The dumpster fire that was 2020 has put a lot of things in perspective for me, and I’ve decided that in 2021, it’s time to stop thinking about what I want to do and just do it. I’ve always had an interest in writing and publishing, but it’s not something I’ve ever taken that seriously until the last year or so.
Back in 2011, I attended the Stonecoast MFA program in Creative Writing, where I got to work with some great writers and met a lot of really cool people. At the time I was thinking I’d like to be a published author, but I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I’d been writing short stories on and off for about ten years, managed to publish one right out of college in a small magazine that ultimately folded after a couple of issues, and even tried my hand at self-publishing. But I didn’t really understand the industry (or the importance of marketing), and I was still trying to find my voice as an amateur writer.
At Stonecoast, with the help of my colleagues and mentors, I was able to drastically improve my skills, and I learned to finish projects, which culminated in the completion of a 90,000 word novel shortly after I graduated. I did some revisions and queried a few agents (one of whom requested the full manuscript), but ultimately the novel wasn’t strong enough, and somewhere along the way I lost faith in it. In the following months, I tried to keep up the momentum I’d gained in graduate school, but over time my word counts fell and my work/life balance took a hit as I struggled through a series of dead-end jobs and a brief period of unemployment that left me questioning everything I’d believed up until that point.
Gradually, over the next several years, I worked my way through a number of personal and professional problems, managed to write a couple more short stories and a short novel in 2017, then finally decided it was time to take this whole thing seriously. During that period, self-publishing took off and became a viable career path, and I began to explore that as an option, knowing I had to knuckle down and write a lot more if I ever wanted to publish anything. I focused on getting the words written, revising, polishing, and even sent a few stories out to professional magazines (all of which were rejected, but hey, at least I was trying).
In 2020, I successfully completed NaNoWriMo for the second time and wrote a 60,000 word novel. With the quarantine and working from home, I’d found a lot more time in the mornings and evenings than I’d had in the last ten years, and I decided to put that time to good use. I worked hard to set daily word counts and hit them, and that discipline has carried me into 2021. So far, I haven’t missed a day of writing, and I’m finding that the words are coming easier the more I write.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’ve come to understand the importance of building habits, and come good or bad, I’m going to keep writing. I’ve found lots of joy in the process of storytelling, exploring worlds and characters that so far only exist in my imagination. One day I hope to share those worlds and characters with others, be it through self-publishing or more traditional methods, but for now I’m content to just keep producing. Writing is an enjoyable exercise in and of itself, and with this blog I plan to document my progress and (hopefully) set up a system of external accountability.
2020 was a disaster for a lot of people, but it helped me gain some much needed perspective. I was able to unplug from the world, self-reflect, and pursue some new creative avenues free of the distractions of everyday life. In 2021, I plan to keep moving forward, take what I learn, and put it to good use. Life’s too short to waste time thinking about what might have been or what could be under different circumstances. It’s time to get to work.