I like New Year's. Taken together, they are like bookends, containing all the novels and poetry we've lived in between. They are built-in reflection points and provide time to set intentions, celebrate successes, and commemorate losses.
I experienced the regular (expected) boatload of writing rejections this year, but by and large, my writing career blossomed in 2023. I published a First Person Essay with CBC and longlisted in their Creative Nonfiction Prize Competition. I received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. I was in the flipping New Yorker for God's sake!!! And perhaps most importantly, I completed a draft of my memoir and began the long process of editing and querying my manuscript (including being featured on the Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing!).
It can be a slippery slope though. For someone who has always equated her self-worth with external success, it’s important to not only measure those sources of validation. It’s not only about what I achieved or accomplished. It’s about how this year felt and if I am living authentically and courageously. Am I building a life and being a person that I am proud of?
I recently listened to the year-end episode of Jeanette McCurdy’s podcast, Hard Feelings. She has a great list of questions she and her partner use to debrief the year and think ahead to what’s next. I have listed them and answered them below.
What was your proudest achievement?
Finishing a draft of my memoir! I honestly believe this book is a part of my purpose on earth. It also helped me heal and readied me to heal relationships in my life.
What and whom are you most thankful for?
For what, I am probably most thankful for books—writing and reading them. They have seen me through hard times and good, they shape my days, my life, and how I think about the world.
For whom, I am most thankful for my friends. I was feeling very sad and lonely in December. I was feeling a lot of holiday pressure, had COVID, and most of my friends were travelling or too busy to hang out. But when I reached out and said I was having a hard time, friends showed up for me. A few video calls and in-person visits turned my mood right around! That’s the power of friendship.
What surprised you most?
Getting my name in the New Yorker!! If you had told me Christmas 2022, when I got a New Yorker subscription for Christmas, that I would get my letter to the editor in there on the subject of my memoir I would have never believed you! It’s amazing how much can change in a year.
How has your relationship with yourself changed?
I am still on the journey of building acceptance and empathy for myself, but I’m much more gentle and understanding of my needs than I was a year ago (yay meds, therapy, and self-care!).
How have your life goals changed?
I am trying to value external markers of success less—but my goals are still kinda the same… Write and publish lots of essays, stories, and books, and become Canada’s next Margaret Atwood. Lofty? Indeed. Achievable? Probably not. But it sure is fun trying!
How have your relationships with family and friends changed?
I think relationships have taken a bit of backseat to my writing career, lol. That is both a good and bad thing, but I try to be there for folks when they need me. And they definitely show up for me <3. The number of writing-based friendships and connections have grown tremendously this year.
What do you wish you had worried about less?
Thanks to Zoloft and therapy, I worried less this year than in many many years! Still, I have work to do. I put a lot of pressure on myself and take on too much. Maybe I want to worry less about the future--things that may or may not happen that I image and dread in advance.
What is your funniest memory of the year?
Multiple times this year, I have had uncontrollable laughing fits over silly, little things. The first one was when I was in bed and my feet were cold. I asked Dan to put socks on my feet (not thinking he would) and he did. I thought it was the funniest thing in the world and went into hysterics. For ten minutes or more, I just laughed and laughed. I was crying from laughing so much. My face and stomach hurt from it. But it felt so good. A big emotional release, kinda like crying, but also the inverse of it.
What new or renewed friendships do you cherish?
All my new writing friends for sure. The dART speak community fills my cup so much, and getting to know Jane McDougald and her partner at the Dart Gallery has been such a great time. They are tremendous people who do so much for the local arts community.
What bad habit do you wish you had quit?
I go back and forth on the role of drinking in my life. I really enjoy it, but addiction runs in my family and I drink more than I would like. I’m going to be more mindful about it in 2024.
Bonus Question because I don’t want to end on a negative: What are your hopes for 2024?
Another courageous authentic year! And an agent and a book deal 😉