First--I just realized the last few posts had the comments switched off! Sorry about that. I used blogspot and Wordpress for so long that I sometimes forget Squarespace has different settings. In this instance, I have to turn them on before actually posting. Squarespace is so great in some ways... but, like, how do I add a sidebar to the blog? How do I post links to the years of archives? (This is probably a sign I should have hired an actual designer to do this site, eh?)
In any case, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone celebrating today! As the year winds down, I've been doing a lot of reflecting on the good and bad of 2017. Some of the good: my brother got engaged to a wonderful lady! I bought a house! I took trips to places I had never been before! I published two books! Those are all incredible things. But I think that this was one of those rare years where things didn't quite balance out, and the bad just swamped everything else. A lot of it has to do with the constant stress with what's happening in domestic and global politics, but it also just feels like so many dark, ugly things in our society were exposed this year, and each month brought a new thing to be angry about. It became a year of necessary pain and confrontation, and I hope it means that we can find better ways forward in 2018.
I had a year of bad anxiety; I find that what anxiety I have is pretty manageable, so it's not something I frequently talk about. That's probably part of the problem. So much of that anxiety is rooted in a fear of failure and disappointing others, which of course means that it's tied strongly to my work. I knew my anxiety was beginning to get out of hand when I couldn't even appreciate the successes I had professionally this year without that constant, creeping fear of What if it all goes away tomorrow?
Recognizing those spiraling thoughts initiated the reset I'm in right now. It's included a Twitter and Tumblr detox, and removing a lot of extra voices I didn't really need in my life. I am SO GOOD at using those negative voices as road blocks. I plant them in my mind and let them creatively block me and trap me in this prison of uncertainty about the smallest storytelling decisions. My poor writer pals were constantly getting "What do you think about ____ or do you think ____ would be better?" type messages. That indecision really had me in its teeth.
I think I'm mostly through that now. What helped for me was going back through and really analyzing what did and didn't work in my most recent books, and taking it upon myself to figure out solutions and read craft books addressing those problems. What that indecision and anxiety ultimately boiled down to, I think, is a feeling that I wasn't in control of my stories or my career, and working on craft is a way to feel more in control of a process that had been largely intuitive for me.
I'm 22 chapters into a ~35 chapter book and feeling good about it--or at least less agonized over the things I know aren't working quite right yet and I need a critique partner's opinion on. The deadline I set for myself was December 1st, but that was always a little bit crazy. This is going to be a long book (somewhere around 145k, which is par for the course with my other YAs) and because of Prosper touring + promotion + book 2 drafting, I only really got to start working on it in October. I've written around 70k words this month alone, which was only possible by addressing the aforementioned anxiety.
As I've gotten older, I feel like I've mellowed out so much. What was going on with my writing was really reflective of what was going on with my life in general. My truths have been simplified so much over the last four or five years. I'm thankful for that.
This April marked the fifth anniversary of my dad's death. I look back on it now and see what a radical shift that was in my outlook on everything. I don't talk about this very much, both because my dad was a very private person and because the way he suffered at the end of his life and how quickly his health deteriorated was incredibly traumatic. I'm still processing it, and how it's rippled out through all of the choices I've made, and the anxieties I can't seem to fully let go of. (In reality, that What if it all goes away tomorrow? is really What if it all goes away and I can't support my family if something were to happen?)
The other day I went on an email deleting spree, finally clearing out my inbox of emails I'd had since 2008. I cringed and rolled my eyes at myself so many times, and finally understood what a slow, deep current maturity is. You really have to earn it along with hindsight. Because all of these radical highs and lows, I have so much less patience for drama that doesn't really matter in the end. I don't want to waste my time with people who aren't true friends, or on stories I don't love with my whole heart. The clarity that comes in knowing that our time on this planet is limited is another one of those painful processes that we all go through, but ultimately helps us change and move forward.
Anyway, I'm sorry for rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is that this year, I'm working hard to be grateful for those painful things out of my control, and for the growth I've undergone because of it. I hope you all have a peaceful holiday, or even just a lovely, calm weekend with those you love best.