My 2017 Annual Review

Welp. Here we are.

2017 is in the books and 2018 is here to stay… at least until 2019 comes knocking.

Before the year bids adieu I schedule a few self-care days to reflect and consider everything the year held. It’s been my yearly routine for I don’t know how long. My December involves the usual holiday festivities but soon gives way to hibernating, journaling, reflecting, and getting my swirling thoughts about the next year down on paper.

Every decision I made got me to this point in life — and impacts my next step. I try not to live my life on accident. I’ve had whole years stolen by sickness and pain and nothing is more sobering than looking up and not knowing where the year went. Or learning that you’re actually older than you thought because, you know, for the last year you were hopped up on the kinds of pain killers the pharmacist must keep locked in a safe.

So 2017.

What went well this year?
What didn’t go so well this year?
What am I working toward?

1. What went well this year?

I’m a realist who is a recovering pessimist. It’s my INFJ tendencies. I’m also a dreamer with a massive thought life. I’ll try to keep the “didn’t go so wells” to the next section.

What went well.

Connections and Friendships I made some awesome new acquaintances in the YA writing world (YAY), but I’m most proud of reconnecting with my local Atlanta YA writing friend. I’m a true blue introvert with an impenetrable ‘NO’ superpower. That’s all fine and good and all, but in December someone I consider a friend, and phenomenal writer, relocated to Texas on very short notice.

That left me questioning all my NOs. What was my excuse for repeatedly missing Friday morning writing group? Seeing my people (because we all have our people) only every few months wasn’t exactly providing consistent warm and fuzzies, but it was of my own doing so I dealt with it. And now one of us has moved away.

It took a snowy December 2017 morning in Atlanta, sitting at a table across from one of the most genuinely beautiful people I know, to nail home just how important connection is. Writers need other writers. And I need those writers closest to me. This “went well” came late in the year, and though it comes with heartbreak, I’m thankful for the bonk on the head.

Celebrating Others I’m blessed and honored to be dear friends with some MASSIVELY creative people — heavy hitters. It’s been my privilege to share their wins and triumphs, screaming them from the social media rooftops. One has been on the NYT bestseller list since her debut in February WHILE her movie adaptation was being filmed. A few more have book deals and movie deals raining from the heavens. My critique partner and best friend all things literary had a MASSIVE year. Book debut, NYT bestseller her first week out, long-listed for the Morris Award, Bookcon/ BEA Buzz List, appearances and panels and radio interviews all over the place, PLUS another publishing deal announced just this month.

There was a recent time in my life when celebrating others felt like a slight to my own accomplishments — or lack thereof. I’ve been editing/ revising my manuscript these last couple years while everyone around me moves forward with their writing careers. Comparison tells me I’m stuck, that I’m the one lacking traction, not working hard enough, wasting my time. I rage against those lies by celebrating those around me. This isn’t a competition. I just can’t buy into that lie. They have their path — and I have mine.

Travel with Family/ Memory Making This year our family spent time in Paris, Disney World, and Nicaragua (twice). We navigated planes, trains, and automobiles all in the name of making memories. We set out for 2017 to be a year of travel and family bonding. It did not disappoint. The only problem now is I’m yearning to hit the skies again… and live in Paris. One of my life goals is to set up a home base in the Bastille/ Le Marais area — where my family can spend every summer.

Generosity and Giving Generous with time, money, myself I didn’t hit the mark on all three (see ‘Connections and Friendships’ above) but I made HUGE strides in some. I have a nasty habit of rarely spending money on myself. It’s a struggle. But charitable giving and supporting people/ organizations doing amazing work throughout the world? I will give to that ALL day. I hope to increase our giving this year.

Writing I didn’t create anything “new” this year outside of my main manuscript, but man am I excited for my story idea folder. Whew. In the near future you’ll meet my Bayou living, voodoo fighting, night walking, royal brood and their scheming stable boy and his way female best friend who’s got a way of weaving emotions.

Moving Forward aka Don’t Look Back aka Don’t Start Over – Again aka Don’t Give Up 2016 Whew. I entered 2016 with a manuscript I LOVED. After much, MUCH consideration I handed the nearly polished manuscript off to an editor well acquainted with my writing coach. He was to give it a high level once-over and give an overview of what he thought. Instead he went to town and destroyed my manuscript page by page. There was red in my ledger. At the time I welcomed his scathing critique. Industry professional offering ways to make my writing/ story stronger? Thank you sir, may I have another?

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

No.

I drank down ALL the poison he wove into his critique. Every red mark was like a tattoo on my soul. And I nearly drowned. February 2016, one month into the “it’s my year” year and I was frozen. I couldn’t write, couldn’t think, couldn’t do anything except fret over every single word I put on the page. My old nemesis anxiety made a visit, and with it came panic disorder. In 2016 I lost myself, my story, and my beloved ability to write, create.

In 2017 I fought back against the mental burnout, emotional fatigue, ever quickening panic that creased my chest.

I fought back and returned to the story I loved. The one my critique partner, writing coach, and others spoke of so highly. I didn’t give up. 2017 wasn’t a cake walk – it takes time finding your way through the dark. But I’m here. And I’m still moving forward. And writing. And revising.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Mental and Emotional Aftershocks The emotional fallout of 2016 drug on most of 2017 – the year of aftershocks. I had zero trust in myself – I had to learn to listen to my body, my emotions, God. I never quite arrived, as I was still operating from a place of fear and fear of loss. That’s no way to move through life.

Negative Self-talk The “how long have you been working on this book”, “how old are you”, “why can’t you finish,” thoughts were RAMPANT this year. So much so I was sick of MYSELF. Any time I took a moment for myself these thoughts plagued me.

Self Sabotage I am my own worse critic — a trait I left behind in 2017. That critical side is always seeking a self destruct button. Monday may find me having an AWESOME writing day. Then Tuesday arrives. And with Tuesday comes whatever scheme my critical side has conjured up to convince me the writing is off, the voice is awful, I’m wasting my time.

Health I started the year off strong, working out, eating right, all that. Then back to back travel happened in the midst of the flu and I never quite recovered. My wellbeing was not the priority I wanted it to be.

3. What am I working toward?

Loving Well 

– My God – My faith is a major part of who I am. For me, that requires loving God well – not making Him an afterthought or life preserver when everything is going to hell. I know how quickly my internal life spins out of control when I do. And with loving God well, I must love people well.

– My family – Mental illness is a thief. It not only wants to rob me of my life but also my family of theirs. I refuse to allow that to happen any longer. I never want my children to face the struggle/ shame/ guilt I had growing up. Feeling alone in your own skin, unable to tell anyone the dark thoughts in your head for fear of judgement. Communication, connection, and love are what I want them to feel from me.

– Myself – Long ago I hit the pause button on my health and wellbeing for some stupid reason I can’t quite recall. Right now I have the luxury of addressing some health concerns before they become major issues requiring my attention. Doctors appointments, regular meditation practice, and routine swimming of laps are in my very immediate future. No more am I “going to lose fifty-leven pounds”. I’m aiming for loving myself well – and that means caring for my wellbeing.
My writing – I’ve been afraid and operating from a place of fear. I’ve doubted myself longer than I’ve believed. We’re done with all that. Writing is what I’m supposed to do. I am a writer. It’s what I do. I create stories and I freaking LOVE it.

Welp. That’s my 2017 Annual Review. Thanks for reading. Hopefully something here sparks your own annual review and plans for the new year.