I will begin 2019 with a link to Emily McDowell’s toast to the old you on Instagram which echoes what I believe: you don’t need a new you—love the well-worn book you already are.
My children have been back in school for five hours and 38 minutes. So much to share, not quite enough time.
We will start with…
First book coming soon! I am soon to (self)-publish my first book The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts. Cover art is in final stages and I am hoping to be ready to launch by February 1 (stretch goal). I think it has turned out beautifully and I cannot wait to share this book with you.
100 Rejections: Still sitting at 2 submissions, 0 rejections.
Stuffed Project: Three posts written and shared. So far it seems like I’m on to something. A lot of comments and more sharing than usual (especially This little light of mine). Since beginning the project I have been observing all the times when objects are introduced into a perfectly amicable situation and—voila!—mayhem ensues (this is applicable to adults as well as children). I have been reading the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde. He distinguishes between a true gift and a transaction and this has been eye opening though I don’t yet have an articulate way of explaining what I mean. I’ll finish the book first.
Report card / promises / letting go: Over my four years of blogging, I have promised a number of things. In the near future (note, another promise) I will provide a report card on promises kept, commitments of future work, and changes in plan / the promises made that I am going to let myself off of the hook for (I don’t think you’ve been waiting for them all this time, but if you have, you can let me know).
My word for 2019: Finishing.
And now for 2018 in review
(Or, things I made in 2018 that I’m happy about and that you might like.)
Here we will walk down memory lane and take a look at major creative milestones, in reverse. I’m going to go back to 2017 because I have a number of new readers and I’ve never done this before so there is no 2017 round-up to look back to.
Dec 2018: Began The Stuffed Project, a theme I will explore and write about over some period of time, culminating in a book. Through this project I aim to develop: a joyful appreciation of the material world as reflected in my daily life; clear criteria for decision-making, to dispel exhaustion in the face of hundreds of daily decisions about the stuff I/we are managing; a way to consider obligations, including the obligation of organizing, acquiring, disposing of all the stuff, that restores time and energy for living. My approach is to bring some lightness and humor to the subject and think about it in new ways, not to get too heavy, or focus on harm and doom.
Dec 2018: Launched The 100 Rejections Project. While writing things and hiding them in obscure places on the internet is a very enjoyable and valid way to practice, sharing the things I’m writing more widely is something I feel ready to try. I don’t expect rejection, but at this point learning about submitting itself is a huge win for me, that is where I am in the learning process. I also do not have relationships or a reputation in the publishing world—yet—so that is something we build : ) Also, I like games so this way it is fun for me and also something I can share with you.
Dec 2018: Told a wise friend I was planning to finish my book (Rise and Fall) and then just “put it out in the world and see what happens.” She told me that is like saying you’re finished being pregnant at 8 months and she insisted that I have to come up with a plan to share it. She’s right (so I asked for her help and she said okay).
Dec 2018: Submitted an essay (my first) to The Sun.
Nov 2018: Commissioned cover art for The Rise and Fall of Jenny Goodguts (versus designing myself as had been the plan).
Oct 2018: Submitted my writing for publication for the first time as an adult. I sent one poem to The New Yorker. I think it is a good poem. I also wanted my first submission to be to The New Yorker. Probably because of E.B. White. If you have never read his essays, may I highly recommend One Man’s Meat or Essays of E.B. White.
Sep 2018: Enrolled in Seth Godin‘s The Bootstrapper’s Workshop with practically no forethought other than having read his daily blog for the past four years. Met a lot of interesting, thoughtful, supportive people who helped me to feel braver and more ready than I thought I was. Wrote a lot, learned a lot.
Jul – Nov 2018: Spent hours, days, reading my published and unpublished words from the past four years. Saw some patterns. Noted the number of things I kept saying I would do or write about someday. Noted that Stuffed, for example, was something I’ve written about writing about since November of 2014. Can’t decide if I never gave myself permission to do the writing, if I had other priorities at the time, or ??.
Jun 2018: Accidentally deleted 50,000 words of my 80,000-word novel draft. Not recoverable. Devastated. Shortly thereafter, notably while writing about it, was honest with myself about priorities, saw more clearly the importance to me of the work I had been doing. Thereupon decided to pursue the Rise and Fall book which I am so glad to have done. I did not know that Rise and Fall would take quite so much time as it has, but I’m glad I made the decision to put the time in and I’m proud to have followed through.
May 2018: Eating and other problems is incomplete but writing it was very important for me. This was when I felt (not thought, but felt in my body) that I have spent too long living in the story of how humans cause damage to the Earth and focusing on the details of the damage caused. I want to focus on how we love the Earth, how we love each other. This does not mean ignoring information and it doesn’t mean turning away from what is hard or scary. Love can be, is often, hard. But it feels different than fear, avoidance, or wishing. And it is active.
Mar 2018: Writing When Bono saved Easter also shifted my perspective on life. This one is a very appropriate New Year read and may help you to rethink the New Year, New You claptrap. Of everything in this 2018 review, I think reading this one may give you the most hope, or acceptance. I love this piece.
Jan 2018: I wrote my most popular piece of writing, to date, How to lose 10 pounds in 10 days. It is funny. But I will tell you a secret. The reason it has so many views is that a friend of mine has about 10,000 Facebook friends and she is a revered wit. She shared the piece saying it was “hilarious” and almost all of the views and comments came from her friends. As an emerging artist, this is tough because what it suggests to me is that my humorous writing is the most marketable thing I have going. And I love to write with humor. But not all the time. It’s tricky because people want to know what to expect. So, here’s what you can expect: I frequently write with humor, but sometimes I don’t.
And some notes on 2017
Nov 2017: Successfully extricated myself from annual post-Halloween sugar-fueled emotional slump. Blogging helped.
Oct 2017: Began writing my still incomplete, mostly deleted but not abandoned novel. This was an amazing experience (even considering the mishap). My writing improved, probably because I came to understand what it means to sit with your paper or your computer and listen and translate words that are not crafted only by your own mind, to be a conduit. I also learned that the act of sitting and writing, itself, is asking a question. The answer doesn’t necessarily come while you are writing but the act of writing down the words helps you to understand what the question is, where you don’t yet know something. And then, sometimes, an answer comes first thing in the morning, or in the shower, or washing the dishes, or driving and listening to the radio. I look forward to granting myself more time to do this.
Oct 2017: Posted a song I wrote while thinking about how to keep going when people you love are hurting and the world is feeling dark. I’ve written about 20 songs and this is the only one I’ve shared in this way and only in voice memo format. Also I was sick when I recorded it so in my opinion it is not my finest vocal work. I’d like to record this one and some of the others in a more listenable format and I’d like to do it in 2019. But right now it is an aspiration and not a plan or promise. This is #2 in terms of my most viewed post ever. So again, not sure what to draw from these small slices of data. Comedienne, songwriter, poet, hybrid? I’m still going for hybrid.
Aug 2017: I wrote a lot around the time of the violence in Charlottesville but none of it is posted on the blog. Some of this writing made it into the book though, so you will be able to read it there. I did share one piece on the blog, I may be right, I may be crazy, that my dad (who is usually one of my biggest fans) did not care for. I think is a helpful read for someone who is aching to be creative but afraid. I think I was on the cusp of jumping towards writing more honestly and authentically but of course I didn’t know that yet.
Jun 2017: I wrote the Happy Atmosphere Challenge after President Trump announced the US would pull out of the Paris Agreement. It could use some refining and I have new thoughts about it in light of a year and a half of more thinking. It was an important exercise for me, I think it is a good read. Refining and sharing this in some way is one of the projects I am thinking about within the context of Finishing.
May 2017: Launched the Adventures with Jenny Goodguts blog. Wow — it hasn’t really been that long! I love the launch post Not holding out for a hero and the explanation about the origins of Jenny Goodguts, even if I’m not using the superhero terminology anymore.
April 2017: Found a lucky quarter—face up—in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Made a spreadsheet. Life changed.
After writing, and rereading this post, I reflected a bit. I asked myself, do you think the work here is the best you can do? Is THIS how you want to be known to readers? And I smiled at myself, inside. Yes, I said. This IS the best I can do. Today. That day. And I did it. And I shared it. I don’t know what is the best I can ever do, if I get more time. If I stay healthy. But I’ve done this, and I’ve learned, and I’m learning. I’m practicing and I’m trying.
Thank you for reading and for your encouragement. Thank you for helping me to find my voice and share it. Thank you for bringing out the best in me.
In Adventures with Jenny Goodguts, I share progress and notes on a variety of experiments while trying to become a published author, reimagine my relationship to the material, and sing a lovesong to the world. I share about one post a week (historical overestimate). Subscribers occasionally get extra news and notes. You can subscribe here.