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My “Writing Year” starts in December because the calendar does not own me

by Dec 16, 2016Evergreen, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), On Writing: Craft and Commiseration, Word Count Updates and Writing Goals0 comments

I know I’ve said this before but I can’t express to you how glad I am that I changed my writing year so that it ends in November. I made this change on a whim back in 2014 and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for both my writing goals and general mental health. It also took a ton of pressure off the already crazy end of the year. I mention this because the calendar doesn’t own you either. Companies can set their own fiscal years, there’s no reason you can’t do the same for whatever your goals are. A resolution need not be tied to the new year. 

For me, November is such a busy month because of all the work I have to do for NaNoWriMo in my role as ML (Municipal Liaison aka Region Head for my NaNo Region). I’m running multiple events a week, dispensing pep and regional news weekly and participant/library partner wrangling daily while also doing my own writing, I usually enter December burned out and overwhelmed. I’ve got to catch up on all the stuff I put off in November when ML-ing was the top priority. Then I get blindsided by the prep, shopping and decorating for the holidays and my daughter’s birthday both, the barrage of orders to my eBay store, last minute doctor’s appointments before the new insurance year runs out, and whatnot.

There it was, the end of my writing year, and instead of powering to the finish and trying to hit my stretch goals, I would limp to the end forever feeling like I didn’t write enough. It was such a let down after the writing highs of November and such a buzzkill way to end the year, I started every New Year in a writing funk. Add to this that the Year in Review spirit of December always left me wanting to spend the month mucking with my writing spreadsheets and calculating my stats from year to year for end-of-the-year closure… when I still had a whole month of writing left.

But now, that crazy sprint to the end of November is also the sprint to the end of my writing year and I can push myself to hit stretch goals for the year by setting them as NaNoWriMo goals. This makes the race to the finish much more satisfying as I can tap into the camaraderie and Write All The Things inspiration of the event, ending the year on a writing high. That Thank God It’s Over Party is extra satisfying when it caps off 12 months of writing on top of the 30 day challenge!  And when I catch that Year in Review fever, there’s nothing stopping me from crunching the numbers on my Yearly Goal because they’re already set in stone.

This year, specifically, we’re playing the ultimate real estate game by racing to buy, sell and move all at once on an insane timetable and I’m also a medical wreck. (I can’t even begin to explain to you how much has been going on. Someday this week alone will make a hilarious TMI chapter in my memoirs.) I’ve given up most of my writing time to doctor stuff and to Christmas shopping (which, fingers crossed, I finished last night apart from a few little food-ish stocking stuffer things I’ve got to get at the grocery store). We’re halfway through the month, I’ve been in a near constant state of LifeStress and I have written pretty much bupkis.

But I’m completely chill about the writing part because this isn’t crunch time. It’s Month One out of Twelve.  And knowing I have a dozen months ahead of me to catch up has taken a ton of the pressure off to the point where I am, oddly enough, getting more good writing done in December and January than I did before I made this change all because I’m in a better headspace.

This huge shift in how I view and work and, in the big picture, what did I actually change? I shifted the deadline on a self-challenge no one cared about but me anyway. I changed my goals so that they fit into the life I was already living instead of trying to cram those deadlines onto the One-Size-Fits-All calendar year just because it was what everyone else was doing. 

Cue Zac Efron singing Breaking Free from High School Musical

If you’re struggling with your goals, the issue may not be how you work but rather the timing. I highly recommend taking a look at your life and the patterns you see happening every year, every month even, and setting a goal that works for you and your life… not just because the calendar said so. Your week can just as easily start on a Wednesday or be 10 days long. Your months can be a firm four weeks long regardless of the number of days the calendar says and a year can start and end whenever you need it to.  When you start to realize the calendar is only an arbitrary way us humans track time, you can free yourself from it and start to build better goals and deadlines that suit your needs.

I leave you with my favorite quote from Peter S. Beagle in The Last Unicorn on this subject…

“When I was alive, I believed–as you do–that time was at least as real and solid as myself, and probably more so. I said ‘one o’clock’ as though I could see it, and ‘Monday’ as though I could find it on the map; and I let myself be hurried along from minute to minute, day to day, year to year, as though I were actually moving from one place to another. Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls.”



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Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

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