Friday, December 30, 2011

Big, Fun and Scary 2011- The Year In Review

1) 211 IN 2011!
This is my 210th blog post for the year in which I am reviewing what I have accomplished from my big, fun scary challenge list.  Tomorrow will be my big, fun scary challenge for 2012.  Short of the world actually ending on new year’s eve (which I think was limited to the cusp of the new millennium, anyway) I will be writing my 211th blog post tomorrow and therefore completing this challenge.  I’m confident enough in my chances of the world not ending to call this one done.

Reading back through the posts for the year I’ve discovered quite a lot of lessons that I didn’t set out with the intention of learning.  I set out with the goal of high volume thinking that it would lead me to develop a habit- like brushing my teeth.  It has not done that.  I am no more able to write without the neuroses in my head driving me mad now than I was before and I have no intention of setting another high-volume challenge for myself next year.

But here’s what I have learned:  The Flash Friday community of writers is a truly amazing place to be. And if you truly do rise (or sink) to the level of the company you keep then these are people I definitely want to be around if I want my writing to improve.  While I won’t make any promises of posting every Friday I will promise to keep posting my short stories within that community because the feedback and sense of good company is far too great to lose.  I am hopeful that not putting the pressure on myself to write so often will lead me to write and revise so that when I post, even if it took a couple weeks to get ready, it will be a better product than if I just wrote and posted in a desperate attempt to make the timeline.

I like writing non-fiction.  I have a weird notion in my mind that non-fiction is somehow a less noble calling than fiction so I give myself more credit for completing the flash stories or NaNoWriMo or some other fiction piece.  But the movie reviews, the history of holidays, the personal entries about my thought processes and the observations on the world I live in are actually pretty damned significant to me.  I admit that I wrote a lot of those because of that 211 challenge but I discovered something in the process: I actually like writing them.  With my fiction, I doubt and judge and drive myself mad with criticism.  With my non-fiction I seem to do that less, enough to actually enjoy the process sometimes.  That’s too big of a boost to give up on, so expect to see more of that in 2012.

I have, in spite of all those previously mentioned neuroses, grown over the course of this year.  Not enough to have built aspirations for publishing on a level beyond this blog but enough that I want to keep going and keep challenging myself to do something different.  To fail better.
In May I was lucky enough to start work at a pretty great company after a mere three weeks of not working.  Having the guts to trust my gut and quit without another job lined up has had the biggest impact on me of just about anything I’ve ever done.  The world not ending, me not breaking down, the better job becoming available with pretty great timing all pointed to the fact that giving up my previous worldviews and shifting to a perspective that might actually be right for me is not only possible but actually has quite a lot to back it up in terms of real-world experience.  That, even more than the job, is why this was so incredibly important to me.
I’ve written about the simple pleasures of my new job in here quite a lot- the sunny office, the wonderful potlucks, the competent co-workers and the unimaginably laid-back nature of my boss keep me not only sane but, most of the time, pretty damned content with my job.  But, like anything else in my life, it is not permanent.  While it is a great job I am firm in my belief that that’s all it is- a job.  It is not the career I want, not anymore.  The tough part is that I have no earthly idea what is.  But that’s another challenge.
When I wrote that goal back at the end of 2010 I did have a specific novel in mind: the 2010 NaNoWriMo novel.  I have not, despite an additional NaNoWriMo challenge in August, completed that novel.  But I’m ok with that because I did finish A novel- my NaNoWriMo novel for this year.  And here’s why I’m counting that for this challenge: because it taught me what I hoped to learn about finishing a novel.  That it is thrilling and exciting and wonderful to be able to write those two little words: the end.  And that it is, despite that breathtaking sensation, still just the beginning of the process.
All the pep talks, all the other writers, everyone who’s involved in the process of their own creativity says that editing is where the real challenge begins.  Rewriting is where the story gains wholeness, gets connected, becomes more than just a brilliant mess of ideas.  And so editing is, needless to say, my next big challenge.
This was the most definite (i.e. nothing short of a shot to the head was going to stop me from doing it) but also most reinforcing challenge for me this year.  It reinforced the awesome belief that I’m capable of so much more than I think I am if I stop listing to that horrifically critical voice in my head.  It reinforced the awesome feeling I get from being a part of that community, that family of martial artists.  It reinforced how incredibly important that part of my life is and how desperately I’d be asking for madness if I ever stopped doing it. 
I didn’t write much about it, simply because it’s hard to put that experience into words.  (And because we're not allowed to talk about it in public forums such as this.)  But suffice it to say that it will continue to be a very big, very important part of my life not just in the coming year, but for a long time to come.
This is an on-going process, obviously.  But having recently done a review of this year of my life in conversation with a friend I have pin pointed quite a lot of really significant changes in this department.  As I mentioned earlier in #2, having quit that literally soul-sucking job without knowing where I ‘d end up was a life changing moment.  Accepting that the career path I set out on is not one I want to stay on has been life changing.  Seeing this world so drastically differently with this new perspective has been a cavalcade of life-changing moments.  Coming to grips with life not being at all what I was taught it would be and learning that nothing works the way I thought it did continues to be life changing.  But I’m more at peace with that massive realization than I ever have been before.   My new mantra on that front has been “You’re not supposed to know and no one can tell you.” 
I’m not supposed to know how the world- or life- works.  And the more I see of people who think they know the less I believe what they tell me.  My life is going to be one surprise after another until the day I die.  Things will work out differently at the end then I thought they could at the start.  I will become someone, not completely different than I am now, but significantly less like what I think I have the potential to be at this point in my life.  And instead of reacting to all that with fear, I’m going to try my damndest to greet each new unexpected change with acceptance and, with any luck, a little grace.
For those of you who followed any of my progress over the past year by reading these crazy little posts of mine, I can't thank you enough.  This blog, and the responses I've gotten from those who have read it, has meant so much to me in this process of growth.  So thank you.

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