I almost didn’t log in today to continue my tradition of New Year’s Eve blogging. I’ve been so absorbed in other projects that I’ve been ignoring this site, and I know it. Then I thought, Why not? It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent. It can just be something. There should be something.
I guess you could say I have a new mantra these days: “Just fifteen minutes. You can always take fifteen.” It’s been a surprisingly helpful stimulus.
This came from participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, last month. The goal is to write at least 50,000 words of a book. I’ve known about the program forever, but this was my first time giving it an earnest try. With a toddler running around, I knew the official goal would be so daunting that I’d get unnerved and give up immediately. I set a personal target of 30,000 instead, figuring 1,000 a day was still a stretch, but doable. After the first week, I started falling behind and already wanted to quit. However, this mantra kept me going, and I proudly finished the month at 30,013.
My resolution for 2022 was to write more, and I definitely achieved that. In the first half of the year, I wrote six articles for The Workprint, an entertainment website. I watch a lot of TV, so it felt great to make that time feel productive somehow and have a real platform for my lowly thoughts and opinions.
Then I decided to focus more on creative writing. I discovered and joined a relevant group at work. The founder, a technical writer named Melissa who published her first novel this year, leads frequent chatroom discussions, lunch meetings, and writing sprints to motivate and inspire us. Before this, I’d only taken one writing workshop as an adult, which was a semester-long course at a nearby community college in 2016. This group was therefore only my second time being surrounded by people who were constantly talking about their work and writing. And since this was a work thing, for the first time I was surrounded by people with similar day jobs who were all trying to squeeze in writing on the side. It was a mentality game-changer.
When Melissa created a subgroup for NaNoWriMo and shared links to tips and suggested pre-work, I thought for the first time, I can actually do this. One of these links went to a quiz that suggested the best writing schedule for your personality and lifestyle. My result said to aim for 750 words a day on weekdays (slightly more than one page in the morning, one in the evening) and 1,687.5 on weekends (less than two pages per hour). Broken down this way, hitting 30K seemed almost easy.
She mentioned one day that, often when she’s procrastinating on a work task or tempted to scroll mindlessly through social media, she takes ten or fifteen minutes to add to a creative work in progress, instead. Why not? We all have these little pockets of time everywhere: between reading through that last unread email at 9:17 and the scheduled meeting at 9:30, when one of your back-to-back calls ends ten minutes early, when someone messages you “Hi, quick question” and then doesn’t say anything else for a while. Might as well seize those moments to advance your story’s plot by a few sentences.
Or pedal through a couple songs on the exercise bike. Or go for a walk around the block. Or do some push-ups. You can do so much in ten to fifteen minutes, honestly.
Much of what I wrote during NaNoWriMo ended up being garbage, but it felt so good to flex that part of the brain and just write. I also learned so much about myself as a writer and my creative process. Today, I am cautiously excited to share that I have 10K words of a Real Debut Novel in the works. My resolution for 2023 is to complete it, and enlist some of you as beta readers!
Other highlights from this past year:
- Read 27 books*! Favorites were Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu, and Born a Crime by Trevor Noah.
- Got promoted at work
- Went on our first family vacation with the 3-year-old
- Attended a bachelorette party
- Officiated two weddings
- Played two concerts with our work orchestra, one of which featured some duets with my new cellist friend
- Did a bunch of outreach to students at NYC public schools about technology careers
- Started playing the piano again
- Got a 15-year-old cyst removed
*You may be wondering, how on earth did I find the time to read so much? Lots of audiobooks, lots of ten- to fifteen-minute bursts. 😉 Mostly while doing chores, walking outside, and driving.
For the first time in years, I feel most of the time that I have a pretty good balance in life. I’m focused on and confident about clear, specific missions. There have certainly been lowlights, as well, but I’m getting more resilient and dealing better with things.
Here’s to ever more growth and confidence in 2023.