I noticed a lot of reflection going on and thought what the heck, I might as well join in. 2017 has been a heck of a year for me, that’s for sure.
It started out with me being unemployed, spending the new year for the first time ever away from home (I was in Nova Scotia). It also saw, for the first time ever, my first opportunity to play at being a full-time writer. Okay not as full-time as I would have liked since I was pretty persistent at trying to find archaeology work, as it was also the first year that I didn’t want to just get any job, but I wanted to try to get a job doing what I love.
As if being stuck at home on a daily basis with nothing but my thoughts and ever-present writer’s guilt (I would argue that it’s worse the more time you have to write) wasn’t enough. I was also trying to worm my way into the London, Ontario archaeology community. I’m proud to say that I attended a chapter meeting all on my own and found there, not only a great volunteer position at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, but also some truly wonderful people. So, I spent the first half of the year writing, volunteering and going to job interviews.
Onto the second half of the year, where I had to make a pretty tough choice and decide that while my lovely partner Ben was working in Ontario, I would have to come back to Calgary and help on a big excavation. Because I really needed paid work. And this led me back to working full-time and trying to write. It’s not too bad in the field, other than being physically tired, being in a hotel is largely distraction-free and I can just sit down and make myself comfy. But working in the lab and trying to write is another story. I’m a baby archaeologist, which means there is so much that I’m still learning. I’m mentally exhausted at the end of every day. And to top it off, I’m spending 2.5-3 hours on a bus every day. My writing time has dwindled to not usually more than an hour a night and usually, that hour is spent sitting there half snoozing. I’m working on it, but looking forward to having more time to dedicate to my writing.
So now that we’ve made it through the crazy personal stuff, what the heck have I learned as a writer?
I learned a few things about writing full-time. First, it’s exhausting. I can barely handle being that creative and mentally engaged for more than a few hours a day. Second, it’s lonely. When you spend all day, every day by yourself the loneliness gets to you (On the other hand I had some fantastic talks with my cat/muse, Nichi). Third, it’s easier to get sucked into the pit of despair. See, normally when I start feeling bad about my writing there’s somewhere else to go to get a forced break from my writing, like work or school. And as much as I rage against these things because they can be frustrating, I find it really hard to step away from my work on my own when I’m frustrated. Instead, I spiral.
Twitter is an amazing place! Seriously, I can’t get over the writing the community on twitter. Full of amazing, supportive and hilarious people. I’ve become one of those people who talks about my twitter friends. I joined on a whim and it was the best whim I had this year. I also joined the turtlewriters community on Twitter, which has been great for me. While I don’t write slowly so to speak, I edit at a glacial pace. I’ve been working on the same three chapters for the past month and they are not yet where I feel good about them. I’m starting to embrace the slow pace at which I work and I think that’s good. It’s not a race.
Sharing my work can be both good and rewarding. At some point during November (? might have been October) I decided to pitch in #CPMatch on a whim (second best whim of the year). I wasn’t expecting much from it, I threw my pitch together pretty quickly, but to my shock and awe, there were people interested in reading/critiquing my work in progress. While some matches didn’t work out, I met a wonderful woman who has been so patient and helpful with critiquing my work and has really encouraged me. Even in the few weeks that we’ve been sending pages back and forth, I can see my work improving drastically. And of course, my confidence has really gone up. I’ve felt for so long that no one could possibly be interested in the stories I have to tell, but I’m starting to feel excited about sharing my work again.
The last thing I learned is probably the most important. It’s not ready until it’s ready. I really wanted to finish Erut’s Choice this year and start querying it (I mean I’ve been working on it for a ridiculous amount of time) but the reality is, it’s just not ready. In fact, it’s nowhere near ready. See, I have this vision of how I want it to be and what I ended up writing just doesn’t line up. At first, I thought that was okay, maybe I could query it as NA or YA and no problem. But as I started editing more (and finished the third book in the series) I found the voice. It’s a sort of melancholic, sardonic tone I think (maybe I’m fooling myself) but once it clicked, I realized exactly what I wanted to do to the other two books to get that same feeling and I’ve been working away on it.
Oh, and I’m very certain that I have a lot more to learn about being a writer, and I’m really looking forward to all the lessons that 2018 will bring!
And for those of you who are interested in my writing year in numbers:
total words: 492889
I’m not sure how to quantify my editing, but I’ll share the stage of each of my WIPs:
Erut’s Choice: middle of 6th draft – 11297/143741 rewritten
Erut’s Game: 2nd Draft – 149963 words
Erut’s Queen: 1st Draft – 188629 words
WIP 4: unfinished – 136116 words
So, what did you learn this year? What are you looking forward to in 2018?