. The agent is correct, it isn’t a good fit. Better to know ahead of time than trying to force a working relationship. But the aggregate of the No is what suffocates a person, like the snowflakes that make up the blizzard. Keeping your head down, working, sending out manuscripts seems easy, until one day you look up, smothered in No.
The few, glimmering Yes give you light to see the path again, but the No keeps coming, relentless. It is much harder to focus on the Yes than let the No smother you into a cold, dreamless void sleep.
I also wrote in that blog that setting a goal for publication was idiotic–you can’t control what an editor will take, or what an agent will accept. Better to shoot for rejections. 100 rejections a year seemed reasonable. So did I make it? Almost. I submitted 92 items–some short stories, some novels, a couple of short non-fiction essays.
Pretty darn close. Enough for rounding error.
I know 2016 has been a shit year for a lot of people, and in the wider world, I agree. But just like I’ve been down on my luck when everyone else is riding high, I took chances that paid off this year. I’ve had MORE than my fair share of adventures in 2016. Cheers to past Katie for having the guts to try having a Dream Year. I’d recommend it, even if you can’t accomplish all of your goals. Here’s some images from this past year, a bit of an adventure review.
By the way, 2017, I’m gunning for you.