Every year in late October I sit down with my writing calendar for the upcoming year and map out my schedule: due dates, book releases, conferences, classes, etc. This becomes the backbone of my plan for the year. From that, I decide when to work on a new project, when to polish existing stories. I’ve begun working on that for 2014 and had a moment of reflection remembering the same undertaking this time last year.
I had big plans for my writing in 2013. Jotting down deadlines, release dates, conferences, all the things on my radar for this year, I was both excited and a little overwhelmed. But mostly excited. It would be a lot of work, I realized that, but boy was it going to pay off. I had done my homework, I knew what to expect, what to anticipate, and I was ready. This was going to be my year!
Looking back, I can’t help a sigh and a very real drop of my heart. This has been a hard year in so many ways. I’ve struggled with a new and debilitating chronic illness, one that will be with me the rest of my life. Conferences that I had attended and loved in the past were extremely hard for me this year; I even had to miss some of them. The deadlines seemed to pile up, all coming at once in one crushing wave after another. Many of the amazing things I anticipated happening in my career this year didn’t happen--some of those things couldn't happen, some simply didn't.
I had planned to reach the end of this year high five-ing myself for a job well done and looking forward to another shiny and dreamy year. But here I am. Tired. A little discouraged. Trying to face another year with the weight of uncertainty and setbacks heavy on my shoulders. The sudden arrival of RA changed a lot of things. Circumstances outside of my control changed still more things I'd been looking forward to. It's hard to push on, to pick up the pieces of shattered hopes and find a way to make new dreams out of them.
So I had a little talk with myself the other day. I gave myself a figurative hug, acknowledging that the path I’ve walked these past months has been a difficult one and that discouragement and worry and disappointment are to be expected. I promised not to beat myself up over it but also to not dwell on it.
I’ve begun making a list, not of the disappointments (I’m acutely aware of those—no list needed), but of those things that worked out better than I’d hoped, of the things I’d anticipated that did come about, of the tiny victories in the midst of an overwhelming battle. I’m taking time each day to remind myself that, though so many things went wrong, quite a few things went right.
I’ve started the task of filling out next year’s schedule with those deadlines and commitments that are firmly set. I have set myself to the modest task of completing one new novel. But outside of that I have only given myself one expectation, one goal: to keep going.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Samuel Beckett. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Knowing how many things fell apart this past year, I am struggling to get myself going for next year. What if it falls apart again? Falls apart worse? What if nothing goes the way I hope it will? It’s a very real worry, one that can be paralyzing at times, one I think we all deal with from time to time. So I repeat this mantra. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Maybe it’ll be another disappointing year. Maybe it’ll be even harder than this one. But maybe it will be better. No matter what comes, I plan to tackle it. It’ll try, and maybe I’ll fail. But if I do, I’m going to fail even better than before. And then I'll try again. Because as long as I keep going no failure is ever final.