My friend Nikole spent 2018 writing a novel.
It’s almost criminal to write that sentence without italicizing or bolding the words. Or bumping the font to 72 points and colorizing each letter in a rainbow hue. Because let’s be honest — It’s a big deal to write a book. A. Big. Deal.
And Nikole is an inspiration for it. She’s a shining example of an artist with real-life responsibilities dedicated to her craft, and I admire her for her constant, steady determination and unwavering effort. A mother of two, her first and foremost priority is her girls, and she works diligently to raise them right, to educate them, to nurture them, to guide and play and be present for them. And still she finds time to write.
A whole fucking book.
It’s a stupendous achievement, and I applaud her. Nikole–you’re an inspiration. I can’t say it enough. I’m truly impressed. And can’t wait to read it. (When? Tomorrow? Today? When? Now…? How about at lunch?)
My 2018 wasn’t as impressive.
Oh, sure–I sold my first story. And yeah, that’s a big deal. A huge deal. I won’t discount just how much of a crowning achievement that was for me after so many years of on-and-off-again effort to finally make a sale and see my work in print. It’s momentous. And I’m so grateful that Steve Dillon gave me a shot. I’ve since let him down on two counts after that first, but he still has faith. Still asks to see that next story. And that validation is not to be underestimated.
But one sale hardly holds a candle to having written a book…OK, two sales last year, but that second didn’t see publication until last week. So that kind of counts as 2019…And regardless, two sales, no matter when they saw print, don’t compare to Nikole’s achievement. Particularly given that I barely wrote anything more than some edits and notes the remainder of the year. And sure, I wrote a lot of notes; I’m a prodigious note taker. And OK, yeah, I wrote a couple of flash stories and some false starts on other shorts. But I didn’t finish anything beyond 1,000 words. And I most certainly didn’t write a book.
Or a blog.
That’s right. Nikole writes a weekly blog, too. Since last April, she’s been chronicling her writing journey up to and through NaNoWriMo and beyond. The blog explores her trials and tribulations as a mother and homemaker and writer. The balance she needs to strike between it all. And most importantly, how she’s persevering and making actual strides with her art. You may care to check it out. You can find it here:
It’s Nikole’s way of bringing some accountability to her efforts. And it’s working. Obviously.
I think I could probably use some of the same. No, I most definitely could use some of the same. So you know what? Here goes…
At the end of each week’s blog post, Nikole asks a question of her reader. Assuming her readers to be writers themselves (likely more than a safe bet), these questions primarily mirror the blog topic for the week and stand as friendly prompts for the reader-writer to consider. “What are your goals this year?” “How are your projects progressing?” And the like.
I think about these prompts a lot. I think about the progress Nikole has made over the past year and how I’ve stagnated, and procrastinated, and otherwise floundered. And OK, yes – for those in the know, it was a busy year, and Michelle and I did accomplish a lot for our family, and I did land that big job, and so on and so forth…but since 2014, I measure my years in words, and this past year’s words were few and far between. So I say I’ve stagnated…And I punish myself for it. But that’s an entirely different topic for another time. One we can surely explore ad nauseam. But getting back on topic…I think about Nikole’s blog prompts and I’m often tempted to answer her in the comments. But I never do.
At least I haven’t before today.
Today, I think I will answer her, but I’ll answer using my own blog (ooh, shiny!) And with any luck, I’ll continue to do so by let’s say…every Wednesday. Nikole posts on Mondays. Wednesday seems timely enough for an answer. Maybe it’ll get pushed until Thursday some weeks. Maybe it’ll come on Tuesday. But I’ll strive to answer before Friday. In any event, that’s the intention: To answer Nikole in effort to shake off my malaise and refocus on my writing. We’ll see how it goes. It’ll be an experiment. Motivated solely by curiosity. And that’s as much as I’ll promise.
But that’s a good promise. It’s a healthy promise. One that has worked for me in the past and proven a powerful motivator in my writing and in other pursuits. Particularly my painting. Indeed, it’s served me very well in my efforts as a miniature painter. But has also frequently worked well with social scenarios and other efforts.
You see, I live with anxiety. And it can stop me up. But I’ve learned over time through the help of skilled and caring therapists and my own meditative practice to overcome the debilitating sandbagging my dark companion engenders by approaching scenarios from a place of curiosity. Just to see how it goes… With no expectations. No focus on results. Just a sense of deliberate curiosity. And this helps to tame the rampant what-ifs and allows me to simply experience the journey without that miserable little imp with his miserable little critical voice evaluating each and every choice at each and every turn from his unwelcome vantage upon my shoulder. [Fuck off, you little prick…]
So that’s what I’ll do here. Approach this thing from a place of curiosity. And maybe–just maybe–it’ll shake things up and give me the momentum to push into other projects. Or maybe I’ll put it aside and turn to other toys. This happens, too. But for now, Nikole, I’m going to answer you here each week. So be on the look out.
And we’ll see how this goes.