Confession: I love setting goals and resolutions. I don’t even care if they come to fruition or not; there’s something about the process of mindfully thinking through what I want, what I need, what’s working, what’s not, what’s happened and what’s to come that makes me feel anchored and alive. I’ve had terrible years I wanted to write off completely; I’ve had wonderful years bursting at the seams with goodness — either way, I like turning the corner to a new year and taking some time to put intentions on paper.
Going back to look at the goals you’ve set can be a funny thing, too. Sometimes I’m like, oh, I forgot I wanted to do that one thing! Or, I laugh and think, yeahhhhhh that definitely did NOT happen. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how the universe gently guided me toward a certain path, just under different circumstances. And I’ve been shocked at the number of times I wrote down a wish list item and it came true, 100%.
In 2018, I set a couple of writing-specific goals:
Get 4 new digital bylines
Get 1 new print or magazine byline
Turn draft book copy into an actual book proposal
Write a short story
Pay off 25K of my student loans (and let me just say, this was a PIPE DREAM)
And here’s what really happened:
I got assignments for 6 new digital bylines
I wrote a story for a local magazine
I wrote my first book after being contacted by a Simon & Schuster editor
I did not write a short story, at all, ha
And I actually paid off 30K of my student loans (!!!)
See what I mean? Goals are weird and magical. I do think when you put vibes into the universe, they find a way to come back to you, for better or worse… though they rarely appear on your expected timeline, nor do they look how you expected. I also want to be clear that I wrote a lot of stuff that landed nowhere, and I also had a lot of story ideas that never made it out of my brain alive. I pitched as many stories to radio silence or a flat-out no as I did pitch stories that were picked up; I wrote some stories that did well, traffic-wise, but felt a little “meh” personally and creatively, and I wrote others that I didn’t think would resonate with an audience but they ended up performing well. So, you never know!
But I wanted to work hard this year, and I did. I wanted to amp up my freelance game, and I did. Overall, I wrote 128 stories total —
career and lifestyle content for Work + Money
fitness, wellness and health content for Aaptiv
a yoga piece, a features article and a personal essay for SELF
real estate and first-time home ownership for Forbes
lifestyle and parenting content for BuzzFeed
pregnancy, parenting and motherhood content for The Everymom
modern, family-friendly home design for Iowa Architect magazine (Fall 2018 issue)
Unsurprisingly, the more I wrote, the better my writing became — or the more I noticed weak spots and potential for improvement. I figured out my own schedules and rhythms to produce efficient, high-quality content amid a busy personal life and a full-time job; I also smacked right into my own limits and realized when I was cutting corners or stuck in a rut. Writing became a routine, everyday part of my life, and for that alone, I’m grateful, because it’s what I’ve always wanted: to build that habit, to feel like I’m skilled enough to write about most anything, to craft a story from a blank page. Most of all, I learned to push past the inertia and hesitation of “But I don’t know what to say…”
People occasionally ask me for freelancing or writing advice, and it just comes back to a few simple things. Write (a lot). Put it into the world somehow, whether someone pays for your words or not. Observe your surroundings. Notice what stories aren’t getting told, or which ones are deep in your bones, distracting your mind, sparking your heart. Don’t take shortcuts; do the work. And then do it all over again, every single day, because the old saying is true: it matters more what you do everyday than what you do once in a while.