It probably seems a little odd writing an end of year piece this early in December but there are two reasons for this. First, I tend to consider the start of my year as my birthday rather than the traditional calendar year. My birthday is when I set my goals for the next year. I write them down in a carefully chosen birthday card to open the following year. This year as I read my goals, the one that eluded me was publication, but more on that in a moment. As my birthday was three weeks ago, this is a belated wrap up. The second is, from tonight I am away for about 10 days on a well needed holiday with hubby in Gran Canaria but not before a stop in London for my annual consultant appointments. Then there is Christmas so chances are I won't have time to update my Soundboard till just before New Years.
Explanations aside, let's begin.
I struggled this year ego wise. Every single piece of writing I sent out was rejected. It just wasn't my year. In 2016, I had some fantastic results and I rode that high. 2017 well, I wouldn't say that the rejections broke me, but they bruised my ego. This of course is not necessarily a bad thing when I think about it.
As I looked back at those rejections though, there was something that stood out from previous years' rejections. I actually got feedback 9 out of 10 times and encouragements to resubmit. It is too easy to get caught up on the stigma of rejection and not see that they were not so much a full rejection as a "hey, you're on the right track but perhaps try this." You can write till the end of days and not know where you are going wrong because you haven't had any feedback. That can be crushing when you are finally ready to send out your work and the only feedback you receive is a "Thank you for submitting but..." This year I did stop and take notice of what my peers were saying. That is growth and growth should never be underestimated or taken for granted.
I guess what I am saying is that sometimes the rejection is not so much a rejection but a guiding light towards a new finish line.
The other noticeable difference in 2017 is how my "recovery" time from being rejected was shorter. In previous years, a rejection would mean at least a few days of "what is wrong with me?" Reaching for chocolate or entering my silent mode and wanting to throw something at anyone who dared to say something encouraging when I was in the depths of my own despair. This year, I time boxed my rejection, I still reached for chocolate (91% cocoa, just a small square though because that's healthier) but I made sure I got back in my chair and continued writing. In fact, in spite of nearly 4 months of not being able to write regularly because of both hubby and my health issues; I actually produced more words this year than I have done in previous years. This is also means I have more editing than I have ever been faced with but you can't move forward without the words. It's part of the process and as I look back on 2017, I realise that the process has been something that I have felt each step of the way.
As I mentioned earlier, 2017 health wise was not a brilliant one. Hubby broke his wrist and needed ear surgery for an ongoing condition which meant he needed to be taken care of. For an independent man like him, it wasn't easy and it really brought home how much we work as a team.
I was faced with a serious question of mortality that I had to answer, resulting in lifestyle changes that have gotten easier with each day. I quit smoking over 6 months ago. I smoked for 25 years just to put that into perspective. This has been interesting writing wise in terms of re-reading some of my own work because cigarettes feature in my writing quite a bit and I won't deny that the cravings still rise up when I read those passages but rather than change them, I decided to confront them. Also, I had to start eating better and taking exercise. Rather than join a gym, I bought a treadmill and an exercise bike. I have found that the treadmill has been a great way to work out problems I encounter when writing or just problem solving in general. Honestly, it is the single best piece of exercise equipment ever invented in my opinion. As hard as the initial changes were, I have embraced them now and okay I admit it, I see and feel the benefits.
Too often we focus on the things we haven't done and don't give ourselves props for the things we have done. I like to think of it as the "invisible cage" in our minds. Each thing we haven't done becomes a bar surrounding the space where our accomplishments live. Believe me 2017 was getting me down with the list of things I didn't do which is why I needed to look at things from a different perspective. The journey rather than the destination.
I had hoped to have my collection of short stories published by now. Instead, though, the time I took from not looking at them has proven invaluable to the editing process and I am enjoying reacquainting myself with the characters and the stories again. I also want to finish so I can move forward with other projects. I'm ready to bring this baby home.
I have a real soft spot for the spy genre. This year I decided to try my hand at a spy story which I entered in Ploughshare's Short Story Contest. Though I did not win, I did push myself out of my comfort zone as a writer. That story has now developed into an idea I am pursuing which bring together my interest in Latin American politics, espionage and Post-Colonial studies.
I wrote a draft of a ghost story which lead me down a research trail that brings in my local surroundings here in Cornwall and love of the supernatural. Once again, I stepped out of my comfort zone and it felt great. That story I am planning on entering into the Fiction Desk Ghost Story Competition end of January 2018. Fingers crossed.
I started to engage more as a writer on this blog and created my own social media page which is something I have wanted to do for ages but was nervous about because it is so easy to get lost in social media. Thing is, it has given me a whole new appreciation of how positive social media can be.
Continuing with social media, I have started to pull back from reading the news comments on articles. This is that space where compassion goes to die. It was really having a negative effect on my mental state and by taking a step away, I have been able to keep my head above water current events wise. This process is a work in progress though and I think it will always be. I'm a writer, I will always want to know what is behind door number 2. I guess I just need to remember to open it with caution.
I explored Flash Fiction properly this year. Even submitting some as well. This is a format I have struggled with and still find hard to get my head around in terms of writing, but I faced my fear, put my big boy pants on and did it. Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, I think this is called growth.
So I didn't get published in 2017, this doesn't mean my year was wasted. In fact, it was incredibly productive even with all the hurdles in my path.
Watch out 2018, I'm geared up!
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.