A Rack-Up of the Year

Saturday, December 30, 2017
Another year is almost gone. If you're old like me (pushing 60), time passes in a series of eye-blinks. Every time you blink, a couple of seasons pass. If you're still in your 20s or 30s, time goes by a bit more slowly and you can savor it instead of rubbernecking as it flies by.

Many writers keep track of their progress during the year. They tally up their acceptances and their rejections. Or, they look back on the goals they made at the beginning of the year and examine how successful they were at meeting those goals. Most of them have Excel spreadsheets or even a cat calendar where they keep track.

Not Sioux. Sioux is more fast and loose, less organized, more loosey-goosey than that. Even though I love writing, I teach full-time. Writing is--unfortunately--only a part-time thing for me. In the evening when I hit the threshold of my home, the bra is coming off and the sweatpants are coming on. I'm too exhausted to spend too much time beating myself up over the goals I'm not meeting (which might explain why I don't have a book out there or why my work only appears in a couple of publications).

So my year-end rack-up is going to look vastly different than successful most writers. Maybe after you read this, you can suggest some goals even I can meet...

  • I finally rowed to the shore after months and months and months of sailing down the river denial. I had a manuscript that I was hopeful about. Optimism A writer's love of their own work A severe head injury sustained by beating my head against my desk repeatedly Being too close to the forest to see that the trees had all been burned down, deep down, I wondered if it was the most fabulous thing that had ever been written. A little closer to the surface, I wondered if it stunk. I gave it to a couple of writing friends. They said, "Suckola" in a very kind way. I sent it to blogging friend Shay who also said, "Suckola, big time," but also in a constructive and kindhearted manner.
         I now have a doorstop I spent a couple of years on. However, as I wrote it, I got some free 
         therapy and got to heal over a family issue I'd been grappling with for several years. Put a 
         tally mark under the "win" and a tally mark under the "loss" column for that one.
  • I've meant to foray out and submit to other markets. Literary magazines. Publications put out by AAA and AARP. I've even been to workshops about how to crack various markets. However, I haven't done diddly-squat about it yet, so that's another tally mark under "loss."
  • After a concentrated effort, I've started using ellipsis less frequently in my writing. In the past and in some of my stories, I've relied on that bit of punctuation seven or eighteen times in each paragraph. Recently, I've gotten so conscientious about it, some of my pieces have not even one set of ellipsis.
         Oh, who am I kidding? I haven't given up those dot-dot-dots nor have I slowed down on 
         them. But I have thought about it, so I'm gonna put a little tally mark under "win" for that 
         one since it's the thought that counts, right?
  •  I have a NaNoWriMo from 2016 that I'm now revising. That's one for the "win" column. However, I keep saying I'm going to actively hunt down an elderly person to get some help on some of the details. (The story takes place in 1921.) Just like I've done nothing to break into a different market, I've done nothing to find a historical consultant, so I'm going to have to make a mark under "loss" as well.
  • In 2017 I got a story called "My Ferguson" published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Kind (of) America. It had been a while since I'd gotten anything accepted by them, so that's a "win" and it was a story I'd tried to get published for quite a while, so by the way I count, that's another "win." (See how my creative math makes this a more positive process?) Some stories matter to us more than others, and this particular tale was quite important to me. Before President Trump was elected, he said that "Ferguson is one of the most dangerous cities in the world." I worked in Ferguson, and knew this was not true. In my story, I was able to share what the real Ferguson is like...
  • I got to show off my funny. Years ago, I was part of one of the St. Louis Listen to Your Mother shows. My piece was a heartbreaking story about my search for my birth mother. In 2017 I was part of the show again, but this time I got to tell a humorous story about my tatted-up son. Getting people to laugh is quite satisfying, I must say. Since I was one of only two writers who's been in the show twice, I'm going to put two tally marks under the "win" column.
        So, as I tabulate the tally marks, I see three under the "loss" column and 116 under the "win" column. (What can I tell you? Math was my worst subject, followed closely by science. But sometimes, ineptitude can be a good thing.)

       Which means I need your help. What goals do you think I should set for 2018? I really would like to do better--writing-wise--this next year... but I need your assistance.

Sioux Roslawski is an unorganized freelance writer who sometimes does more thinking than doing. She'd appreciate a nudge or a push or a jab with an electric cattle prod from you, so please leave what goals she should set in the comments section, and if you'd like to read more of her stuff, you can check out her blog.



Joanne said...

Sioux, I commisserate. I took a year off from teaching (but kept my freelance jobs)so that I could revise a memoir. What I did was find a bunch of things that didn't work or help move me forward--and maybe just one that did. So I'll be continuing that in 2018 (minus the free time from teaching).

Congratulations on what you did accomplish, though!

I have no suggestions for goals, but one for process: for the last several years, I've organized an accountability group. We set a yearly goal (we connect via email), then each week (on Monday) we check in with our progress (each week we set a mini-goal that will help us get to the yearly goal). Speaking for myself, the accountability group helps me accomplish more than I would have without it. (The other members have said this, too, about themselves.) The added bonus is the support we get while we are each pursuing our individual goals and dealing with the obstacles (including fatigue/procrastination) that life seems to serve up.

Happy new year! And best wishes for reaching whatever goals you set.

Margo Dill said...

I feel like one of your goals should be:

Don't be so hard on yourself.

It sounds to me while being a real person with real family and friends as well as a real day job, you have done quite a bit! And have had success. I think we need to get out of the mind set that writing success is a book.

It is good if that is a goal of yours, but you are successful!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Sioux ~ I love this post because you listed what you've been up to, and there are some things I didn't know about! You've accomplished quite a bit. I'd LOVE to read your "My Ferguson" story...it sounds like a story you HAD to tell. (See? I used ellipsis because ellipsis are fun! I noticed you used ellipsis at the end of that bullet point, so you're not cured yet.)

I remember the Listen to Your Mother show about your birth mother, but I didn't know about your tatted-up son story. It's so awesome that you're one of two writers who's been in the show twice. That says a lot.

You're working on your novels, which is more than I can say, and you have real writing friends who'll tell you when something stinks, which is great. I think you can still revise it though or use some of it? Maybe try a different genre...like a short story or script...sometimes changing genres can make all the difference.

You're also blogging regularly here, and that's an accomplishment. We all love your posts! I think group blogging makes us all think about our writing goals more, and hopefully keeps us on track. We can try to hold each other accountable more.

I don't have any specific suggestions, but I think you're doing a good job on your wins. You have 116 after all. ;) Keep tossing off that bra and putting on those sweatpants (that's totally me, too) and keep writing and submitting. Let's make 2018 our year!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I'm with Ang and Margo, Sioux. Think about what you HAVE accomplished this year--it's amazing!

And I will pass along my all-time tip for the first of the year--middle of the year--end of the year--whenever, and it works for writers, accountants, teachers, moms and dads, pharmacists, taxidermists...well, you get the picture. It's good for everybody:

Comparison is the thief of joy. So don't look around and compare what you've done with what other writers have done. And don't worry about what other writers want to accomplish in 2018...what does SIOUX want to accomplish? It's that simple, finding your joy.

And what's the big idea coming down on the ellipsis? I love a good ellipsis, and one can never go wrong with a hearty dash or two (well, one can, but you have to work at it) and exclamation points are pretty swell, too! I use 'em all pretty joyfully. :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

J. Glenn--I think you should see Cathy Hall's comment. What does J. Glenn want to accomplish? I would imagine your memoir would be interesting, just on the basis of what you gave up for a year (and what you kept--freelancing, a full-time job... So you gave up a full-time job but kept a full-time job so you could work on your memoir? That sounds daunting.

I lovelovelove your yearly goal idea. That is one that might work for me--as long as the little goals could be set on an ongoing basis. (I would need it to be that way.) Thanks so much.

Sometime soon, I'm going to write a post about this, so thank you for the fodder for a post... and have a great 2018.

Margo--I know that it sometimes (or often) sounds like I'm hard on myself, but I have a self-deprecating sense of humor, and the occasional harsh word I have for myself is forgotten immediately. It's an age thing (the forgetfulness).

It's not that I consider a book the ultimate definition of success for a writer. (Okay, sometimes I do. Okay, I think that most of the time.) However, this is a story that needs to be told--kids need to know this story--and for once (as far as a manuscript written by me), I think I have something that's got potential. You probably know what I mean. You have several kids' books out, and at least one of them is a historical novel. That must be satisfying: being able to tell a story from our country's past and ignite children's interest in history.

Margo--I hope 2018 is a wonderful one for you, your daughter and your writing.

Angela--I would never DREAM of giving up ellipsis. They ARE fun. That was all a ruse...

Check out J. Glenn's comment. I know your novel would be wonderful because you are capable of captivating a couch potato. Your post about your broken ankle had me enthralled and on the edge of my seat--and I NEVER run or hike.

Also, check out Cathy Hall's comment. What would Angela like to accomplish? Dig deep.

Finally, for some reason I think I would look far different braless and in sweatpants than you would. Remember... we've all seen you (more or less) bottomless. You're cute as a button. I've considered making money stripping, and could rake it in. However, I'd start naked and people would give me piles of money to put clothes ON.

I hope 2018 is a great year for you, and take care of that ankle.

Cathy--You are so right. Comparison IS the thief of joy. It's hard, though, since I'm in a critique group with Lynn and Linda. They're quite prolific and gifted.

I love your distillation of desire: What do I want to accomplish? I know the answer, but am going to work on a post that covers your comment along with J. Glenn's.

And the ellipsis. I sometimes think I've written a piece that has none, but apparently I'm not even conscious of putting them in. One or two is nice, but I've been known to overdo them--at least that's what Lynn and Linda say (in a very kind way). However, I won't ever give them up... Just like Kit (in "A League of Their Own" wouldn't ever give the high and outside pitches up.

I am sure this next year will be a wonderful one for you, Cathy. Thanks for the suggestion.

Angela Mackintosh said...

I read J. Glenn's comment about her accountability group and think it's an awesome idea. All of us at The Muffin could do one ourselves, or we could even run one through WOW for subscribers, but that would be on a larger scale, and probably need a listserv to handle all the writers. If anyone wants to organize the WOW one, I'd pay them. :)

Marcia Peterson said...

Sioux, you can add to your list of accomplishments that you regularly inspired and amused us all. Thanks, and keep it up. :) Happy New Year!

Marcia Peterson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sioux Roslawski said...

Angela--Hopefully we'll talk about what this might look like. J. Glenn didn't know what a brilliant, inspiring idea they had...

Marcia--Thanks. You are one of the main reasons why I can write for WOW, so thank YOU.

Renee Roberson said...

Good lord, you've done a lot this year, Sioux! If I was teaching middle schoolers (I have two in my house) I'm pretty sure I'd come home every day and get straight in the bathtub with wine. You are doing what works for you best, and that's great! Don't beat yourself up over a failed manuscript--believe me, we all have those. Your post made me think back on my own half-filled Excel spreadsheet of successes (I try to keep track of my freelance income/articles in a spreadsheet but I realized I haven't updated it since October. Oops). I wrote at least 12-13 magazine articles, more blog posts than I can count, started a new job, and found out a few weeks ago that my short story "The Polaroid" won first place in the suspense/thriller category of the Writer's Digest Popular Fiction Awards! I feel like now I may have the validation I need to move forward with the YA suspense novel I've been hemming and hawing over for a few years. Onward!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Angela is hatching up a plan for some accountability groups in 2018. (I need my peeps armed with tasers, I'm THAT much of a procrastinator. ;) Think about it...

YA and suspenseful? That sounds like a great combo.

May 2018 be a wonderful year for you, both in your personal and your professional life.

Joanne said...

Sioux, thanks for your comments. To your questions...teaching was part time, freelancing is full time. And yes, goals are set week to week. So it breaks an elephant into many bites. As for a post on this (and a related topic of how to keep the writing going), I've written one for my newsletter. Let me know if you want to know more details. Meanwhile, happy new year to you and all the WOW readers!

Sioux Roslawski said...

J. Glenn--Thank YOU for your original comment. I'd love to read what you wrote about the process or the set-up. You've given me a major nudge.

Joanne said...

Sioux, I sent you and email with a link. Enjoy!

Mary Horner said...

Sioux, I would love to read your story about Ferguson. I have many friends who live there and I find the different perceptions interesting. Also, you have accomplished a lot in the past year, and you can include helping writers relate to one another, because you are so honest and funny that it inspires us! Hope you have a great 2018!

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