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Thoughts on 2009 & 2010

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking abut 2009 and 2010. What happened? What have I learned? What do I want out of this next year?

The answers have been somewhat surprising.

This time last year I was eight months pregnant and anxiously (miserably) awaiting the arrival of my second baby, Dresden, wondering how it was going to affect my life, my family, and my writing.

My goals for 2009 were centered on the desire to get something ready for submission, to overcome weaknesses, improve my blog, and generally just survive as a mother of two.

I feel like I failed in my writing goals, for the most part. I didn’t write anything I was comfortable querying, nothing I loved enough to polish, and rewrote the first half of one novel so many times it would make you puke.

But some wonderful things did occur this past year. I started Agent Spotlight and my blog sort of blew up. I joined SCBWI, Publisher’s Marketplace, spoke with agents who loved what I was doing, had people interview me (1, 2, 3), and became thoroughly ensconced in the writing and kidlit community. Not to mention had that baby (late!), got married, became a reader for a lit agent, and yes! survived as a mother of two, and managed all that I wanted to manage and more.

Despite not achieving my main writing goals for the year, there’s a lot to celebrate there, so I’m dubbing 2009 “The Year of the Blog.” Lit Rambles has been a vehicle for much love and success, and 2009 has been absolutely amazing if I stop and try to count all of its blessings.

And all of you are among those blessings! That’s a lot!

For this next year, one would probably expect me to keep on trucking towards the goals I didn’t achieve in 2009, and in some ways I will, but there is something that is going to set the pace of 2010, and there are some things I’ve realized that will really affect my goals.

Things, things, things.

This year I find myself anxiously awaiting something come January again. Not a baby, thank goodness, but school.

Yes. I’m going back to school, continuing my education. And I find myself pondering the same questions. How is school going to affect everything? Can I manage? What will suffer?

Family, House, Work, School, Interning, Writing, Blogging, Spotlights, Reading, Critiquing, Networking, Socializing, and so on and so forth, and all those other things that happen in a natural year.

That’s what I’m looking at having to manage in 2010.

I have a feeling something is going to fall to the wayside or have to go away completely, if not more than one thing, and it’s not going to be my family or house, of course! But what? I can’t imagine letting any of that go.

So I’m not going to just yet. I’m going to remain optimistic and see how I handle it all, but there are some things that do need to change slightly. Namely, my attitude, my main goals, and one of my blog features.

See, in all this thinking I’ve been doing, I realized something big. I went about my writing goals all wrong in 2009. I was focused on word counts and finishing and submitting and succeeding. It was all hurry, hurry, more, more, now, now and I lost sight of the goals that really matter to me.

I honestly don’t want to publish just to publish. If I’m going to do this, I want to publish novels that I love absolutely and can get behind 100%, novels that mean something to people, that matter. If I can’t do that, consider me out of the running. I don’t think I could handle the pressures of being a published author under any other circumstances. And as much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think I can write those kinds of novels yet, YET, but I AM happy to know this about myself.

Which brings us back to goals.

I have to stop focusing on word counts and getting to the finish line and get back to focusing on craft and quality. I have to stop all this hurry, hurry, more, more, now, now and go back to being satisfied with the slow, steady climb to my cloud of dreams.

So, my friends, I won’t be focusing on word counts this year, I won’t be doing writing challenges, and I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo. Yes, that means I won’t be doing Wednesday’s Words either. It’s been an amazing tool this past year, and I appreciate every one of you that has participated and encouraged me, but I’ve decided it's not what I need anymore. However, if you'd like me to keep posting WW for you, I’d love to do that, and I’d love to keep encouraging everyone that has been a part of WW in the past. Just let me know in the comments. I might put it up occasionally, anyway, to keep you updated on my writing.  I just won't be keeping track like I was.

So… after all that, what are my goals for 2010?

1) Manage school with everything else.

2) Learn to prioritize better.

3) Focus on craft and quality.

4) Be a source of support and encouragement for all of you.

5) Allow this writing thing to take as long as it needs to.

Now, how about you? Have you given much thought to the past, present, and future? Have you considered that you might be focusing on the wrong things, and letting the rush, rush get to you? What did you learn in 2009? What are your plans for 2010?

Please answer one or all these questions or tell me something else entirely. After reading my (long) ramblings, I’d love to know what’s on your mind!

37 comments:

  1. I think I was in too big a hurry as well on the publishing part of writing in 2009. I slowed down along about July and decided if this was going to happen for me, I needed to take my time.

    It cannot be about the end result, it has to be about the journey there. 2010 is going to be a great year! Good luck with school, I know you will manage that as awesomely as you do everything else!

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  2. Casey,

    What a fantastic post! I love to hear more about you and not just the people you interview!
    It's been an insane year for me! Everything sort of hit all at once with agent, book, etc. My head is whirling with excitement and worry over my release and how things will go in Fall of 2010! I have my first speaking engagement in Feb. and that's nuts, not to mention I'll be meeting my publisher at the IRA held her in Chicago in April. I too have two kids, the husband, the work craziness, etc! It's very hard sometimes, but I think if I didn't have it and had all the time in the world, I wouldn't be as driven! It makes everything that much sweeter when I succeed!

    BTW: I'm writing Nightshade's sequel right now and a wonderful new character happens to be named Dresden!

    xoxo -- Hilary

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  3. Good goals! Mine would be similar. So much of this business is out of your control. I want to take ownership of what I do have control over--basically, develop my self-discipline.

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  4. Wow, reading about everything you've done and that you plan to do made me tired! I don't blame you at all for refocusing your goals. Writing is all about trying out new things and if one method isn't working for you then you should absolutely try another one.

    My goal for 2010 is similar to yours: focus on making my writing as good as I possibly can - quality over quantity.

    Good luck with everything on your plate!!

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  5. Marsha, glad to know I'm not alone. I think it's easy to get caught up in the hurry of anticipation when we're constantly surrounded my people succeeding. I LOVE being around it, but I admit it has pushed me harder and harder, which hasn't been good for my writing.

    I think 2010 will be a great year, too. Thanks! And best to you in the new year.

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  6. Hillary,

    I've also realized that I should probably do more personal posts. I'm just always afraid of boring people - ha!

    2009 has been such a great year for you, and 2010 will be SUPER exciting. I'll be one of the first people to buy Nightshade City, trust me!

    Good luck with your first speaking engagement. How exciting and terrifying! I can't wait to see how this next year goes for you!

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  7. I agree, Karen. We have to really focus on what we can control, and right now, I'm the only one in control of my writing. I need to make it the best it can be!

    Here's to a great new year for both of us!

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  8. Wonderful post, Casey. You have been such a help to me this year.

    2009 was big for me: I quit teaching to write full-time and landed an agent. I'm hoping 2010 will lead to even better things.

    All the best on the next leg of your adventure!

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  9. Yay for focusing on quality over quantity, Anna. And thank you for the kind words. Writing really is abut trial and error, and I'm definitely still trialing and erroring. Ha! I'm not sure it ever ends.

    Let's keep each other focused on quality this next year! Maybe a group of us can band together and figure out ways to improve our craft.

    : )

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  10. That is big, Caroline! Congrats on the big steps you took in 09. I can't wait to see what 2010 brings you. Much excitement and a book deal, I hope!

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  11. Great goals, Casey! Congrats on going back to school! I think you did an amazing job in 2009 and I hope you find a chance to write more in 2010. It sounds like you'll be super busy, but that can be a motivator all on its own!

    As for me in 2009, I wrote one novel and started four (yes, four) others. I think I've finally found the one that I'm really excited about finishing, but we shall see. So my goals for 2010 are to finish one of the four WIPs and find an agent for the completed novel. Fingers crossed! :)

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  12. Great post, Casey!

    I'm one of those who found you when you started doing "Agent Spolights," which I thought were a great service.

    I'm glad that you have decided not to stress too much over word counts and the publishing business---it can make you loco.

    I think you are definitely concentrating on the right thing.

    When you do get published on your own terms with a book you love, it will make your accomplishment all the more better!

    Best of luck to you!

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  13. Casey - I'm so happy for you and this blog because it's amazing. Best of luck with school - I'm an eternal student and am always happiest when I'm learning something new. This dismays my Kindergartner who looked at me when I got back from class this week and asked, "Will I have to school for as long as you?"

    As far as the goal thing, my husband and I threw goals out the window this year and have had the most amazing year - and yes, I believe that's related. I wrote a book I really love, my husband released a new album that he really loves and will play live on the radio in a few months, and my blogging partners and I have decided to grow our writing blog which has been a blast. Do what brings you joy and the goals meet themselves :)

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  14. I haven't sat down and written my 2009 eval/2010 plans, but the biggy is that I will get an agent/published somehow in 2009.

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  15. Finding your blog was one of the highlights of my year. I'm so happy it's taken off the way it has.

    Good luck with your goals for 2010. I truly hope you can make everything work.

    I'll be blogging about my writing goals for 2010, but basically I share your concern with "craft and quality" as opposed to word counts and self-imposed deadlines and want to grow as much as I can as a writer. I think it's going to be great year.

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  16. Great post, Casey. Very honest and self-aware. Good luck with the new twist on your life!

    As for WW, I've found them very fun and helpful, but I can always do them on my own blog if I want rather than ask you to continue something that's now irrelevant to your own writing. :)

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  17. Casey, I'm always amazed at how wise you are -- not that I should be surprised but it is rare to find wise, witty, warm and talented in the same place. I think it is wonderful that you can look so objectively at your life and make goals, even though you know something might have to give. It shows real maturity and intelligence.

    As for me, I have to count 2009 as a much better year than I expected. One year ago, I moved away from England, my adopted home of 5 years and I was NOT HAPPY about it. I came back to the States bitter and resentful, with one goal keeping me afloat: I would be able to write full time and I was determined to finish my novel (which had been banging around in my head for 17 years).

    I finished the novel, have had good success querying so far (2 partials, 4 fulls -- including 1 response with revisions and an invitation to revise and resubmit, which I'm currently doing), and am really excited about what 2010 will hold, even though I will no longer be able to write full time (it was great while it lasted). I haven't gotten to goals yet, but when I do, I certainly hope I can be as realistic and open about them as you have.

    Thanks to you and your blog for being there during this great year.

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  18. Don't worry Casey. I wrote my manuscript enough times over the last 6 years to puke too. But I finally got it where I want it for now. I know you will too. I love your blog and you've accomplished a lot by building it so much this year. Don't give up on writing. I work full-time as an attorney, take care of the house, a sick husband, a child, and am active at my daughter's school. But I've always squeezed in some time most weeks to write. Sure you may not be able to write as much as you'd like being in school, but with discipline I think you can. And I think for many of us who can't support ourselves with our writing, that's the best we can expect of ourselves.

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  19. Casey, you said it! Part of my anxiety is that I push myself even when I'm not "there" yet. When I can't deliver I get frustrated and the cycle begins again.
    Glad to hear you are easing up on yourself! :)
    Thanks for being such an inspiration!

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  20. I admire what you've done with your blog, and I think that your good writing and organization is going to take you far. Going to school is huge, as well as giving yourself space to write at your own pace. I think 2010 will be a very good year for you. *puts crystal ball away*

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  21. Thank you for sharing, Casey, and congratulations on your achievements in 2009. And best wishes with school in 2010. :)

    I might be back later to update on 2009 and 2010 but currently, I try not to think about it. It makes me homesick.

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  22. Wow. Thanks for sharing! I think that rushing feeling is so normal but I too, would rather focus on craft in 2010. I swear Laini Taylor's Lips Touch changed my writing forever. I was such a book where she thought so out of the box that I thought, "Slow down and really CREATE. Katie! Make art, not just word counts."

    Anyhoo... I wish you the very best and will be checking in often. I agree that it's so fun to hear about YOU :-)

    Merry Merry!

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  23. Thanks for the wonderful post Casey! I think that the zeitgeist for writers is so filled with fear--if I don't write this novel now, find an agent now, get it published now, then the climate will change and those things will never happen. I think the reality is that the writing climate continues to evolve but not to the specific detriment of writers. That we need to write what we need to write when we need to write it, and not worry so much. And we need to make sure that the stress that we experience as we move toward our goals is healthful and not making us crazy. That we take a deep breath and know that we will get there in our own time. And that everyone's journey is unique.

    I believe that you will get there, Casey--this year showed that you have incredible staying power. You kept with writing through a lot of frustration. I'm still not quite sure how you accomplished everything that you did, and I'm glad I found you when I began this whole internet writing community thing. I love your blog, and I think you are a kind, warm, and thoughtful person.

    I can't wait to do a follow-up interview when you reach your next step on your journey. Whenever that might be. Life unfolds as it should. And we need to change our expectations to keep up with it!

    I wish you progress towards all your goals in 2010. As long as you are moving in the right direction, I believe you will get there!

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  24. This is the first time I've commented on your blog, but I want you to know that I am a devoted follower. :) I recently started querying again, and when researching agents I always check your blog to see if you've spotlighted them. I seriously appreciate the work you do.

    As for your writing goals, I've undergone a similar thought process. I feel like this last year I was very caught up with the race. It's hard not to when you belong to this writer's community, and it seems like all the time you hear about people landing agents and book deals. That competative side of me comes out and it turns into a race to the finish.

    But, like you, I've done a lot of thinking about what I really want and where I am with my level of writing. I have yet to make any concrete decisions. I only know that I am going to relax a little!

    Congrats on your decision to go back to school! I wish you all the best of luck with it, and with your writing goals.

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  25. I am in awe of all you accomplished and aspire to in 2010. I did next to nothing when my baby's entire first year, just too exhausted. I agree with slowing down and focusing on process. Especially since not only is that the part you can control, but it's the part that's most fun. Good luck!

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  26. I think Year of the Blog is apt. Whenever anyone asks for blogging advice, I tell them your blog is a perfect exaple of a writer who found a niche, worked it and now has a fantastic platform for her writing career.

    Blogging like this requires a lot of work, and so does being a mom--especially a NEW MOM! Never sell yourself short--you are awesome. :-)

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  27. Also, kids grow up incredibly fast. Soon, they will start school and they will be gone half a day. You'll have plenty of time to write then but believe me, you'll miss them.
    Just a few days (exaggerated) later, they will move out to start college/work, get married have kids of their own.

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  28. I wouldn't worry about priorities, Casey. I think you've been doing things just right. This has been a very bad year for querying, but you've used it to establish a platform with this fantastic blog. When you do finally have a polished novel, you'll be way ahead of the game.

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  29. sounds like you did ALOT in 09. Ill be with you through 2010 too - cheering you on all the way :)

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  30. I don't think you failed in your writing goals AT ALL. Sounds to me like you've grown a lot as a writer, and with a focus on quality over quantity, I think this will be your golden year!

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  31. Amazing year, Casey!! :) And fabulous post. :)

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  32. Casey, I really appreciate this blog. It has been invaluable to me. But reading your 'to do' list makes my head spin. Frankly, I don't see how one person can do all of those things well. I would edit. And I want to tell you, editing your life is not the same as failing. Lots of people (me included) conflate editing things out with failing at those things. As my mother always says, be kind to yourself.

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  33. I too got caught up with getting it written over getting it right. I've gotten much better now. I still don't like having to be patient but I've learned to live with it! Finding your blog has been a great treat for my 2009 literary experience. I look forward to whatever you do in 2010.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family and a hearty thanks for all your help this year!

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  34. I love and appreciate each and every one of these comments, everyone! I'm going to try to respond to all of you today but if I don't get the time, please know I've read them all and taken in all of your thoughts and advice. I'm so fortunate to have you all cheering me on and believing in me and this blog.

    Thank you!

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  35. Like you aren't doing enough already! I can't see how you do what you're already doing. As an obsessive workaholic, I can see the risks you're taking, so just be careful and be good to yourself. Don't let the guilt get to you when you have to let something go. That guilt can seem so truthful, but don't buy into it. The world really won't end if you don't get straight A's or you miss responding to a comment on your blog.

    I hope you find a comfortable balance that won't mean compromising the excellent platform you've built. It's too bad you don't have something ready for publication, because I'm sure you're attracting a lot of attention from the publishing world.

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  36. Wonderful post! It was great to hear more about you. I can put a person behind the brilliant blog. Your blog is amazing. It has been so helpful.

    In 2010, I want to have the courage to submit to a manuscript to an agent.

    In 2010, I want to write a picture book that is so beautiful that Jerry Pinkney will want to illustrate it. (Yes, I live in a fantasy world...)

    Finally, in 2010, I want to be focused and happy.

    Have a wonderful holiday and best wishes in 2010. BTW, what are you going to major in?

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  37. You do have an amazing blog, so your 2009 Year of the Blog fits!
    May 2010 be a Manageable, Accomplished year!

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