Putting 2016 in the rear-view mirror

Here’s the funny thing: I remember the end of 2015 being very angsty, and searching for clarity with the beginning of 2016. I had every intention of making 2016 an amazing year. I was sure of so many things.

Now, at the end, I laugh at myself and what I thought would happen, how far off the mark I was. I laugh that I was even worried at this time last year as opposed to what worries me now. I fully expected there would be sleepless nights by the end of the year. I did not expect them to be about the fate of the nation, the fate of the world, the fate of my family.

I have tried unsuccessfully for two months now to blog about the American political scene and failed dismally. Since childhood, I’ve feared the dissolution of democracy. (Thanks, “The Man Who Saw Tomorrow”). I’ve always worried that our political system might be incredibly fragile, even as I wanted it to be unassailable. Perhaps it was unassailable from without, but from within…the one place we never really looked is perhaps the one place we should have been looking all along.

I think the truths many of us held to be self-evident were not so. I am still struggling to understand it. I still wake up every morning hoping the nightmare is over and realizing it may just be beginning.

And like so many, I’m struggling to wrap my head around what I can actually do, beyond continuing to be kind, continuing to stand up for the causes where I can do most good, beyond giving more support and time to the organizations and causes I already do.  It may come as a surprise, but I find being vocal about such things very difficult. I have hidden most of my life as a means of survival, speaking out only when I felt comfortable. I know that’s an easy position to take, and I will work harder against my own discomfort. But there is also something to be said for silence, the silence that protects those who need it most. I’ve seen a lot of yelling about “silence is complicity,” but sometimes silence is truly necessary. As long as there is action behind the silence, I am willing to trust that words aren’t the most needful thing. We can scream all day on social media about what needs to be done, but if we aren’t doing, our words are absolutely meaningless.

My plan for 2017 is simple: more doing, less talking.

My touchstone word for 2017? Strength. In every way possible.

And what of 2016?

There was so much grief I hardly know where to begin. Losing Bowie, Prince, and now George Michael and Carrie Fisher–I swear it felt like my childhood was being stolen away from me. But I know it’s only the beginning.

Writing

I jumped. Not quite as far as I wanted, but I definitely took a leap. I gave up on trying to force an adult novel into a YA container, and decided to make the plunge into adult. I finished a draft of it by the end of April. I noodled about with it for the rest of the year, worried about every single move I made until I realized I would just have to rewrite it. And in the process of that realization, I knew I needed to understand the backstory of the main character’s father, so I began a novella about him. I hope to finish it over this break and plan to submit it as soon as it’s ready.

I will be querying the novel as soon as it’s done. My target is March.

I dug deep in my short stories. One of these was rejected, another was accepted and will come out next year. I started writing a short story about adoption that became a novella in and of itself. Hoping to finish it this year.

I started out the year tracking word count, and before I stopped tracking (it is very hard to track revision), I had written nearly ~80K words. Not bad after years of getting nearly nothing. It definitely helped to track my writing cycle. I discovered that I tend to write furiously in bursts and then take several weeks to think/regroup before I write again. Very odd. I am sorry I stopped, but I will pick it back up and use the excellent chart developed by Christie Yant again.

“Spiritus Ex Orcinus” appeared early in the year in AFTER THE FALL. I was very proud of that story.

I have many unpublished stories that could be dusted off and submitted, so am hopeful this year might see more of them published. Admittedly, this is all behind the scenes work, but I have been doing it. That’s the difference between this year and years previous.

More to come there.

I also was invited to several book clubs, gave some class lectures, and returned to Dragon*Con, where it was good to meet up with friends old and new. (Kudos, as always, to the organizers, track directors, etc. I am as ever so impressed by all of you and thankful for all the hard work you do!) I was also grateful to spend time with one of my writing groups in Seattle. It was a quick weekend in-and-out, but just to be in Port Townshend for the brief time we had was miraculous.

 

Adoption

We were matched with our son after a seemingly interminable wait in September. We were told last November that matching would happen very fast, and as such, we panicked and started a fundraiser, which ultimately raised nearly half of the fees needed to complete the adoption. I cannot thank people enough for their generosity in helping us to that point. We truly could not have done it without all of you. Now we are waiting on his immigration approval to renew, and hope to travel for him in the new year.

 

Health

Although it was a relatively quiet year healthwise, a reinjury of the back in September threw me out of any ability to continue plans for growing stronger and healthier until I could recover. I worked with my physical therapists for 8 weeks and am finally nearly normal again, but the lesson here is that strength is key. It is too easy to neglect oneself. I can’t continue like that in 2017. I’m going to have to take the time to do the work. Or else.

 

Community

That “doing the work” ethic, as I mentioned earlier, also extends to my community. I’m going to do my best to be more active, to give, to speak up where needed, to write letters or make phone calls. It will be hard for me, because my natural inclination tends toward hermit. It will also be hard with a new child—I remember how everything else in my life slowed to a trickle at first. Hopefully this will not be quite as dramatic, but I still don’t know what my son will need.

I will, as always, focus on environment because that is something we all share. However, even if I’m silent about it, know that I’m trying to do what I can in a world that seems to be splintering apart all around us.

I’ve been thinking a lot about every story I love, and the fact that imperfect characters with imperfect tools did their best in awful situations to make the right choices. I remember Han Solo looking around at the Falcon once and saying, “Easy, baby, hold together.”

I think that’s what we have to do now. Our “bucket of bolts” may not seem like it’s going to keep us flying, but it’s what we have, and if we work together, it’ll see us through. We may need to put some things aside to make sure we get there, but I believe we will.

We can hold it together. We have to.

[My Year-End Favorites to come in another post…]
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