Silk’s Post #111 — December first always catches me by surprise and leaves me a little stunned. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming, but when I flip the calendar over to the twelfth month, it always gives me the same kind of subtle flutter of panic as an upcoming deadline or performance.
It’s a psychological thing, the last calendar page. The year is running out. Winter is beginning. Harvest time is past and the few straggling remnants of the growing season – stubborn leaves, a few hardy geranium blooms, abandoned field pumpkins – now look out of place, targets for frost. Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year are just three weeks away. Whatever I wanted to make of this year, I have 30 more days to bring it to fruition.
NaNoWriMo is over (read Chuck Wendig’s great post, “NaNoWriMo Doesn’t Matter” for some morning-after perspective). Movember has been scraped away by thousands of razor blades. The month begins with the sobering World Aids Day. On December 10th, coincidentally designated Human Rights Day, the year’s Nobel Prizes will be awarded. The transition from November to December has been kidnapped by commerce, with the twin post-Thanksgiving shopping sprees, crassly named Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s a sure sign that Christmas-Hannukah-Kwanzaa-Yule – the most emotionally charged season of the year – is noisily approaching, demanding preparation.
December always flies.
Maybe it’s the holiday-dominated social calendar, or maybe it’s the short days, but I’ve learned that much of what I plan to accomplish in December will probably remain on my to-do list when the New Year rolls around. And I hate to admit that “the holidays” has now become, for me, a mixed blessing, an ever-elongating season to “get through”. Oh, I still love Christmas. In fact, I’m kind of a Christmas freak. But it’s a lot of work. I’m starting to understand why many people choose to trade glittery fir trees for swaying palm trees.
The December 1st reality for me, as a writer, is that most of my potentially productive writing days for 2014 are now behind me. I’m not giving up on setting goals and I’m not just making excuses. But I’m facing the truth. I’m not likely to suddenly acquire an extra helping of writing discipline in December. There’s a reason that NaNoWriMo happens in November, not July (its original month back in 1999) or December. Except for Thanksgiving, writing time doesn’t have much to compete with in November. In contrast, December is littered with time-intensive commitments.
But that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for. Renewal of resolve. Repair of failures.
So what can I do to make 2015 more productive, as a writer? The “just do it” prescription is a hollow toss-off. Of course one has to “just do it”. The question is how. And the answer is different for each person.
That’s what I’ll be doing some serious thinking about during December, while I put whatever time I can find into finishing my research and story plan. Personally, I need more than a happy pep talk with myself (c’mon, you can do it!). More than a stern bootstrap declaration (1,000 words a day, for sure). What I need is a project management strategy. A personal script with stage directions.
I’ve been working towards becoming a published novelist for several years now, not without some accomplishments. A lot of that effort has been spent climbing the steep learning curve of craft. But I will not go through one more year without producing a full, final draft of a novel I’d be proud to put in front of an agent, a publisher or a reader.
From my December perspective, with another year coming to an end, I realize that I am also at the “end of the beginning” in my writing career.
My first effort was a story I wanted to write for years. But I didn’t know how to write a novel yet. It sits in my drawer, a first draft of a first book, waiting to be re-written by the writer I’ve become. My second effort was a story I conceived to fit into our 5writers challenge. But it was more like an exercise than a story that had deep meaning to me, and I didn’t know my own voice yet. It also sits in my drawer, half finished, waiting for me to decide whether to resurrect it.
Now I’m working on a story I have passion for, one that delves into human issues I care about. I feel that I’ve finally found my voice, and I’ve learned enough about how to write a novel that I think I can bring sufficient craft to the mission.
2014 is my last year of rehearsals. December will be my last moment backstage – pacing, running through my lines, psyching up, envisioning my performance.
2015 will be my year.