I have, unfortunately and unintentionally, fallen out of the habit of posting my monthly photo roundups. I miss these. Here’s a snapshot of September through December, minus the house stuff.
ICYMI, that “new thing I can’t talk about yet” was announced yesterday. Writer Unboxed, the wonderful online community that I’ve been part of as both a reader and contributor for years, is partnering with Writers Digest to create an anthology of advice for writers. You can read more about it here.
I’m honored and excited to be a part of this project. I was invited to contribute an essay, was offered a few topics, and ultimately chose to talk about envy.
Envy is sort of an ugly, uncomfortable subject — and it’s something that I used to feel a lot. Other people’s good news would make me feel bad about my lack of. I fell into the trap of believing I was doing something wrong, or was less deserving somehow.
These days, I rarely if ever feel envy. I’m only human, so it does still happen on occasion, but even then, I’m able to dispose of those feelings pretty quickly. Therefore I thought I might have something helpful to say on the subject, and I hope readers of the anthology will feel the same.
I’m also looking forward to reading the anthology myself. Based on the wisdom and wit that my fellow contributors already share daily at Writer Unboxed, I know that their essays will be useful, entertaining, and encouraging company for my journey.
I had this thought a few months ago, and I’ve been storing it, waiting for the right moment and the right way to share it.
I think there’s a phase in every writer’s life where each new book deal just makes you jealous. Then there’s the next phase — the happier, truer phase — where you think, “That could be me someday.”
Another bit of good news was made public recently.
Yes, that’s me—and yes, that’s my project in this Leonardo DiCaprio/Paramount movie news. SURPRISE! 🎉 (!!!!!!!) https://t.co/nSVJPskGFp
— Kayla Olson (@olsonkayla) February 2, 2016
My friend Kayla had to sit on this tremendously exciting development for weeks. I’m so happy for her, and so inspired by the path she has walked to get here. As I said on Twitter, Kayla is proof that hard work, perseverance, positivity, and kindness can pay off.
Years ago, my joy for Kayla probably would have been lined with a bittersweet aftertaste. Just as sincere, but partnered with a longing and frustration that had nothing to do with her. Now I have nothing but love, as they say. It’s a healthier, more productive place to be — and that is always going to be better for the work. And in the end, isn’t the work what this is all about?
“Letter to My Younger Self” by James Brown
I don’t care what the circumstances might be — you always stand on truth. No matter what the tide might be, no matter the trend or how the winds are blowing, you always stand on truth.
A mistake is an opportunity for those open to self-reflection, and you will make plenty. And they will make you better.
“On Growing Up” by Meg Fee (who feels like a kindred spirit to me and has quickly become one of my favorite personal bloggers)
You will arrive at an age when you develop this insatiable need for the conversations that come at the end of the day.
Oh, you’ll want the other stuff too—this kisses and the sex and the Sunday morning coffee runs. But there is a thing so particular about needing a person in which to empty secrets big and small.
You do not have to be liked by everyone. Let me say that again: YOU. DO. NOT. HAVE. TO. BE. LIKED. BY. EVERYONE. And you must be courageous enough to accept that.
The great challenge of adulthood (other than figuring out just what the hell it is you are actually doing with your life) is learning to speak honestly and kindly. Finding where those two things live—which, I’m pretty sure, is in that sacred space where courage and self-worth meet.
“Falling short: seven writers reflect on failure” via the Guardian
It took me a long time to understand the nuances of success and failure, to see how they are often intertwined, how success to one person is failure to another.
The zen of it is that success and failure are both an illusion, that these illusions will keep you from the desk, they will spoil your talent; they will eat away at your life and your sleep and the way you speak to the people you love.
The writer’s life is one of great privilege, so “Suck it up”, you might say – there are more fans than trolls. But there are two, sometimes separate, ambitions here. One is to get known, make money perhaps and take a bow – to be acknowledged by that dangerous beast, the crowd. The other is to write a really good book.
New year, new profile pic. Also in-progress: new blog post, new thing I can’t talk about yet, new book, and new take on old book.
— Kristan Hoffman (@kristanhoffman) January 12, 2016
I’ve been drafting this post since the first day of the new year. I open it every day, multiple times a day. I type a few things here and there. I delete a few things here and there. I have yet to figure out exactly what I’m trying to say, but I feel the words inside me, like a great pressure building, desperate to get out.
Everyone asks, What are your new year resolutions?
I never have a good answer. I don’t make resolutions, exactly. But I do think about the year ahead, ripe with possibilities. I do imagine what I want to achieve, and I do feel a renewed sense of determination and hopefulness.
All that sleeping in over the holidays probably helps.
From “The Open” by Caroline Wozniacki:
In the media, everyone is “up,” or “down,” or “on the rise,” or “in a slump.” In reality, the difference between winning and losing can often be very small. Proving yourself, over and over, to fulfill an outside perception of who you are as a player or person, can be a daunting task — an endlessly moving target.
Everyone asks, How is the writing going?
I never have a good answer. What happens between me and the page can be difficult or easy, slow or rapid-fire, tentative or confident, superficial or deeply honest. Most of the time it’s all of those things at once, somehow.
But what happens between me and the page isn’t what really matters to most people. Most people just want to see the tangible end results. They want to see the cover in the bookstore, the pages in print, the reviews on Amazon. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see those things too. But what I find hard to explain is that those things don’t necessarily mean that the writing is going well. And this, where I’m at right now, doesn’t necessarily mean the writing is going poorly.
There is a voice in my head that runs in a constant loop, saying, Don’t ruin anything! Don’t mess up! Keep everything nice!
It’s not very helpful. Not for a creative. Not for a normal human being living in this beautifully imperfect world.
I guess one of my goals this year is to silence that voice. To embrace lines that aren’t straight and rooms that aren’t tidy and sentences that aren’t as eloquent as the thoughts in my head. To stop fearing mistakes and just learn from them instead. To live and play with abandon. To seek and create joy.
The past few months have been a blur — mostly due to the new house — so going over everything I’ve read this year proved to be a nice surprise. I had forgotten how many great books there were!
In order of when I read them:
- A particularly lovely treat is that several of of my favorite reads this year were written by friends of mine, including Jasmine Warga, Becky Wallace, Natalia Sylvester and Kelly Loy Gilbert. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to read the work of people you know in real life, because what if you don’t like it? (Awkward…) Fortunately, with each of these books, I could tell I was in good hands from page 1.
- LEXICON was a book that Andy discovered on a whim, devoured, then urged me to read so that we could discuss it. That doesn’t happen often.
- The author of BONE GAP is an “agent sister” of mine, and I’m honored to think that Tina has as much faith in me as she does in Laura Ruby, whose writing is so lyrical and fierce.
- Once again, I’m trying more audiobooks. (Including SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT and YES PLEASE from above.) In our old neighborhood, I could hold a book or my phone and read while I walked Riley, because there were only a couple streets and virtually no traffic. But our new neighborhood is much busier and more urban, so listening to books is a safer way to go. Unfortunately I don’t have the best attention span when it comes to audio, and I’m picky about narrators/voices. For that reason, nonfiction seems to work best for me.
What were your favorite books of 2015?
If you’re interested, here are the roundups from previous years.