One of the best things turning 50 did for me was to light a fire under my behind. At 47, 48, 49 I could see the big five-oh coming. Whether it was true or not, I took to heart the phrase “now or never.” That attitude has made my last few years my best as a writer.
Even though I’d been writing all my life and earned my living that way, I’d been making what Julia Cameron calls creative U-Turns since my twenties. Whether my creative path got hard (rejection from lit mags) or exciting (agent interested in my novel) I responded by quitting. In 2011, I stopped doing that.
Still, the last few Januarys have brought with them an anxious mix of trepidation and possibility: Would this be the year I finished my book? Would this be the year I got a publishing deal? With its post-Christmas blues and gray days, last January felt especially hard. Like an ill-fitting suit of clothes binding under the armpits and scratchy at the neck.
This is the first January I haven’t felt angsty and melancholy and the only thing I can attribute it to is that 2015 was the year I finished my book and got a publishing deal. And 2016 is the year my memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away, will be published. Perhaps last January was my worst ever because I knew I was so close to finishing and perhaps selling the book that some part of me worried I’d quit again.
I know enough from other writers that publishing a book doesn’t always live up to one’s hopes and dreams. But right now, I feel a sense of rightness in my creative world that I haven’t felt before. I’m standing on the other side of now or never and pausing to breathe it in. There will be the next thing and the next leap, but this one will always be behind me.
My writing goals for this year are softer than last year’s “Finish my book!” I have new essays planned and the whisper of a next book in mind. Pondering the coming year, made me curious how some of my writer friends – journalists, essayists, memoirists, and novelists among them – are meeting 2016’s possibilities. I’m inspired by them all. Maybe a better way to think now or never is what am I waiting for? Whatever your creative goals, wishing you the courage to make the leap in 2016.
(Pictured top left to bottom right)
Elizabeth Mosier Over the years, while juggling writing with other employment and raising kids, I’ve measured my progress in hours spent with my butt in the chair, and in projects finished and published. Such goal setting has helped me produce a large body of work—and has given me an aching right arm, strained from typing on a laptop.
After a summer of physical therapy, I bought a Fit Bit to recalibrate my sense of what makes for a successful day. Trying to better balance mental and physical activity, I’ve become acutely aware that writing prolifically conflicts directly with living healthfully. This realization has made me wonder, too, if too much focus and discipline can wear out my mind.
This year, while I strive to take ten thousand steps every day, I’ll also seek literary fitness through work that encourages movement—in my thinking, in my subject matter, and in my writing style.
For every answer I seek by writing an article, I will be alert to other questions I might pose, to find the universal in the personal. For every time I page through my journal to harvest meaning from the past, I will venture out to gather new material: book a trip, attend a lecture, or browse artwork in a gallery. For every essay I commit to the page, I’ll seek a conversation with someone who doesn’t think like me, to freshen and sharpen my own writing voice.
In other words, I seek the writing equivalent of balance between puttering around the house and taking a long, meandering walk. Both kinds of writing—like both kinds of steps—count, and both are necessary to my writing practice.
Timothy Burgess I'm hoping to finish the first draft of my second Liam Sol novel, California Son, by the end of February. I'm three quarters of the way through, but there's a lot to work out--so far, three of my characters have been murdered and I still have no idea who the killer is. Yes, the writing process is indeed a mystery.
Anita Darcel Taylor My 2016 goal is to sit for four hours each Saturday and Sunday playing with words, writing sentences and paragraphs that are winding and interesting, maybe even fun to follow until I’ve come to the end of the story being told. It takes reading and dreaming, sitting and channeling, listening and sometimes dangling out into great experimentation. I have prepared my space. I will welcome myself.
Juli Fraga Write Freely – Quieting my 'inner editor' and 'critic' so that the heart of my words make their way onto the page. · Read more – I want to finish "The Situation and the Story" by Vivian Gornick before the end of January. · Less is more – In 2016, I want to spend time working on a couple of essays instead of writing shorter articles. I would love to combine my profession of psychologist + writer to stretch and write a more scientific piece- where social psychology meets the essay.
Estelle Erasmus · To continue to have my essays published in high credibility publications · To expand my editing/writing coaching business · To curate wonderful writers, and produce books.
Aron Moe Macarow Building more confidence in my writing and creating relationships with new outlets so that I can explore new styles (memoir!) and alternate beats (Judaism/religion coverage!) is my top goal for 2016. This first year of creative work has been an unexpected blessing, but I have no firm idea what beats I most enjoy covering and what type of writing I most enjoy producing. I want to shake off the feeling that I'm a fake professional writer because I don’t come from a journalism background and really explore this new career in the coming year, even though the prospect is scary.
Paul Eberly By year’s end, I want to complete a 1200 (or so) page first draft of my novel. I want to return to my blog. I don't have a nine-to-five, so there’s no blessed reason that I can’t write four hours a day and practice guitar four hours a day, and at least five days a week, that’s what I want to do. I want to mostly resist the incredible amount of good TV that exists now, as it interferes with my reading!
Diane Cameron I've recently been wrestling with how to make writing a priority in a life with a big “day job.” I did OK in 2015 but the last month showed me that I need to say no more often to things that are not advancing my writing goals – even if some of the opportunities are writing related. A conversation with another woman who also incorporates (I gave up using the word "balance") writing/art/business/family/health helped me to see what my focus will be for 2016.
- My new book, "Never Leave Your Dead: War, Trauma and Redemption" will be published in May. I need to create the marketing plan and start now to get speaking engagements in place. (Please invite me!) What I learned the hard way on the last book: selling a book takes a lot of time and energy and I need to leave plenty of time to get the new book out there. And to remember that marketing a book is also "writing". It's the writer’s job.
- Commit to regular blogging: Twice a week would be ideal but once a week is mandatory. My blogs (Women in Recovery and Love in the Time of Cancer) are where I test new material and shape my voice on these topics. Blogging helps me to feel "read" when traditional outlets: newspapers, journals and book publishers are not saying yes. When I blog I know I’m still a writer.
- Begin the next book. I have a file bursting with snippets, clippings, scribbled notes that are now accruing around my love of clothes and my work as a spiritual director. I want to start shaping that material and figuring out what kind of public life it might have. But that work comes slowly and after getting "Never Leave Your Dead" into the world. I seem to always believe I can do it all at once. Part of me likes believing I have eight arms and three heads, but alas--two arms and one head is my reality.
- For the sake of those arms--and legs and head. This is also my year for Yoga Teacher Training--to keep mind and body together. And to give myself a nice physical challenge to balance all the hours at my desk
Shabnam Samuel Submit at least two essays a month. · Complete my "Entrepreneur Training for Success" workbook by March 2016. · Finish writing my memoir with a goal to publish in 2016.