The time has come for me to reflect on what’s behind me and what’s ahead of me. In some ways, 2017 was a disappointment. In other ways, it was a pleasant success. And overall, it was a valuable learning experience.
I made 2017 all about gratitude. Save for a small handful of days, I kept a daily journal in which I listed ten (sometimes more) things, people, outcomes, etc., for which I was grateful. This practice was uplifting on good days and reinforcing on bad days. No matter what, I was never in shortage of gratitude.
Personally, I dug into my first year of marriage. People say that first year is always the hardest, and I believe it. My husband and I faced unexpected financial challenges, which changed our lifestyle trajectory, and health challenges, which have a way of putting everything into perspective. And yet, we were grateful to retain many of the qualities of our lifestyle we value—freedom and flexibility to take a couple of road trips (including Devil's Tower in Wyoming and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, Arizona to attend my brother’s wedding, and Texas to celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws); start a freelance editing and book-building business; and—something I had been wanting for many years—adopt a sweet tuxedo cat. My husband and I continued to grow as partners, lovers, and, most importantly, friends. We still laugh together almost every day. Even when we’re not in the same time zone.
We also made a decision to relocate to the East Coast this coming spring. Leaving the Billings, Montana, community that so lovingly embraced me, and the place where my husband’s roots are planted deep, is not going to be easy. But the idea of new adventures, as well as proximity to the ocean and other people and places dear to me, excites both of us.
Professionally, 2017 ended with several highlights:
Yet, I struggled in other areas. I had attempted yet again—and failed, yet again—to maintain a connection to readers via this blog. In fact, I spent much of the year wanting to engage with readers and writers via social media and other options. Other goals, personal and professional, fizzled out.
These are all first-world failures, so to speak. If these are the worst of my shortcomings, then my life is, and continues to be, well-blessed.
So what’s in store for 2018?
I wrote a blog post for The Writer’s Habit about setting goals—I had tailored the post to target my primary audience of writers, but it was inspired by a webinar I had taken hosted by Michael Hyatt for audiences ranging from entrepreneurs to teachers to students to creative professionals to employees of all kinds at every level. As Hyatt says and I have practiced for years, it’s not recommended to share your goals with people outside your inner circle, but I will share one with you here, one that I think will be the game-changer between 2017 and 2018:
Leave my comfort zone as often as possible.
When I examine what I didn’t achieve this past year, whether personally or professionally, the number one reason was that I had been too afraid or reluctant to leave my comfort zone, resulting in giving up on some goals and never getting started on others. I was afraid to take risks. I read and learned a lot, but had difficulty applying what I’d learned. This year I am committed to bringing this particular brand of courage to everything I do, be it writing, teaching, building/growing, and/or moving. I’ll do it with my best friend and favorite person by my side. I’ll do it by thinking from the end and working my way back. I’ll do it with positive affirmations and tracking/measuring my results. I’ll do it one day at a time.
I’d entered 2017 worried. I’m entering 2018 determined. That, too, makes all the difference.
What will 2018 be for you? I encourage you to aim high, leave your comfort zone, and, above all, keep reading.
Craig and I read our books to each other. Usually at night, in bed, before we turn out the lights.
Dare I say, there are few things more romantic or intimate.
This is not an act of hubris—it’s not like this takes place every night, like some sort of pat-yourself-on-the-back-ritual. What I mean is that rather than showing each other our works in progress, near completion, in manuscript form, we wait until the finished product: a book we can hold and touch and smell. And then one of us proceeds to read to the other, usually a chapter or two per night. When it gets really good, we beg for another.
The most recent was Craig’s novel, Julep Street, which launches today.
Throughout my life, I had given considerable thought to the qualities I wanted to attract in a love relationship. I’d write them in lists—some detailed, some general—and more often than not, three items appeared in each one: funny; best friend; same profession.
I can’t tell you how many people frowned upon that last one, back when I was foolish enough to share such things. “You don’t want that,” they’d say. (A lot of people took it upon themselves to tell me what I didn’t want. Every last one of them was wrong.) Mind you, a potential lover or spouse with a different career wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker; but I instinctively knew that it meant something to me, although I never could put my finger on what.
Sometimes it still astounds me how Craig ticked off just about every item on those lists, especially the top three. And I was right about the shared profession. We are able to do what we love without being in direct competition with one another. We are able to talk about and listen to each other’s workdays without the conversation being obligatory. We support each other. We serve as sounding boards for each other. We contribute complementary talents. We know where the other person is coming from.
I still can’t tell you why that’s so important to me, but I can tell you that as a partner and spouse, I feel more at home with Craig than I have with anyone else I have ever dated. And it’s not that I sought sameness; on the contrary, our writing styles vary, our process and approach varies, and sometimes even our opinions about the publishing business vary. But at night, when the book is open, and I am hearing him read the words he wrote, tell the story he crafted, I fall in love all over again. And he with me when the words and voice and story are mine.
I'm an author of commercial women's fiction and a writing instructor. My claim to fame: I can say the alphabet backwards.