In a few days, we’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve 2019 which marks not just the end of the year but also the decade. Social media has been abuzz for weeks with the twin takes of “Make a list of what you accomplished in the last 10 years!” and “Listing your accomplishments is Bad, Actually, and will make you feel terrible so just be happy you’re alive.” And, on one hand, I can see how looking at a list of what someone else accomplished in the last ten years can make you feel terrible which is why I always recommend not comparing yourself to other writers.
But where The Discourse and I diverge is on the motivational value of making a list.
I love lists.
Lists are your friend.
Lists are WAY better than your brain which LIES.
Listing what you accomplished or, heck, even just writing out a simple timeline of what happened in the last 10 years, can be exactly what you need to ground you in reality so you don’t succumb to the twin demons of unreliable memories and imposter syndrome.
How many times have you felt like you haven’t accomplished anything all day / week / month / year and then looked back and realized, huh, actually I did x and y and was also struggling with z at the same time? It’s amazing how easy it is for our brains to sell us on a story where we’re lazy trash when all we need to do is look back at the good old data and see that it’s not true.
We devalue ourselves. We sell ourselves short. We weight the failures more heavily than the accomplishments and it starts to warp how we see our whole world.
While I’m sure it’s happened, I have never heard of creative making a list of what they did and realizing they did less than they thought. Think about how you plan to just jot down the few things you have to do and then that list bloats as you start to remember allllll the other things you forgot you also had to do.
A list of accomplishments expands the same way but it’s a much better feeling.
Relatedly, let me tell you something personal.
I am a sucker for any opportunity to sit back and take stock and a milestone like this is right up my alley. As soon as I realized that we were coming up on the end of the decade, I was incredibly eager to sit down and figure out exactly what I did in the last 10 years. But for me to be able to explain to you the story of this decade, first I need to talk about the previous one.
I have been living in the shadow of 2000-2009 for a long time. Ever since I became a parent and my working hours were cut drastically, I have been frustrated and disappointed in myself. I have worked myself ragged, always looking back at that golden decade of 2000-2009 when I got so much done and comparing it to now when I was barely doing anything in comparison. It haunted me, my past productivity, and the phrase “I’m a has-been” has been running around in my head for years. As much as I was excited to sit down and take stock of the last ten years, I was also afraid to actually look at this pathetically small list of accomplishments and know it was nothing compared to that previous decade.
At the same time, I have wasted so many frustrated moments thinking of the luxurious time before I had kids when I had all the time and mental space in the world. I will never, ever have time like that again! Why oh why did I waste it? I could have gotten so much more done with that time now! And these thoughts consolidated into this continuous background hatred of my past self and her utter sloth compared so how much more I get done now with less time.
I had sold myself on this narrative hard. It haunted me. It was hardwired into everything I did to the point where every night when I sat down to work it was always with this sort of fist shake at past lazy me and a wish for just half that productivity of the past.
And, going back through the blog, I’ve mentioned both of these feelings here multiple times but I never really put them side by side before and realized… they directly contradict each other. How can the previous decade simultaneously be the one where I was super productive AND the one where I was a slug who squandered all my time? It doesn’t hold up after even a moment’s scrutiny but that’s the thing about brains… they lie.
Do you know what I found out when I actually sat down to list what I accomplished between 2010 and now? That almost all of the accomplishments I had attributed to 2000-2009 actually happened in THIS decade, not that one. I finished the list and joked, “Apparently I haven’t accomplished anything that WASN’T in this decade?”
And, at first, I thought this was just validation of my past self’s sloth but when I decided to take the time to write out everything I did in 2000-2009, I realized my memory had failed me even worse than I thought.
This decade I had been picturing as a golden age of sitting around and wasting valuable writing time doing nothing? Was a decade when I completely forgot I HAD A FULL-TIME JOB the whole time! That I not only worked 40+ hours a week (doing the soul-sucking NYC commute for a good chunk of it) but also worked TWO additional jobs on the weekend (part-time at a theatre several nights a week and as a horseback riding instructor and groom on the weekends) all while STILL somehow running my eBay company and the booming publishing service business I used to run. Not to mention that I somehow found time to write and publish 6 books in that time under pen names.
Even when I switched to working full time from home (for a publishing company) in 2006, I was still working the two part-time jobs and doing the eBay and publishing services on top of the 40 hours a week AND I took on another part-time job as a webmaster of a theatre for a year of that. I didn’t even switch my hours to part-time until early-2010 and it wasn’t until the very end of 2010 that I was truly on my own for good. Add to this that 2012 was a kind of lost year because I was horribly sick first with three months of whooping cough (do not recommend) and then with pregnancy complications all while dealing with a bunch of challenging personal issues so I was out of commission nearly the whole year.
Which means that this golden decade, this long stretch of glorious time when I had nothing to do but work on my stuff that I have been obsessed with for way too many years? It was one year. ONE.
And in that year? I wrote the first draft of two novels, revised one of those novels and started querying it with great results, wrote two full-lengths and one two-act plays and wrote most of eBay Marketing Makeover and WAS STILL RUNNING A POWERSELLING EBAY BUSINESS AND BLOGGING EVERY DAY on two blogs.
When I actually wrote this all out, it blew my mind. I have spent years and years thinking of THIS Hillary as a slacker? The real story of looking back this decade is the redemption of Past Me. I have gone from being constantly furious at past me for squandering time we’ll never get back to wondering how the heck I did all that without losing my mind. I did Past Me dirty, as the kids say, and realizing just how wrong I had the story of my own life was a huge eye-opener.
I have never gone to therapy but this feels a lot like what I imagine a breakthrough is like. It was a realization that changed EVERYTHING about both how I work and how I view my own life story.
It also reaffirmed my belief that keeping lists and records and noting dates isn’t just useful for goal setting, it’s absolutely essential for keeping sane. You can’t always trust your memory but there’s no arguing with the good old data you have down in black and white.
Which is all to say, ignore The Discourse and do yourself the favor of writing out what you did in the last decade and maybe the one before that too. You don’t have to share it with anyone and maybe it will make you feel a little disappointed that you didn’t get more done but I can promise you it will still be worth doing and the results will surprise you.
I mean, who knew?
They’re a gamechanger.
Anyway, if you were curious, here is exactly what my decade looked like…
This was a huge decade for the hus and I personally with the birth of our two amazing kiddos (2012 & 2017) and all the wonder and absolute chaos they brought to our lives. It feels weird that this is only a single line on this list when it completely changed our lives and took up 95% of our time but there we are. But those little rascals are funny and sweet and so so gloriously weird and they are the very best part of life!
We also sold our first house (three times because buyers kept backing out, it suuuuuucked) at last in 2017 after 10 years there and bought a new house that we are still, as of my writing this, not fully moved into because we have lost control of our lives.
In sadder news, this was the decade when I lost all three of my grandparents. My grandmothers passed within three months of each other mid-2012 (while I was pregnant with Kiddo #1) and then we just lost my grandpa this fall.
Healthwise, this was also the decade when I finally figured out how to (mostly at least) manage all my weird digestive issues and also got a diagnosis on the sleep issues that I’ve been struggling with my entire life. Of course, it’s also the decade when I no longer had time to go to the gym regularly (since 2012 😭) so one of my main goals for the next decade is to find a solution to that because the lack of exercise compounds the other two issues in many ways.
The chaotic nature of life with little kids has also wreaked absolute havoc with my insomnia so this was also the decade of basically no sleep ever but that’s a continuous work in progress. And, of course, I’m struggling under the same crushing weight of anxiety and fear that we’ve all been since everything took an abrupt turn downward in 2016 and I’m not confident that’s ever going to turn around.
This year I also closed down a fan site I’ve been running since 1995 for a lot of reasons many of which were icky so I’m not getting into them. That said, the Facebook Page alone had millions of followers so it was not a decision I made lightly!
I also left Facebook early 2019 (though I retain an account there to manage my pages). This shouldn’t feel like a milestone but so many of my friends are completely obsessed with that site, it feels like one.
In 2010, I cut my hours at my job back from full time to part-time and then left the job entirely at the end of the year with the intentional of finally giving the writing thing a real try while I focused on my company full time. It’d been writing on and off, of course, (my first NaNoWriMo win was 2007 and I’ve never lost since) but it was sporadic and not with any plan or consistency.
In 2011, I started to build my writing life (shameless plug!) in earnest. It’s when I started my spreadsheet and started keeping track of how much and how often I wrote so I could fine-tune and focus my efforts. In a lot of ways, it marked the beginning of everything and I don’t know that anything I accomplished this decade would have been possible if I hadn’t taken that essential first step.
I have all sorts of graphs and whatnot to show how my writing changed in these 9 years but I’ll save that for next year when I have a full decade to look at.
Published / Out the Door
Here’s what I put out into the world this decade, either by publication or by having available for productions. Dates are approximately when works were either published or made available to the public in some form. With most of the plays, they were made available much earlier than the listed publication date but this at least gives you an idea.
- The Love of Three Oranges (2011)
- Daddy Issues (2011)
- Polar Twilight (2012)
- Beyond Amazon, eBay and Etsy (writing as T. W Seller) (2013)
- New Year’s Thieve (2014)
- The Love of Three Oranges (one-act version) (2014)
- Sell Their Stuff (writing as T. W. Seller) (2014)
- Weak Days (2015)
- eBay Marketing Makeover (writing as T. W Seller) (2015)
- Goosed! (2015)
- The Green Bird (2016)
- The Green Bird (one-act) (2016)
- The She-Bear (2016)
- NaNo What Now? (2016)
- Three Padded Walls (2016)
- Vardiello (2016)
- The Complete Novels of Jane Austen: Now New and Improved! (2016)
- Masks (2016)
- The Tale of Tales (2017)
- The (Completely Inaccurate) Legend of the Mummy Witch House (2017)
- The Myrtle (2017)
- The 4th Orange (2017)
- Arm Candy (2017)
- The Raven / Lenore (2019)
- The Fourth Orange and Other Fairy Tales You’ve Never Even Heard of (2019)
- The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Storm (2019)
- Building a Writing Life (2019)
I was also part of three anthologies:
Writing In Progress
I wrote A LOT in the last 10 years, even with the hiccups and complications (coughKIDScough) and not all of it is ready for primetime yet or maybe ever. But all that work in progress is a big part of the story of the last decade so let’s take a look at it.
- Wrote, rework and queried with great results the novel nicknamed Mistress Novel. Then rewrote it again from scratch in 2015 before finally deciding to trunk it this year.
- Wrote and reworked and reworked again multiple drafts of the project nicknamed Asplode
- Wrote the first draft of a novel nicknamed Clone Rocker (this is the only one I haven’t touched since I finished it during NaNoWriMo 2014)
- Wrote and rewrote (sooo many times *cries*) the novel nicknamed WOC
- Wrote two additional versions of Sell Their Stuff that I had to scrap because of changes eBay made to the Trading Assistant program.
- eBay Marketing Makeover is part of a planned trilogy and I wrote most of the two additional books
- I also have complete first drafts of the following writing books I hope to have published in the next year or so: 2 books on playwrighting, a book on writing with dictation, a book on prepping for a major writing project, a ton of material I wrote for NaNoWriMo that I plan to organize into book of writing pep
- My eBay Memoir project that I decided to just publish bit by bit on The Whine Seller for now until I decide what I ultimately want to do with it
I have WAY too many plays in progress to list but there are at least 10 full length or longer one-act plays that I made significant progress on this decade and dozens of more short plays. There are a lot of reasons why I have so many plays I’ve done significant work on in the last decade that aren’t available in any way but it’s not worth going into other than to say: I’m working on whittling down that list.
Keep in mind that I only started considering myself a playwright and writing plays for real since mid-2011 so, even though I’m nearly two dozen plays deep at this point, I still have basically no idea what I’m doing.
- I started The Whine Seller in March of 2010 and blogged there at least three times a week for several years. Posted 959 posts there this decade.
- While this blog predates this decade, I posted 571 posts here in the last 10 years
- Both this blog and The Whine Seller were redesigned this decade to be more mobile-friendly
- Switched hosting for all my sites which was a huge ordeal but ultimately worth it
- Blogged under my pen name for my company website for most of this decade.
- Also had a freelance gig as a company blogger for an e-commerce company that I think folded before they posted a single post of mine so that’s awkward
Misc Writing Milestones
- Became a NaNoWriMo ML (2010-present)
- Became a Script Frenzy ML (2010 to program end in 2012)
- Was a regular guest on several podcasts and eBay Radio as T. W. Seller
- Special guest and speaker at multiple eBay and My Little Pony conventions, both under pen names
- Many random speaking engagements and freelance writing gigs in there somewhere
- Split all my writing, which used to be all under my real name, out into pen names to make branding easier
- Finally split my writing out into its own business separate from my retail company
My record-keeping from the early years is not great so I’ll never know the exact number but I’ve had about 375 productions of my plays in the last 10 years. The biggest chunk of that is, of course, The Love of Three Oranges, but, thanks to inclusion in some popular anthologies, some of the short plays are also pulling their weight.
When you consider that I only rarely send out submissions and instead rely mostly on my mailing list and publisher for productions, that ain’t too shabby! I’m not opposed to submissions, just too pressed for time to do them with any regularity right now. Hopefully, if my schedule stabilizes someday I can submit more and that will magnify the reach of what I’m already doing.
I almost never talk about my company here and the poor thing as been the most neglected in the last decade because something had to give but it’s still been chugging along in the background even if I had to scale it back since the kids were born. We released two big books and still sold a lot of collectibles and other stuff even if our inventory is a fraction of what it usually is. We also launched our own webstore and totally redid the website to be more mobile-friendly.
The biggest change this decade happened in the last year and I mentioned it above. I finally untangled the mess of my company and my writing and separated them into the two businesses they should have been all along. This was a ton of work no one will ever really notice but important to do and it means more and better things for both companies in the future.
So, that’s the decade!
It’s funny, even as there is so much more on this list than I thought there was when I started this, there’s still that lingering little feeling of, oh, if only I’d gotten more done. I think it’s impossible to be completely satisfied with how much you did when you’re ambitious and there’s still so much you want to do. But there’s also no denying that it’s pretty darn satisfying to look at that big ole list and say, dang, I did all that? Go me!
And the revelation figuring it all out gave me has completely reshaped how I view myself and my work. I’m going into the next decade with a much healthier and more realistic sense of where I’ve been and where I’m going.
So if you’re still somehow reading this ridiculously long post, thank you for being here for all or part of the last decade and I encourage you to take a minute to make your own list of exactly what you did in the last decade. It’s inspiring, motivational and, most of all, helps you counter the sneaky lies our brains try to sell us on.