- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Next week is my birthday. I’ll be 37, which is exciting if you like prime numbers but less fun if you prefer to have lots of factors in your age (like 36, which is fantastic—1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18, 36!). If you multiple 37 by 3, however, you do get a cool number (111), so it’s not all bad. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to be geeky about numbers, which is always a bonus.
Anyway, I think it’s about time for an early midlife crisis, but I just don’t know what direction to take that (except, of course, rearranging all the furniture in my house and trying to toss half of my belongings, but since that happens regularly, it doesn’t really count).
When I think about my age and writing, though, I can’t help but think of many/most of my favorite authors. Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson are both only a few years older than me. They’ve been publishing waaaaaay longer than I have (since, technically, I still haven’t!). Kate DiCamillo published Because of Winn Dixie when she was 36ish. We won’t go on and on, because that would be depressing. I guess the point is that it sure doesn’t feel like I’m doing much with my writing career.
At the same time, I’m quite aware that their career paths are just not for me. But then I think, “Maybe it’s because I’m just not a hard enough worker” (totally true), “Maybe I’m not talented” (hopefully not true), blah blah blah. I dither a lot. In the end, pretty much the only reasonable conclusion on this topic is Comparison = Bad.
So instead of comparisons, it seems like a good idea to think about the things I have done this year with writing.
I’ve written a bunch of short stories and flash fiction, two of which are going into anthologies relatively soon. I’ve participated in a flash fiction competition, which has been delightfully fun so far. I won the Mormon Lit Blitz this year. (Yay!) I won a Beginning of Book contest. I was given a great opportunity that is still terrifying the pants off me (and I am therefore stalling!)
I tried writing several stories that I wasn’t good enough to write yet. One of them turned out well. Some turned out okay anyway, though not amazing. One of them crashed and is still burning. I’m planning on pulling out the fire extinguisher and trying again. In trying things I wasn’t ready for, I got (hopefully) just a teensy bit better.
I started out the year with a goal of writing every single day. That goal also crashed and burned around August, but that was still pretty good for me. I went farther on that than I had previously, and I still write many days, though not even close to all.
I taught a writing class to a group of awesome teens, and as part of that, I put together an anthology of their awesome writing. It was an insane amount of work, but it turned out so fun, and I’m so glad I did it. I learned a lot about how anthologies work, how hard it is to put things in an order that makes sense and flows, and a lot of mishmash of stuff that I may never need to know again.
I discovered how much I love short fiction. I’m learning how it gives me most of the joy of writing, which is a big part of why I write in the first place. But it comes with far fewer of the bouts of angst, suffering, agony, and self-doubt that novel-writing has done in the past. So I’ve not given up on novels, but I am definitely loving the change of pace.
And none of this even touches on the sheer awesomeness that is each of my kids, which is a whole different topic.
Looking back, I’m really happy about writing this year, even though it still isn’t what I had planned on. I won some, lost some, grew and changed a lot. Another time I’ll start thinking about goals for the coming year, but for now, I think I’ll just relish where I’ve been. I’ll never catch up to my author crushes, but I think maybe I’ll find a place where I’m happy being me.