The other day my 12 year-old made a remark that brought me up short. We were talking about plans for the fall, and she said something along the lines of, “Well, you know, the year is basically over.”
Whoa! Hold on there, Sweetie!
I suppose she’s to be forgiven. School starts for her today, and so as far as she is concerned, summer is gone and the rest of the year promises to be a slog until Christmas break. But those of us who are old don’t like our lives being trimmed that way. And, more to the point for the purposes of this post, those of us who have work to do and goals to meet don’t like giving up a full four months out of the year.
So, rather than take her comment to heart and spend the rest of the year eating Oreos and watching Buffy reruns, I used the conversation as an opportunity to reassess my writing agenda for the remainder of the year. First, I went back to a post I wrote early in January about my professional and personal ambitions for the year. At the time, I mentioned several projects that I wanted to complete in 2011. There was a short story I intended to write with Stuart. It’s done; Stuart has been shopping it around. I needed to create a website for D.B. Jackson. See it here: http://www.dbjackson-author.com. There was a middle-reader book I wanted to finish and revise. It’s done and has been through one set of revisions. I’m about to send it to a friend for her opinion (Hi, Misty!). There was a contemporary fantasy I wanted to write. It’s finished, too, and I have some revisions to do on it.
Then there were other things I haven’t gotten to yet: A second contemporary fantasy that I need to revise, a proposal for two more Thieftaker books, and several short stories set in the Thieftaker universe. On the personal side, I have been exercising, as I said I wanted to, I’ve done a bit of photography and been to several conventions, and I’ve been balancing work and family fairly effectively. On the other hand, my guitar is covered with a disturbingly thick layer of dust, and I’ve neglected my personal blogs for much of the year.
If I was giving myself a report card for the year so far, I’d say I have a solid B+.
But the point is, this is still a midterm grade. Summer is almost over, but we have the entire fall and the early days of winter left.
How are your goals coming along? Many of you commented on that January post with agendas of your own. Maybe you’ve gotten all of it done already, or are well on your way to doing so. If that’s the case, good for you! Well done! On the other hand, some of you may be looking at that old list thinking “Holy crap! What have I done with the last several months?” That’s okay. It is way too early in the year to say “I’ve failed; I’ve gotten nothing done.” On the other hand, it’s the perfect time to make adjustments, to figure out a realistic writing schedule for the remainder of the year. It may be that some of those ambitions have to be put off until 2012. But you can still do some of what you had hoped.
Maybe that novel isn’t going to get done, but you can outline the final chapters and get to work on them. That way you’ll have a clear agenda for the rest of 2011 and the early part of 2012. Maybe you didn’t get to start the novel you were hoping to, and you don’t see how you’ll be able to in the months remaining. That doesn’t mean that can’t write a couple of short stories using the same characters and setting. That will help you refine the voice for the book when you do begin, and it will give you work to market in the meantime.
It is all too easy to allow work and family and the daily demands of our routines pull us away from goals, from ambition, from dreams. And once that process begins, it is much easier to give in to “the inevitable” rather than fight against the current and change those patterns. In other words, it’s all too easy to say, “The year is basically over. I didn’t get that stuff done. Maybe next year.”
Don’t do it. September. October. November. December. Four months. Seventeen weeks. A full third of the year. That is plenty of time to accomplish all sorts of things. Get back to that novel. Start writing that short story you’ve been kicking around in your head. Work on a book outline. Write those query letters. Take those character sketches out again and rediscover your passion for the project you’ve been neglecting.
It’s not too late. There is plenty of time left. What are you waiting for? And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Should I revise that novel or start on the short fiction . . . ?David B. Coe