- 8499 words (A lot lower than I wanted, but it’s a start!)
Stories in Progress:
- Superhero Story (I suck at titles!)
I want to start off by talking about ambition and how I (unintentionally) place too much pressure on myself. This past weekend, I spent some time flipping through my bullet journal and came across my goals for January. The list included:
- Finish [my] short story collection
- Read 4 books
- Write 10,000
I also had a “To-Do” list for the month, which in hindsight, was a goals list by another name. My January “To-Do” list consisted of:
- Revise Mars Story
- Revise Superhero Story
- Make A List of Markets (i.e. literary magazines) to submit to in Feb.
- Write 3 Blog Post
Of these 7 items, I accomplished 1 thing. And, based on my past history with being overly ambitious, my instinct is to take the 6 items that I didn’t complete this month and set them as goals and tasks to complete in February, along with the other goals and tasks I had already established for the coming month. But looking at this list causes a slight headache for me.
I work full-time, apply for other jobs when I can, write when I have the time, try to be social when the feeling strikes me, and attend to other “adult” responsibilities. I’m constantly torn between feeling understandably fatigued and wanting to accomplish everything in my youth so I can have a successful future. (My mom is fond of saying “Work hard now, so you can relax later.”) I read an article this month titled, How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation, and a lot of the author’s points resonated with me. (It’s a long read, but I highly recommend it!) I pile too much on myself because I feel like time spent doing “nothing” is time that was completely wasted.
I’m working to break this terrible mindset and I’m going to start in February. There’s still a space designated for my goals for the month, but you know what, I’m only aiming for one or two things (that I have yet to figure out).
Interestingly, despite only meeting 1 of my January goals, I actually accomplished a lot this past month. I nearly completed the first round of revisions for my superhero story and during the revision process, I pinpointed many areas that were in need of improvement. I’ve always struggled to revise my own stories. When I was enrolled in an MFA program, I relied heavily on my peers’ comments and critiques before beginning revision. A lot of times a story rarely moved past the 2nd draft because I felt it was the best I could do. I listened to my professors’ lecture, taking semi-detailed notes, and hoped the lessons would stick in my mind before I submitted another story to workshop. By the time I graduated, I saw improvement in the quality of my writing, but not in the quality of my editing. In some ways, I accepted that I would be a pretty good writer, but a terrible editor.
Then, while looking through the first draft of my superhero story, I started to pick apart my story, sifting through character motivation, major plot points, and pieces of dialogue. I thought critically about my stories. I constantly asked myself: why is this character acting this way? Does this scene really fit here? Would they really say that? This isn’t the right word, can I find something better? I felt invigorated. I felt ecstatic. I felt that the story was salvageable if I was patient with it. Suddenly, the lessons and critiques and comments clicked in my mind and I felt like I knew what to do.
The 2nd draft of the superhero story is almost complete and still far from being submission worthy. It’ll sit in a file on my laptop until March or April. I’ll revise it again and again and possibly one final time before I’m ready to send it to a market with the intention of seeing it published. There are other stories that will hold my attention until I’m ready to jump back into the world of downtrodden superheroes. (Still gotta work on titles though! It’s a struggle.)
February will be an interesting month. I’m taking a class on N.K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy. I’m going to see Marlon James talk about his new book “Black Leopard, Red Wolf.” And I may go to Katsucon (though that has nothing to do with being a writer.) Finally, I’m starting my third (I believe?) round of edits on my Mars Settlement story, the first story where I attempted to write speculative fiction, though the speculative elements are pretty light. I have a few job applications to knock out in February, but certainly not as many as I submitted in January. Thankfully, I will have more time in the evening to write and revise. And I can put some serious thought into my Clarion and Bread Loaf applications, which are due about halfway through Feb!
January has taught me to continue to be patient with myself and to celebrate my successes, because no matter what, I’m constantly improving even when it feels like I’ve hit a wall. If you can relate to this, I hope you’re gentle with yourself and reassure yourself whenever you need it. Writing is a skill and like all skills, it can be challenging to learn, but not impossible to improve upon. Don’t worry, you got this and I 100% believe in you!