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2013 In Review: Goals, Books, and Writing

December 31, 2013

The fact that I didn’t find the time to post my goals for 2013 until February should have been a clue, early in the year, that this was not a promising year for achieving such goals.

Those goals, in brief, numbered 4: first, read at least 750,000 words of fiction, second, write at least 1,750 words of fiction per week (with a few caveats), third, complete the first drafts for at least two short stories and, third, to submit one completed draft in to a publishing market.

Perhaps one out of four ain’t bad, considering the year it’s been at the Casa Chez Watkins.  The short rundown of whether I met my goals: Yes, No, No, and No.

Yes, I read over 750,000 words of fiction.  In fact, I read over one million words this year.  The things I have read in 2013: A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, The Hundred Thousdand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and most of the first four books of the “Fablehaven” series by Brandon Mull, those being Fablehaven, Rise of the Evening Star, Grip of the Shadow Plague, and about 70% of Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary.  Every book I’ve touched in 2013 has been a pleasure to read, and each enjoys my hearty recommendation.  Plus, I joined Goodreads in 2013 (feel free to friend me) in spite of my reservations on their being purchased by Amazon.

No, I did not write 1,750 words per week in 2013.  Not even close.  In truth, out of 52 weeks in the year, I actually wrote more than 0 words of fiction in only 5 of them.  Of those five weeks, only one week came even close to my stated goal.  Four of those five writing days occurred in the first quarter of the year.  This will prove to be a relevant detail. My total wordcount for the year: roughly in the neighborhood of 4,600 words total.

Consequent to the last, no, I did not complete any short stories and no I submitted nothing to any publishing markets for consideration.

So what did I do in 2013 besides read and nothing?  Allow me to reflect on the themes that the year presented to me.

V.R.

Yes it really is that simple.  No I don’t mean “Virtual Reality”.  I mean my second little tyke.

Fatherhood, of course, was it’s own challenging transition.  When I first started this blog lo these many 4 years ago, I already knew that Fatherhood was an imminent facet of my future.  The blog was, at the time, an outlet for the internal pressures inside me striving to find release in the medium of creative writing at a time when life was already fairly busy.

I had thought, when we began to prepare for our second child, that being the father of two wouldn’t be substantially more demanding of me than being a father of one.  More demanding, yes, but not lots more.

I was… mistaken.

Since the advent of our second precious little one early in 2013, I can now count on one hand, to some approximation, the number of nights in which I have had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. (Remember how I said that the fact that most of the writing I’d done this year was in the first quarter was a relevant detail? This is how it is relevant.)  I find myself chronically sleep-deprived and both emotionally and intellectually drained.  What wherewithal I have has been devoted to trying to be a good husband and parent and to doing my best to have an outstanding year in my dayjob.  Being mostly – but not always entirely – successful in these endeavors has come at the cost of virtually no writing progress whatsoever in any of the several writing projects I am theoretically juggling.  (“Theoretically” because in practical reality those balls have been lying gathering dust this year, and hardly a one has been picked up or dusted off this year.)

So why, in all this, was I able to do so well in reading? Two reasons, I think: first, while reading is an intellectually engaging activity, it is markedly less cognitively demanding than writing and composition.  Second, relating to my writing head-space and proclivities and how that contrasts with reading: I can read in very short bursts (though I prefer not to be forced into shorter bursts) of as little as a page or two or a few minutes at a time.  Any progress made during that time is still progress toward any quantifiable reading goal. For writing, it’s not so simple for me. You’ll find lots of advice out there suggesting that one should make use of every available free minute to write, be they five minutes here or ten there. Except I can’t actually do that, or at least I’ve not yet found it in myself to do so.  I need enough free time and space, chunked together, to allow me to get into the story I’m producing, to delve into the characters and to feel the beats and rhythms of the plot.  If I have only five minutes in which to do this, any words I write, however few in number they may be, are more likely than not going to need to be deleted later, in which case the writing becomes a game of one step forward and at least as many steps back.  Not a terribly successful formula for progress.  All this while simultaneously draining still more from my already meager and dwindling cognitive reserves.  (A sad milestone for me this year: I believe 2013 is perhaps the first year I know of in which I felt stupider at the end than I did going in.)

Writing didn’t happen.  Reading did happen.  And something else happened in 2013.  I did lots of fathery-type stuff. For all that my mental resources felt drained, I still have a lovely and happy family, and I’m reasonable certain that all the members of that family – both little boys as well as wife and, yes, probably even the dog – are happy to have me as part of their lives.  Little V.R. may not sleep with anything remotely resembling consistency at night, but when he’s awake at the same time as the sun is up, he’s a genuinely joyful and adventuresome soul with a keen passion for the zest in life.  And let’s not forget B.T., who continues to grow and develop in delightful ways, proving at every turn that he’s gifted with a bright and inquisitive mind, a sensitive and loving heart, and a strong desire to make sense of the world around him.  Between the two, my own heart is so full of proud daddy emotions that the organ has undoubtedly had to increase in size somewhat dramatically in order to encompass it all.

I’m sad that I’ve had a poor year with respect to my writing – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But I think it is equally true that the joy B.T. and V.R. have brought me in return this year has been fairly just compensation of another kind.

I’ll update with a review of my year in blogging at a later date, but here’s a sneak preview: The life-altering consequences of adding a second child to our home was felt not only in the realm of fiction writing.

So that’s the year looking back, for me.  How was your 2013?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. daeruin permalink
    December 31, 2013 11:43 am

    I’m with you, man. I seem to recall that we both had babies join our families at about the same time. Ours is also having rather a lot of sleep issues. Between her and our two year old who sometimes wakes up one to three times a night (not to mention the five year old who wakes up with nightmares once a week or so) you have two very sleep deprived parents. I didn’t write a single word of fiction this year. I did get some world building work done early in the year. Maybe next year I can get some of it written!

    • January 6, 2014 12:26 pm

      Yeah, I think I recall that, too. Certainly we’ve had a lot of the same sleep-based problems due to the little ones. Good luck with 2014, and here’s hoping you can get some fiction writing in this year!

  2. December 31, 2013 12:25 pm

    I started blogging for the same reason as you. On the other hand, life calmed down this last year (finally) but who knows about the next. I didn’t write any goals for 2013, but I do wish I read more and I only wrote 1/3 as many days as I hoped.

    Hopefully next year things get a little easier for you. Wishing you all the best for 2014! That’s still an impressive amount of reading :)

    • January 6, 2014 12:27 pm

      Maybe 2013 was just a crappy year, generally, for us aspiring authors? Well, then, that’s behind us now. Here’s to 2014! May it bring us all more writing than we’d been doing last year.

  3. December 31, 2013 11:33 pm

    I’ve been in a very approximately similar position (many more family responsibilities than before, pretty much every day of the year, though different and much less physically demanding than yours), but I’ve ended up dealing with it differently, since I have been writing quite a lot, and doing very little fiction reading (lots of newspapers and blogs and so on, and lots of fiction re-reading). I didn’t even finish the new Pynchon (I don’t think I even got halfway through). Oh, well, maybe next year. :-)

    • January 6, 2014 12:29 pm

      It’s difficult. In theory, as a writer, writing comes first, but in reality, as a human being, family (or the closest relationship equivalent for a given member of the human species) almost always actually comes first. I guess blood is thicker than ink.

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  1. 2013 In Review: Blogging | The Undiscovered Author

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