Looking for a Hufflepuff Kind of Year

… or moving on from 2018 into 2019

2018 was not a great year for me. It was a pretty meh year in all honestly. There weren’t truly terrible things that happened, but very little good did either. It was a year in which I felt like I was falling further and further behind on various dreams with no forward progress or momentum to show for it. My word for the year was “strive,” but looking back, maybe it should have been merely “survive,” instead.

It was a year of slowly realizing we’re dealing with infertility issues leading to a run of 10+ rounds of blood testing, a pelvic ultrasound aka the most awkward use of a joystick for twenty minutes, and an HSG (because the name of the test is basically unpronounceable even for the professionals) that proved to cause the most post-procedure pain of any diagnostic test I’ve ever had. I’ve talked very little about this online, but after discussions with different folks and feeling how inspiring and supportive it was when Susan Dennard went public about hers, I definitely will be posting more about that – probably with dedicated blog posts, but I may be doing threads on twitter as well. It can feeling very lonely during this sort of thing, but it’s much more common than people think, and I believe that should be talked about, you know?

It was a year of realizing my current job couldn’t help my husband and I achieve our saving and debt pay off goals which led to my boss offering me a promotion and a raise that turned into both my boss and I being blindsided by the research department undergoing a change of procedure which meant I essentially would be laid off this coming March if I didn’t get another job, followed by a whirlwind of interviews and a single moment of relief that I did get a job, only to discover that it’s a horrendously stressful working environment.

It was a year in which I wrote, or more accurately, tried to write, managing the lowest overall word count I’ve had since I started tracking that back in 2014. And by lowest, I mean 30k LESS than my next lowest year of 80k in 2014, and merely a third of what I managed (150k) in 2017. I barely broke 50k, and I struggled for every single one of those words. I did attend a fantastic writing retreat at Highlights and made some awesome new writing friends, but even that wasn’t able to get me out of whatever rut I was in. Needless to say, I didn’t finish a draft of anything, though I did have two I was working on, and they both got longer, if not by much. I also ended up closing my Patreon which felt like quite a bit of a failure even though I know it’s harder to sustain when I don’t have a novel published yet.

Finally, it was a year of reading, at least. That is one of the few of my goals for last year that I accomplished (according to my goals post for last year). I believe the final count on Goodreads was 70 books read or listened to out of 52 planned, so that was definitely successful. I didn’t do that great on reading any of my physical books, however, which had been a big part of what I wanted to accomplish with that 52.

So yeah, not a horrible year overall, but just not nearly as productive and accomplished as I’d hoped. 2018 felt like a year of just existing in a holding pattern more than anything else.

In 2019, I hope, more than anything, to just do better, to do more. To put in the work and push past whatever slump has had its hold on me so strongly. I want to remember that success takes time, takes work.

I want to remind myself that I’m a Hufflepuff, if you will: “just, loyal, patient, kind, true, and above all, unafraid of toil.” Thus, that’s my word for the year – “Hufflepuff” – a reminder to keep my head down and work forward. Because I can do all the things on my list. I can. It just takes time and doing the work.

So what are my goals then? I’ve got a pretty specific list this year, both in the writerly and authorly side and in the general life side that I’m willing to share. They are:

  1. As I mentioned above, I want to read at least 52 books this year, specifically from my physical TBR pile. That’s a book a week which is pretty reasonable, especially when I hit my book a day reading binges as I always seem to do LOL. Any additional books are great, but tackling the bookshelves is the biggie. Related, I am going to be allowing myself to DNF books that I’m not enjoying and also pass on books in giveaways. I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to keep everything I read or own. I’d rather collect the books I know I will likely read again and share the ones that someone else might love more than I did.

  2. Start fertility treatments, whatever those might be. Even though we’ve been trying for a year, we are still fairly early in the process. We don’t know yet if this will end up being just medication or progress to IVF or even adoption, but we’re not ruling out anything yet. Wish us luck, and if any of you are interested in hearing about some of what we go through on this journey, let me know and I’ll probably plan a blog post about it!

  3. Which brings me to my next goal of creating blog content more regularly. I’m setting a really modest goal of just a minimum of one blog post a month. That shouldn’t take away too much of my novel writing time, but still will be far more posts than last year’s oh… four total? LOL

  4. Write 150,000 words. This is less than my goal for last year of 200k, but considering how little I wrote last year, I figure taking a step back on that isn’t a bad thing. As always, that word count includes everything from blog posts, to book reviews, to fanfiction, to short stories, to novels. I like being able to track what types of writing I focused on as well as just the overall numbers. Obviously I would love to beat that goal, but that is definitely the minimum I’m aiming for.

  5. Write four short stories (so roughly one complete story every three months). As I had as a goal last year, I’d like some new stories to sub out to lit magazines, as well as my writing group’s annual charity anthology and another anthology project that I’m hoping to be a part of if it gets picked up. The first one I’m aiming for is due by the end of February and should be around 4k which will be a little bit of a challenge, but I think that’s actually a good thing. Begin the year as I mean to go on, right?

  6. Finish the first draft of my adult queer trailer park urban fantasy thing. I have just over 62k on the damn thing, so I’m really pretty close to finished with it. I had waffled last year on whether I wanted to focus on adult or YA, but I’ve realized I enjoy both, so why not just query and see what happens? Trying to plan my writing career before I even have an agent seems silly, especially if it’s leading to me self-limiting myself. So yeah, I’d like at least the first draft done, if not revised by the end of this year.

  7. Finish the first draft of my YA queer fairytale epistolary thing. This I only have 13k on so I definitely have a lot farther to go, but I do think the first draft is going to run on the shorter side since it’s a different format than I’ve written before. I would love to have that draft done before a writing workshop I’m doing in April, but that may be pushing it depending on how fast my writing speed ends up. I figure having that deadline might help me out, though, much like NaNoWriMo often does. That is the plan anyway!

  8. Speaking of that workshop, I would like to make classes/cons/writing weekends a more regular thing I do this year, whether it’s a paid workshop like the one I’m doing in April, or even just taking a weekend to myself in an Airbnb somewhere to just focus on writing and reading. On the conference side, I’m hoping to attend Sirens Con this fall for the first time. And of course, I would love a return to Highlights, though that will depend on funding. I usually can afford one big event, but I might be able to squeeze in two this year. We shall see – I just know I get very motivated when I have time to dig in like I do at even with the mini solo retreats.

  9. Take tai chi lessons with my husband. Due to the stress of the job situation (and honestly probably the infertility issues as well), we’ve noticed my anxiety symptoms have kicked into high gear. I’ve always had a few symptoms that didn’t affect me too much on the day to day, but now it’s starting to affect my health, so we need to do something about it. While I am not opposed to medication, considering that a) hopefully I won’t be in a super high stress job situation for more than 6 months to a year, b) adjusting to medication can sometimes take easily six months to a year anyway, and c) I’m trying to get pregnant and half of the anxiety med options are discouraged during pregnancy, we’re trying to go for non-medical outlets first. Tai chi is something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, and it seems like it could definitely be a good first step towards having an outlet for those symptoms. Added bonus, it can be excellent exercise, and I do want to be more active overall, which of course should also help with my anxiety.

  10. Again related to above, I need to sort out my job situation, whether that means figuring out how to make the current job less stressful (something that unfortunately may not be possible judging from a variety of factors) or moving on to something else after my six month probationary period is up and I can move to another job on campus. I want to believe that I can stick it out at this job, but if it’s affecting my health, it’s just not worth it. I would rather make less money than make myself sick with stress.

  11. Pay down half of one of my credit cards. The one good side of the current job is that I am making more money than at my previous one. I’m throwing all of that additional money onto credit card debt and hope to have at least half of one of them paid off by the end of the year, if not more. I have budgeted and definitely think I can do it. Paying off the car early last year was one of my few big successes and felt amazing, and I want to bring that energy into tackling more of my debt this year, too.

Welp, it’s entirely possible I’m missing something I’d planned to put on this list, but I figure I want to aim, not necessarily smaller this year, but with more focus. All of these are long game goals that could easily stretch beyond 2019, but I think I’m OK with that. I just gotta remember to get my Hufflepuff on and get to toiling!

So yeah, this may be one of my longest blog posts ever – kudos if you managed to stick it out all the way to the end! What are y’all’s goals this year? Anything similar to mine and/or any I can help you in achieving? Let me know!

All content © 2015 by C.L. McCollum unless otherwise noted.

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