Oh Charles Dickens.
Now that it’s February, I know I’m sooooo late on looking back on 2016, but better late than never. The nature of how 2016 ended keeps coming back to me, even as we’re already in 2017. I keep thinking back on how I was talking to my sister about this a few weeks ago, on of how people jokingly (let’s be real, seriously) talk about 2016 being the worst year EVER. And I think we all know why without me having to spell it out, since the darkness still follows us everywhere we go.
But what my sister said really resonated with me. She said, “You know what, 2016 was the year I peaked. I ran a marathon, got out of a bad relationship, became a Fulbright scholar, etc.” But then the world completely shifted toward the dark, which seemed to shadow every good thing that came before, every moment of light that filtered in between.
In many ways, I sort of agreed with my sister. For me, 2016 was the year I achieved more than I thought I ever could—I signed with my dream agent, I tackled THE hardest revisions I’ve ever had to complete and came out with a stronger story, I traveled around to conferences and met so many other wonderful writers, I mentored another writer who I’m so proud to see is now agented and progressing along her path to publication.
I don’t want to discount the very dark direction 2016 went down, and I also don’t want to overshadow it by raising my own personal silver-linings that came out of it. Ultimately, I do think what I’m most at peace with, coming out of 2016, was that I felt so much stronger by the end. Beaten, but not defeated. Down, but always rising back up. Wonderful things happened, yes, but nothing made them greater to me than being challenged by what those good things brought (and the bad as well), and feeling like I learned so much more about myself, about how to proceed from here on out as someone who’s more aware, active, and prepared for what’s to come.
And to start 2017, I also want to look back on my 2016 resolutions—to see how I did, and keep them strong in this new year as well:
- Finish a book.
Sooooooo, I think I cheated a little bit because while most of 2016 was spent revising Pirate Fantasy, I felt like my process of revision and rewriting turned it into a completely new book. The story I wrote before is SO different from the story it is now, but I absolutely love the new monster it’s become, the way it’s evolved and grown even closer to my heart. The sheer amount I’ve rewritten (and rewritten and rewritten and ughhh) and the new additions I’ve made feel like I did finish a brand new book, and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of it. But for this year, I do hope to finish another book which I feel is totally doable. And necessary. My urge to explore new worlds and characters is itching at me!
- Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else.
I feel like I can say I actually fulfilled this!! *confetti* While I wasn’t always working in tandem with revising (my brain was already close to exploding enough times on just Pirate Fantasy), I did manage to beast out over 90k of Phantom Fantasy in 2016! However, the pantsing is still going strong and the story is far from over, which means this first draft is going to be one HUGE baby. Along with drafting this project, I also want to tend to my garden of other ideas and projects–which surprisingly grew a lot last year!–and see what other stories are leaping for my attention.
- Read, read, read.
I’m just going to be flat-out honest and say 2016 was not a great reading year for me. AGAIN. I have a hard time reading when I’m revising, and since I was on the revision train so often, that meant pushing back reading as a priority. Yikes. The good thing about 2017, however, is that I’ve been back to reading like an absolute FIEND. I think because I’m desperate for even the briefest escape from the world, I’ve turned to books—and they’ve embraced me back with open arms and provided me comfort like nothing else. I’m actually 7 books ahead in my Goodreads challenge which is unheard of for me, so I’m hoping to keep up the reading momentum, as well as reading widely and more out of my usual comfort zones 🙂
- Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path in the first place.
2016 was a huge year for my writing and me, and sometimes I still can’t even believe what’s happened has actually happened. But for me, progress also comes in so many other forms that aren’t just those milestones on the journey to publication. My ultimate show of progress, I feel, was going from feeling like I was constantly ten steps backwards with my story, to fighting and revising my way through draft after draft until I overcame all of those missteps. 2016 was the year I learned the art of creative patience and honoring the story—of feeling like no matter what, the fact that I’ve produced something I love, that I know I’ve worked hard on, and that I’m proud of by the end of the day will be enough. With no guarantees in this industry, it’s especially important to feel fulfilled by the work that you put forth and pour from your heart, not what you get in return for it. This is one lesson of many I know I’ll always treasure.
To add to this ever-growing list of resolutions I seek to meet however I can every year, here’s a new one that I also want to uphold:
- Prioritize being a support to others who need it, providing the encouragement and listening ear I wish I had when I first started writing.
Before I found my wonderful group of writing friends and critique partners, I was every bit that sad picture of a lonely, young writer who didn’t know how to put herself out there, how to be confident with her writing, or how to go about advancing her writing career. When I think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago (like 3 years ago haha), but SO much has changed since then. The writer I was back then would not have believed how much luck was coming her way in the form of friends, a sense of community, and opportunities she would soon be encountering. Last year, I mentored in Pitch Wars and had the BEST time helping a writer along her journey. I’m already mentoring again this year for Author Mentor Match (HI TANVI, IF YOU’RE READING!!! Guys, Tanvi is my mentee match from this program and has breathtaking prose for days <3 ), and I want to keep lending a hand to other writers whenever I can, and however I can.
OKAY. Done with resolutions, and now it’s time to stick to them and see them through! Last but not least in this post, I’ve once again dipped into my collection of fortune cookie fortunes and am tacking up some brand new ones onto my cork board to reflect the new year!
“Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.”
“Happiness is around the next corner, wealth down the street.”
“Welcome the good change coming soon into your life.”
Wishing everyone a positive new year with lots of good luck and happiness 😀
6 responses to “2016: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…””
LOVE THIS POST, JANELLY BEAR!!!!! I’m so proud of all that you’ve done and all that you’re doing!!! You’re such an amazing friend and I’m so grateful to have you on this crazy journey of ours!!!!! (Also hahahahahahah ONE HUGE BABY!!!! > . <) <33333333333333333
AHHHHHH BAE BAE!!!! Thank you so so much!! I’m so grateful for YOU, and don’t know how I would’ve survived 2016 without you <3 Thanks for always being there, and I'm so honored that we're on this journey together 😀 (also, HAHAHAHA I HAD A FEELING YOU'D GET A LAUGH OUT OF THAT)
Aaaw you’ve done so much! I love how you’re really helping out other writers too. You’re awesome <3
Awww Ellie, I love you!! Thank you so much <3 It's been so wonderful getting to know you more last year, hopefully we'll see more of each other in 2017 🙂
As usual, spot-on gif (it’s me, every day), insightful points – this is a great post Janella and I’m so proud of you and your work!!! (Also can’t wait for your ~200K Phantom book(s) I will devour it/them!) <3 <3 <3
Hahahahaa that gif is all of us!! And thank you so much, lovely!! I’m so proud of YOU (bc damn girl, you worked it in 2016), and grateful to have you as a friend. Would not have gotten through 2016 without you <3 Super excited to read Fox Story, and all your other stories, as well!!!