My understanding of sports can be best summarized by the time I looked up at the TV and asked my husband if he was watching “Monday Monday Football Monday” and he just looked at me, looked at the TV, looked back at me and said…
“It’s Tuesday? And this is hockey?”
But despite my inability to tell a quarterback from a Zamboni, I am going to use a sports cliche because 2019?
2019 was a rebuilding year.
See, at the start of this year, I realized I was looking at least at least four more years until I’d get a more consistent writing schedule with reliable working hours so, if I really wanted to get more done with what little time I had, I would have to get EVEN MORE ORGANIZED. So I invented a totally new system for how I work and manage projects that I talked a bit about here. A big part of that new system was prioritizing the list of big projects on my radar and making my peace with the fact that I was going to need to spend 2019 focusing on a lot of behind-the-scenes, administrative work that I had to do and less on things like writing projects I wanted to do.
In other words, it was a rebuilding year.
In sports, a rebuilding year means a year when a team is more focused on finding and training new players, building up the team and reorganizing the coaching staff on the back end and less on winning games. My plan for 2019 was to focus on backstage restructuring, not on big public wins. With the exception of the publication of Building a Writing Life, all of my writing projects were relegated to my list of stretch goals I’d only get to if there was time.
And I was totally fine with this.
OK, maybe not.
Because, no matter what the expression is meant to convey, as I have come to understand it from watching my husband and his father watch sports over the years, “It’s a rebuilding year” is a thing you say when your team is losing and conveniently forget about when they are winning. A fan is perfectly willing to accept that a team needs some time to rebuild as an excuse for a loss for a little while but then as soon as there’s the smallest sniff of victory, all talk of rebuilding years and lowered hopes go out the window and their hopes go up up up! And this is exactly what happened to me as well.
Even though I had told myself 2019 was a rebuilding year, even though my list of Must Do projects for the year were almost all administrative with writing projects saved for stretch goals, as soon as I started to make progress, I immediately forgot all about it being a rebuilding year and got my hopes up up up! I started to dream up stretch goals beyond the stretch goals I already had and when I couldn’t reach these unrealistic targets, I got frustrated and discouraged.
So, though I ended this year having accomplished every single thing I had put on my list of things I HAD to do and even a few on the list of things I WANTED to do… I still have this illogical feeling of disappointment that I didn’t somehow also do ALL THE THINGS ON ALL LISTS EVER! Moreover, even though I worked my butt off this year, because so much of the work was behind the scenes, I don’t really have anything to publically show for it and the lack of tangible evidence of all that hustle gives me the usual weirdness of feeling like I haven’t accomplished enough.
As is often the theme on this blog, sometimes this all comes down to “Hillary’s brain is weird” because, no matter how much I do, I always seem to be stuck in this loop of feeling like I didn’t do enough and I’m not sure there is really a cure for that. But the fact that I did make that paper list at the start of the year of exactly what I wanted done by the end and now I can look back on it with every single thing checked off really does help keep that particular doubt monster at bay. And, ideally, now that this rebuilding year is behind me and most of my important backstage projects are finally done, in the future, I’ll be able to give more of my focus to writing and other more public wins!
So, let’s look at the Write-olutions I set in December of last year and see how I did…
Goal: Focus on output rather than word count.
This was a huge shift for me because I have always measured my writing progress in word count but this year I did not set a word count goal. At all. Instead, I just focused on one project at a time, moving on when it was completed. I still kept track of my daily word count and time, of course, but I didn’t intentionally chase the numbers or pay much attention to them, even during NaNoWriMo.
Goal Status: Somehow, by ignoring my word count, I wrote more than I ever have before. 2019 was a record word count year for me. I wrote 776,896 words total, 60% of which were new (aka not editing). I wrote 82% of the days this year (I mean it when I say I don’t write every day!) and my highest word count months were November (because of NaNoWriMo, of course!), April (again, a NaNoWriMo month) and, randomly, March.
While the only thing I actually released this year was my new book about starting a writing habit, Building a Writing Life, I also completed two new short plays I’m very proud of that I hope to be able to share more info about with you soon. I also wrote three non-fiction books during this year’s NaNoWriMo and first drafted several additional plays I hope to have to share very soon. Last, but certainly not least, I took three writing classes this year, all three of which contributed significantly to my skill level and will mean better things in the future!
It seems weird to say I had one of my biggest writing years ever and then basically have almost nothing to show for it in terms of new releases but I think that’s part of the nature of the rebuilding year. Stuff happened this year, it’s just not necessarily stuff you’ve seen yet on the field. But just you wait until next season! 😉
Goal: Data my way to self-care.
Ever since I had kids, I have been accomplishing things at the expense of taking care of myself in many ways some of which is my fault and some of which isn’t. My goal for this year was to try to gameify myself to better health by increasing my physical activity and increasing the amount I sleep (because bad insomnia + young kids + more work to do than hours to do it in = I get waaay less than the recommended amount of sleep for an adult human and it’s a PROBLEM).
Goal Status: Still a work in progress. I got a FitBit tracker this year to track my fitness and I managed to exercise almost every single day which was good… but I didn’t really increase my activity so much as I just started keeping track of the stuff I knew I was already doing. I am pretty active, I knew that going in, it just made me realize that the bigger problem for my overall health is the lack of sleep.
I had hoped the FitBit would track my sleep so I could start to use that data to make tweaks to increase the amount of sleep I got but it didn’t work for that AT ALL so that was a dead end. While I did make an effort to go to sleep early as many nights as I could, it was often a waste of time because insomnia kept me up for hours anyway. I’m going to keep working at it but I’m not sure there is a solution to the sleep thing until the kids are a little older and evenings are more predictable.
But I am going to try increasing my physical activity even more next year to see if it helps!
Goal: Organization and Prioritizing.
I wanted to totally reorganize my list of projects and works in progress and better prioritize what I’m working on.
Goal Status: Achieved! I am tremendously thrilled with my new system and it really worked well for me this year. Basically I’m going to be using it unchanged going into 2020. At some point, I’ll try to explain the whole complicated disaster in a blog post if anyone is interested but it’s a combination of Kanban boards, daily tasks, weekly planning sessions to make sure I’m on track and a zillion reminders because I have no brain.
Goal: Limiting my focus.
Instead of trying to work on everything at once and never really finishing anything, like I usually do, this year I wanted to limit my focus to only a few projects at a time. The idea was that it would motivate me to finish a project so I could clear space to start the next one.
Goal Status: In a lot of ways, this worked great, but there was one major flaw I need to take into account when I tweak this for next year. While focusing on only a few projects at a time meant getting more done overall, I totally forgot to take into account that my schedule was already filled with a lot of “projects” I didn’t factor in and that totally messed me up.
A simple example of this was that I thought I was giving myself an easy October of only the final publication details of Building a Writing Life and I couldn’t understand why I was frazzled and overwhelmed all month. Then I realized that things like planning my daughter’s class party, getting the costumes ready for Halloween, and prepping for NaNoWriMo are all projects too, even if they happen every year, and I had forgotten to include them in my plan. Instead of just doing the one project I had on my list, I was actually juggling four big projects.
Next year, I plan to do a better job of keeping the calendar and recurring events like this in mind when I plan out my work/writing schedule so I’m not overloading myself.
Goal: Let things go.
There are SO MANY things I want to do and write and accomplish in this lifetime but I realized I needed to let some of it go because keeping that list of everything I wanted to do in my entire life in mind at all times was working like mental clutter and keeping me back from getting anything done at all.
Goal Status: It’s hard but it’s happening. Several times this year, I took a deep breath, said “DAMN THE SUNK COSTS!!” and let things go. I deleted a huge website I’ve been running since 1995 that had become more of a hassle than a pleasure. I officially trunked a novel I always thought I’d get back to someday. I turned down an opportunity I would have normally felt obligated to accept. And it’s scary every time but it’s also freeing and kind of clarifying to just, whoosh, take that whole big thing off your list for good.
My last goal for the year was to Ride It Out because I knew it was going to be a hard and unpredictable year with the kids still being so young and the world being what it is but, here we are, one year later and everyone is good so that’s really all you can ask for!
My kids are amazing and healthy and growing like little sea monkies and I am, somehow, still in the game despite having no structure or time to speak of. We are still not even remotely unpacked from our move nearly three years ago now and the laundry often takes weeks to get put away but the important stuff gets done so it’s not too bad. We have a good time and there is smile and laughter every day. I won’t say 2019 was the best year but we certainly made the best of what it was and that’s not nothing.
Because my writing year ends in November, December is this kind of noman’s land where I don’t really feel obligated to start on my big writing projects for next year yet and I should really be finishing up the last few things I wanted to do this year… but there’s so much to do for the holidays that I’m just trying to hang on. Right now, I’m using the time between holiday obligations (being a parent in December is like picking up an additional part-time job even without my oldest’s birthday being this month too!) to read a bunch of books on writing craft that came up during the classes I took this past year to expand upon what I learned. I took a few too many out at once so it’s been a lot of cramming to get them all read before they are due back but it’s sparked a lot of new ideas I’m excited to try out when I get back to writing properly soon.
Of course, 2019 is also the end of the whole decade and you KNOW I’ve got to do a recap post about that so stay tuned for that before the end of the year. Until then, hope your 2019 was great on all levels and have a wonderful holiday season!