Friday, December 31, 2010

A Book-Ended Year

As the New Year approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the past twelve months: the goals I set, the things I have (or haven't) accomplished, and my hopes for things to come.

1. In a lot of ways, I feel like this year has been book-ended by tragedy. With Ashley's death at the beginning and Prince's death at the end, I've been dealing with a lot of emotions. While Ashley's death was prolonged yet expected, Prince's death was shocking and terrifying. Seeing two children die in such different ways has made me... Well, I'm not sure what it's made me. In some ways a better, stronger person, in other ways more fragile and pensive.

2. Along with the sadness, there have been some incredible highs this year. Between all the traveling I was able to do and the writing conferences I attended, an entire world of ideas and experiences opened for me. I also launched a new look for my website, attended my first live Shakespearean play and saw the beginning of the end of Harry Potter.

3. The weather has been a force to be reckoned with. Early in the year I was trapped at home by Snowmageddon, and just this week I was trapped in Pittsburgh thanks to the unruly weather. Yet I managed to survive--the first time because of a great roommate who kept me from going stir-crazy and the second time because of a wonderful gate agent determined to get me home. And now I have several pairs of warm boots and a heavy-duty shovel I hope never to use again.

4. My reading patterns are constantly changing. This year I stopped doing a lot of book reviews because I wanted to experience some of the great books I missed in my obsession to read the newest releases. Instead I migrated towards creating reading lists to help readers establish good habits rather than forming an attachment to one book/series.

5. And now, my writing. I feel as though my writer self somehow got lost this year in all the tumult in my personal and work life. Plot flaws prevented me from finishing my novel, I wasn't able to apply for the SCBWI WIP grant because of a funeral, I never submitted the magazine article I was working on after realizing it wasn't fitting the submission request, and NaNoWriMo didn't happen because I was working on some big projects at work. I feel like a bit of a failure in this respect, but I also realize I need to move on and do better.

Goals for the coming year:

1. Find joy, even in the sadness. Yes, bad thing happen. To everyone. No one is exempt from tragedy, and we cannot always protect those we love the most. But the thing we have control over is how we react. We can spend out lives being sad or worried or angry. Or we can spend our lives hoping for more, looking for good and living life to the fullest. So this year, I'm going to focus more on the better choice.

2. Live a more active lifestyle. This is not a resolution to lose weight or an exercise plan, but it's a goal to do little things to get me out of the house and interact more with the people around me. I tend to get caught up in my schedule and rarely make time to swim at the pool, take a walk on the Mt. Vernon Trail or go rafting in the Shenandoahs.

3. Visit my brother in Hawaii. Who doesn't want this to be a goal? But it might be harder than it sounds. I need to stop running off to NYC or Chicago and using all my vacation time with out-of-town guests. I have never wanted to go to Hawaii before my brother moved out there, and I kind of wish he'd move back to New England so getting together wouldn't be such a hassle. But spending a week during the fall in Hawaii will make the coming winter bearable.

4. Find balance in reading. I'd like to read more nonfiction this year. I've accumulated a lot of writing-craft books I have yet to open, and I love reading histories, biographies and analytical books. It's also been a long time since I've sat down and read a classic novel. Reading new children's/YA fiction is great and I don't plan on stopping, but I need a well-balanced reading diet, which I'm not currently getting.

5. Make writing a priority again. I've done it before, and I'll do it again. I need to set aside a specific time for writing and writing development. I want to have at least one magazine article (or newspaper feature story) published this year as well as finish my current WIP and get a solid start on something new.

So another year passes. Chapters open and close. Change comes, yet somehow, things stay the same. Time is a fickle thing, and I hope, if anything, this year has taught me to cherish the moments that come my way and hold dear the moments I leave behind.

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