So long, 2018

Well, that was really hard.

Not that I thought chemotherapy would be easy — every iota of evidence pointed to the contrary — but I guess I thought it would be different?
I thought it would be kind of predictable (which it wasn’t) and I thought I could keep myself entertained (which it couldn’t) and I thought I would come out of it lonely and sad and bitter.
But I didn’t.
Despite 2018 being the most difficult year of my life, I got through it. And that feels like a miracle.

2018 took a lot from me: my health, my focus, four of my five senior pets. It put a strain on my marriage and a hold on my career. It made me realize that I am both physically weaker and emotionally stronger than I’d ever imagined. It took me to damned near my breaking point.

And it’s finally over.

I had my last scheduled dose of chemotherapy on December 27th. I rang in the New Year with the hope that 2019 will be a year of healing. If 2018 broke me down, 2019 will build me back up.

I’ll get an idea of what the future has in store for me in about a month, after my next PET scan and (with any luck) a cancer-free declaration, and I’ll write more about my experience over the past six months at a later date, once I have the luxury of hindsight.

For now I’m just glad to be looking forward.

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Making 2017 the Year of Rejections

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
Sylvia Plath

Rejection has been on my mind a lot lately. First there was this article by Kim Liao where she suggests that new writers aim for 100 rejections a year. There were the podcasts by Mur Lafferty wherein she talks about rejection as an inevitable, even desirable, part of being a working writer. As Calvin’s dad would probably say about rejection: “It builds character.”

I’ve been writing short stories and novels with the eventual intention of seeing them published for a few years now, and in all that time I’d only seriously focused on getting accepted as a measure of success. I was submitting infrequently and timidly, and the sting of a rejection letter was enough to scare me out of trying again for months. I was still writing, but nobody else was reading it, and eventually I retracted into my shell so far that I stopped submitting entirely. Even though I knew that rejections were part of the process, I hadn’t considered that they are progress in and of themselves.

A caveat. I have a pretty fervent anxiety disorder that likes to thrash me around with fair regularity. My inner voice loves to tell me—usually loudly and repeatedly—all of the ways that I’m a failure and that my work is garbage, but here’s the thing: I’m tired of listening to that voice.

Now, it’s not like I can turn my anxiety off, but what I’ve decided is that I’m going to just do shit anyways. I’m going to submit stories no matter how much it terrifies me. I’m going to collect those rejection letters as proof that I am a working writer. As the wise woman Carrie Fisher once said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident.”

Here here.

Rejection might hurt, but maybe it’s a good hurt. It’s taken me a few years to finally get comfortable with the idea, but it’s been a valuable lesson: you can’t succeed by not trying, and getting rejected means having tried.

So here’s to rejection, and here’s to Calvin’s Dad telling us not to give up.

character_building

Image from Calvin and Hobbes (January 1989) ©1989 Bill Watterson

 

Quarterly Goals: Fall 2016

Autumn is my favourite season: sweaters and socks are once again an option, the air smells like woodsmoke and leaf mould. I can turn off the AC and turn open the windows, and drink as many hot beverages as I like; things are good.

This fall is my first using the quarterly goals system and since fall is (usually) my most productive time of year I’m looking forward to seeing just how much I can tick off my to-do list over the next three months.

Here’s what I’m planning:

Complete Current Revision of Steep:

This one is going to be my biggest challenge. I’m currently about a tenth of the way through revising (and retyping) my last manuscript, and to get this done in time means that every day is going to feel like NaNoWriMo from now until December 31st. I’m making good progress and gaining speed, so I’m optimistic that I can have this thing ready for Beta readers at the start of 2017.

Four Short Stories Revised:

Revising my current novel, Steep, has really hamstrung my gumption to revise anything else, and first drafts of short stories continue to pile up. I’d like to take a look at a few of these this fall and get them closer to human consumption.

Four New Recipes Learned:

Pretty straightforward. I’ve been honing my skill at canning these past few weeks, and I’d like to continue that trend by learning a couple of new canning recipes, as well as a new dinner or two.

Twelve Books Read:

While I’m still about a month behind on my 2016 year-long challenge to read a book a week, I’m hoping to keep up my current momentum until the end of the year. Shouldn’t be too hard considering the quality of my current TBR pile.

Twelve Letters Written:

Postcards count, too. Between some new penpals, reconnecting with old penpals, and my usual correspondence with friends and family this should go off without a hitch. I’m planning on trying a few new tricks with formatting (like cross-writing), and excited to break out my Halloween-themed postage stamps.

Twelve Game Nights w/ John:

My husband and I are both avid gamers, but our daily work schedules are quite different. This can make it hard for us to sit down for an hour or so at the same time and move some pieces around a board, so I’ve added this to my quarterly goals with the hope of finding a rhythm that works for both of us. We’ve purchased some great new titles recently, including Mysterium and Concordia, and I’m looking forward to further exploring their mechanics.

Eight Dog Hikes:

I walk the dogs multiple times a day, but my favourite outings with them are the woodsy, dirt-trail hikes that we do on weekends. With the weather getting colder, and my dogs getting older, hiking every weekend this quarter might not be an option, but I’m sure we can get some good ones in before the snow flies. This past Saturday we hiked a new trail, got a little lost, and found a cool footbridge I’d like to visit again, so. . . *tick*.

Two Online Courses Completed:

I enjoyed taking some free courses through Coursera last quarter, and have my eyes on some paleobiology and history courses this fall.

 Six Finished Knitted Objects:

With the cooler weather comes more comfortable knitting. I’m aiming to have a few more pairs of socks and a couple of new sweaters completed by the end of the year, plus an item or two to give away at Christmas.

Practice ukulele for a half hour, twice a week:

Would love to learn a few new strumming patterns – and get better at playing an E chord!

Repair rust damage/scratches on Beetax:

Our car, Beetax, is 16 years old and needs some TLC before the road salt goes down. The garage got cleaned out as per last quarter’s goal, so they’ll be stabling indoors this winter.

Send out Christmas cards to family and friends:

Last year I did hand-drawn cards. We’ll see.

Organise creative supplies closet:

I have a closet full of papers, paints, supports, clay, fabric, you name it, and it needs a good revamp to make everything more accessible.

Print, frame, and hang photos for picture collage:

Pretty self-explanatory. Bought some frames a month ago and would like to get them on the wall.

Operation Stashbuster – all yarn must fit neatly in steamer trunk by year’s end:

I have an obscene amount of yarn. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that it’s all over the place and a lot of it needs winding/sorting into cakes or skeins. I’ve got a few good patterns for stash-busting in my arsenal and I’m using them this fall. If what’s left doesn’t fit into the huge steamer trunk that it calls home by the end of this quarter I’m kicking it to the curb come January 1st.

Phew! It’s going to be a busy quarter, but I’m confident that I can achieve my goals if I put my mind to it, and all the extra caffeine and sugar that the season brings can’t hurt. I’m debating whether it’s a good idea to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, considering I’m still waist-deep in revisions of last November’s project, but I’ve taken part every year of the past 8 (with 4 wins under my belt), so it’s  a tough decision. I guess I’ll need to do some soul-searching.

If you’ve set yourself some quarterly goals, be sure to comment below – I’d love to see what you’re working towards.

Happy autumn!

 

Featured Image: “Halloween Wishes” by Miwok is licensed under CC0 1.0