Where did the days of last year go?
Days (and nights) flew by, consumed by family, work, writing. But everything seemed harder to come by, and as I round the stretch of 2011 I realize: I am tired.
This year, for the first time, my body began to feel its age. Ten weeks in physical therapy for a bum shoulder (exacerbated by the sedentary lifestyle of a writer and professor); now, an achy lower back alleviated by a new yoga regimen and Miracle Balls (no, not what you think). My mind also found difficulty focusing; between the stimulation of work, my writing program, and the gazillions of stories and poems begging to be born, sitting at my desk at dawn often felt an exercise in frustration.
Still, I managed to write:
*32 poems, 33,000 words on a novel-in-progress, 28 pages of critical essays for class, more than 2 dozen microfictions, major revisions on two novels, and a half-way decent query letter for CLOSER TO NORMAL that has (so far) netted a full and several partial requests
*A few honors: SHUT-EYE garnered an honorable mention in the String-of-10 contest run by Flash Fiction Chronicles, 2 poems made Robert Brewer's Top 50 Poem-A-Day picks, and Camroc Press Review nominated LAST TRIP for Best-of-the-Net
*Fifteen stories and poems found homes in literary journals run by editors I admire, including Monkeybicycle, Blue Fifth Review, Thunderclap!, Pure Slush, Right Hand Pointing, Eclectic Flash, Every Day Fiction, Connotation Press, The Linnets Wings, and Istanbul Literary Review. THANK YOU editors who found enough worth in my words to publish them.
*Reading informs my writing, so I read, always. I consumed a lot of novels and short story collections, but the reading went slower than in prior years: I read as a writer rather than a reader. I read this past year for structure, for understanding how the thread of theme is established in the first words. I will have another post soon on my favorite reads, but there are books I will not soon forget: OLIVE KITTERIDGE, THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, THE BEE_LOUD GLADE, and collections of stories by Tobias Wolff, Aleksander Hemon, Meg Pokrass, and Laura van der Berg.
My day job demanded much, but rewarded more. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach my marvelous students and watch them move on to academic and clinical positions. Several new grants focusing on substance abuse in Maryland, the quality of psychopharmacological medication use in nursing homes, and depression in patients with emphysema kept my salary on par and revitalized my research.
But the past year is more than a list, more than numbers. The past year embodied a constant struggle to maintain balance and, for the first time in five years, writing did not always win. Until this year, much of my writing was driven by the fear the words would dry up. So I would write madly, compromising at times my relationships, my health, the chores. I no longer fear I will stop writing as suddenly as I started six year ago tomorrow. There is no need to rush, the words, the ideas, they all will incubate and percolate and marinate and be there when I am ready. For this realization I am grateful.
My only regret is the necessary busy-ness of this year required me to prioritize my time, which ended up limiting my involvement with so many writers and readers in my online communities. To visit your blogs, to read your words at fictionaut, to follow your successes via facebook and twitter... a treat to spend a few minutes with you. A tremendous reward. I hope time loosens a bit in 2012, so I can savor your stories and poems and lives.
I am not one to make resolutions, but I do know what I need to work on this upcoming year: my health, my family, my friends, and the slow approach to writing.
My Health: I need to fix my back, which means I need to walk 10,000 or more steps a day (pedometer - check), shed 10 pounds (Weight Watchers - check), and increase my flexibility (weekly yoga - check; daily stretches and Miracle Balls - check)
My Family: Spend more concentrated time with each of my children and, of course, the husband
My Friends: Spend more time with both virtual and cyber friends. Make phone call dates with those friends who live far away, share a meal with those who live nearby
My Writing: Remember to take time with stories and poems, keep them close until satisfied they are finished. Do not worry so much about finding homes but finding the right words.
Most of all, I hope 2012 brings balance, to me, to you, to the world writ large.
Thank you dear readers for sharing the journey. Peace...