Coach’s Corner: Evaluating the Year That Was

Welcome to Coach’s Corner, where I offer some thoughts on the creative process and breaking through moments of self-doubt.

By most accounts, 2016 has been a rough year that we’re all happy to see the back of. I wonder if this year has really been as bad as at it seems, or if it just feels so terrible because of the dominance of social media, which can magnify tragedy and controversy. Whatever the case may be, after a year like this, general consensus is that January 1st can’t come fast enough and we’ll start fresh then.

All right, 2016 has been a terrible year, but why wait until January 1 to shift the direction we want in our lives? I know, January 1, New Year’s Day, it’s the whole myth of the New Year’s Resolution. You can tell it’s the end of December because all of a sudden commercials for quitting smoking and losing weight are everywhere. When I was a kid, I wanted to know why it was so important to have someone to kiss when the clock struck mid-night on New Year’s Eve. “To start the year the way you want it to end” was what I was told.

Rather than making a brand new start on January 1, and going in with all guns blazing, going at it hard and fast so that you burn-0ut and quit on day 2 or 10, or 21, I propose we tackle the new year in a different way. Let’s take a step back right now and evaluate how the year has gone. Let’s look at what we want to improve, keep the same, or completely change throughout the year ahead.

What creative projects had you hoped to accomplish in 2016? How did you do? Did you start on them? What stopped you from finishing? What other creative goals did you have planned for the year? What got in your way of achieving them? What did you accomplish that you’re proud of? What new creative habits did you develop that you want to keep?

As always, I am doing this with you, so here is my evaluation of 2016:

I’d hoped to get two novels done this year — one to go out on submission, the other for self-publication for release in August 2017. I did get the first one done, and it is out on submission. The second one, I’m about half-way through the first draft. I’m definitely behind schedule, but I will still make the release date I’ve set. Why am I behind? It took me a long time to figure out what the plot was going to be, but now that I have it, the writing is going a lot faster. I’ve also been working on putting in more time on my writing and I intend to keep that up to meet the deadline and beyond.

I have a couple of other writing projects in mind that I’d hoped to get a start on in 2016, but I’m pushing now to 2017. Though I haven’t put any words on paper for those projects, I have been thinking and plotting and working things out, so I should be able to at least get a start on one or two of them.

What has really been getting in my way? This has been a stressful year, especially September and October. It always takes me longer than I want to recover. I’d also committed to a few too many things. I’ve already dropped a couple of those commitments, which has not been easy. Doing so may have cost me a friendship or two and has in itself caused a lot of anxiety. In the end, though, I am confident in my decision because it was crucial to my own self-care and my writing career.

For the year ahead, I plan to re-evaluate my other social commitments and alter as necessary. I also need to work on how I utilize my free time.

What am I proud of for 2016? I had a short story come out in the anthology Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts. I finished a novel and got it out on submission. I’m half-way through a second novel and I really like it. I’m also proud that I have a handful of other writing projects in mind, which is quite unusual for me. I’m usually the kind of writer who has one idea at a time.

Let’s finish 2016 the way we want 2017 to be! How was your 2016 creatively speaking? What was great about it? What needs to be improved?

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