Unfinished Business

Last Christmas I only asked for one gift. Just one. I was thigh-deep in Sea Story brainstorming and I wanted a complementary project to fill my year with, so I asked my dad for a model ship kit. Being a model ship builder himself, Dad was enthusiastic. He even painted me this little pirate’s flag for me to hang when I was done:

(See my anchor necklace? Isn't it pretty?)
(See my anchor necklace? Isn’t it pretty?)

I was enthusiastic, too. I even included it in my 2013 resolutions. 2013 would be the Year Of The Sea.

My 2013 Resolutions
My 2013 Resolutions

The observant among you will note the model ship is the only resolution not crossed off. Yeah.

2013 was indeed the Year Of The Sea. After putting aside the Ghost Story in February, I sunk into the Sea Story and stayed there all year. There’s this line in my MS about the sea being all-consuming. It’s a little dramatic for the current context, but the Sea Story really did consume me in the most wonderful way.

No guarantees this line will remain.
No guarantees this line will remain.

All year I’ve felt this terrible guilt at my poor, unfinished ship. I even wrote it into my manuscript. Anna’s biggest regret is that she never finished the model ship she started building with her father when she was a kid. She spends the whole book trying to fix the unfinished ship after it is accidentally crushed. If these scenes are particularly poignant, its because they come from my own fear of disappointing my dad (and myself).

Poor Anna!
Oh, Anna.

As someone who views life as a series of finished goals, ending a year without achieving all my resolutions is a difficult thing. I had such plans. Where did I go wrong? But see, as well as being the Year Of The Sea, 2013 was also the year of Becoming, which sounds weird, but bear with me.

2013 was a wonderful writing year for me on the whole, but the start sucked. This was the year I almost gave up writing altogether. I couldn’t do it anymore, striving and striving towards a goal that was completely out of my control (publication).

I was tired of being an aspiring writer, tired of tying all my hopes to a few carefully addressed emails once every 18 months. Tired of trends and agent wishlists and endless requested revisions. Don’t get me wrong, none of these things are bad, but in early 2013 I was a person who defined herself based on the goals she achieved. Not being published, coming up on four years of hard work, just about killed me.

So, I decided to stop. Not stop writing, but stop aspiring. Stop defining myself by other people’s reactions to my work and just accept it: Published or not, I am a writer. Not an aspiring writer. Just a writer. That’s not a goal I’m striving towards, it’s just a thing that I am. I’m completely in-progress, but that’s okay. I have so much to learn. That’s okay.

2013 was the year I stopped aspiring and became.

I spent a lot of the year feeling guilty about that model ship, but I’m not anymore. I didn’t finish it in 2013, but I did start it. It’s in progress and it’s important to me and it will get done, dammit. That little painted pirate flag will fly.

People ask me what my writing goals are and the only answer I can give is this: to write. I’ve stopped tying my happiness to an end goal. I’ve found satisfaction and purpose in the journey, and this year has been so juicy and full and joyous because of it.

I’ll just have to wait and see what 2014 brings.

Peace and Love to you all this New Years!

Highway 1, California. Enjoying the journey.
Highway 1, California. Enjoying the journey.
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Unfinished Business

4 thoughts on “Unfinished Business

  1. “I’ve stopped tying my happiness to an end goal. I’ve found satisfaction and purpose in the journey…” — this is absolutely key, isn’t it? I’m so glad for your “becoming”, and for your joy. Happy 2014, Beth!

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