“If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind. ”Brandon Sanderson. “Tress of the Emerald Sea.”
Last week, my parents moved from my childhood home. It has been a small grief that I have been processing these past couple of months. Walking through the house and the yard the last few times brought up many memories of growing up and all of the dreams I had of the future.
During the moving process, my parents gave me all of the things I left behind in their garage, including a box of beanie babies, a collection of American Girl clothes, and a bin stacked with all of my homework from preschool to seventh grade.
I’m not sure why my mom kept all of that school work, though, as homeschoolers, maybe she kept them in case she had to prove we were educated. I was able to toss out about half of the work, but I did keep a stack of papers that included my first book–a fantasy novel about little people who were definitely not hobbits.
In my childhood writing, I found that my dreams hadn’t changed very much. In one school essay called “Author Me,” I wrote about my dream of becoming published. I wanted that not-Lord-of-the-Rings-rip-off book to live on someone’s bookshelf.
And my writing was…not that bad. Take, for instance, this response to a writing exercise in seventh grade:
“The pigeon perched on the dead branch, mourning the loss of his friend, Earl. He glanced up and spotted Earl, inching away across the branch. It wasn’t him. Just another worm.”
Or this one:
“Paula pulled off her mittens and threw them into the fire. Surprised, Jamie striked her in the face. They were his mittens.”
The surprise endings to both exercises are expert-level, in my opinion.
It’s strange how thinking about the past has made me laugh and cry these past few weeks. I’ve never been good at letting go, but I’m learning to.
I am still the same person with many of the same dreams: I still want to write.
As I learn to let go of that final tie to my childhood–my home–I am looking to the future with excitement. There are good things to come. Every time I think life has piqued, it gets better. Childhood and young-adulthood were great, but I wouldn’t go back if you paid me.
That may not feel true for everyone, and I understand that. I have chosen to believe, though, that with aging comes growth, and with growth comes a greater sense of peace and contentment. I have chosen to continue to grow and to look forward to that growth.
New years always come with new goals for growth. This year, one of my goals is the same as it has been for the past twenty years: to become a better writer. That’s why, this school semester, I will not be teaching.
I’m not sure where I first heard that writers should teach. In graduate school, I was required to learn teaching and to teach for two semesters. I have taught ever since. This week, then, was the beginning of my first “semester” where I will not be in a school. While I am going to continue teaching 6-week online courses throughout the year, I have decided to take a “break” from teaching in person. While there is always a possibility that I will return, I am trying something new.
I have no regrets about teaching. The program at WKU taught me valuable skills that have allowed me to make an income the past five years and possibly for many more years.
But this year, I want to write, and I want to keep writing without an eight-month break. I know many writers thrive off of a teaching schedule, and others thrive off of full-time work and writing in the evenings. But I’m…let’s be honest…lazy. I don’t have much mental capacity for writing on a normal day, so I want to commit all I have to writing.
I don’t know what next year or the next will look like, but this year my goal is to write as if it was my full-time job. If I do end up needing a job at some point, I want to sell my labor, not my mind (see above quote by Brandon Sanderson, who may have inspired this transition).
For the first part of the year, my goal is to revise the book I started last year, The Last Divers of Omera (working title), so that I can begin submitting it to agents. I have many more projects I hope to work on this year, including revising Son of Moss and Mountain. I hope to share some stories with you as well!
I’m nervous and excited. Being a writer has been difficult and discouraging at times. If you are not a writer, imagine working full time not knowing if you will get paid while also not having instant feedback on your work. To write is to face rejection, and I have been rejected a lot. That’s why I cling to the mantra “journey before destination” as I write (yes, another Sanderson quote, which I have written about before). Whatever happens, I will enjoy the journey.
As I spoke to my therapist recently about my parents’ move and how hard that has been for me, I learned that enjoying the journey is essential to living joyfully. Enjoying the journey means living presently. This not only keeps us from regretting the past or fearing the future, but it also builds up new beautiful memories for us to be grateful for. No matter the outcome, I won’t regret a year of writing if I enjoyed every moment. But if I wrote with only the destination in mind and didn’t enjoy the day-to-day, then what would I be writing for? I would only look back with regret.
So as I start this new year, “journey before destination” is my mantra and prayer for everything I do.
What goals do you have this year? How do you stick to your goals and stay encouraged? Or, how do you cope with big life changes? I would love to hear from you in the comments!