Saturday, December 31, 2011

Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

There are two kinds of people in the world, and I continue to have a blast writing about them. Looking back, I find that 2011 has been like most years — filled with strains and disappointments, hard work and constant struggle, dotted here and there with the occasional bit of good news and a delicious belly laugh or two. It was a year that both crawled and flew by, and I find my sense of time has morphed into a sense of vertigo.

After years of waiting for life to "get better", I think I've finally figured out that it just gets different. Changes come, some welcome, some un.

Catherine Wallace, a frequent speaker at OCWW, my writers' workshop, once explained that the best way to provide feedback to a writer is to ignore less than perfect writing and concentrate on the parts that shimmer. Her idea is that by pointing out what works best, the writer will return to the mental place that produced the good writing and use that to revise and improve the rest.

I don't know that I believe this is always the best method of critiquing a piece of writing, but do I think it is an excellent way to review the outgoing year. By leaving the negative in the past (where it belongs), and dwelling on the parts of 2011 that shimmered, I hope to be able to bring those sparkly bits forward with me into the New Year to make it a better one.

For me, writing is almost always the best part of my year. I learned a lot in 2011 and have many (too many!) projects in the works. Each effort inspired me to become more creative, more open to making connections. As the year progressed, my sense of what is possible seemed to explode. Thanks to people like literary agent April Eberhardt, I began to believe that the changes in publishing were not death throes, but growing pains. Changes and more changes, some wanted, some un. But with change comes opportunity, if you choose to see it that way.

So here are a few of the writing treasures from 2011 that I plan to carry with me to improve my efforts in 2012:

January — Helped launch my client's website for her new business, Where Are We Going. It has been thrilling to work with Karen Gray-Keeler as she has transformed her passion and avocation into a business. Her energy and creativity are infectious.

February 18 — 14,239 people stopped by to read about Isaac and Molly on the Mike&Ollie blog. I started this blog during National Novel Writing Month 2010 to jump start my memoir about raising 24-weeker premature twins. The blog was picked as Freshly Pressed by WordPress and got more than 40,000 hits in five days. The feedback I got was amazing. Now all I need to do is finish the memoir.

June — Designed and wrote the content for a WordPress-based website for a client, micro mosaic jewelry designer Wendy Gray Raven. Trained her and her daughter how to manage the site and developed a strategy for the blog, connecting her website to her Etsy shop. Becoming more expert in the tools available on WordPress.

March 15 — My first post went up on the Garanimals Blog. Now, once a week, I get to write about pets and animals for an audience of moms, working with an incredible group of bloggers and the amazing Amy Zimmerman. Who knew that being a Reluctant Pet Store Owner would lead to such a great opportunity.

May — Proved that relationships built on the Internet can transform into real-life friendships deeper and more important than most people think possible. It's a reinvention of old-fashioned pen pals with the added advantage of instant gratification. Here's a shout out to my girls: Victoria Flynn, Christi Craig, Julie Jeffs and Rebecca Rasmussen. Great writers, fantastic women.

May 12 — Presented at the annual meeting of Fraternity Communications Association on how to improve print communications for membership-based organizations, and critiqued back issues of many of the group's magazines.

June — Taught a creative writing camp with eight young writers aged 7-11 through the Evanston Arts Camp, thanks to Angela Allyn. Their enthusiasm and curiosity inspired my own writing in unexpected ways and I'm looking forward to the sequel in 2012. (Registration is open now for the Writers' Workshop, pg. 5, camp #922213C2)

June 2 — Ran the first of several social networking workshops, this one on Facebook for beginners. Email me for information on upcoming workshops or to set up a private session.

September 19 — migrated The Animal Store Blog over to WordPress in preparation for the launch of the new website (coming very soon). Found a new voice for the blog, Ernie the Giant Gourami, who has lived at the store since before Kenn bought it 20 years ago. I am understanding more and more that writing is all about voice.

November — "won" NaNoWriMo for the second year in a row (see my winner's badge to the right) by pushing out 50,000 words in a first draft of a new novel. I continue to learn the lesson that you cannot, should not, must not write and edit at the same time.

December — Named as a regular contributor to the Write It Sideways blog. Starting in January through June, I'll be posting twice a month about my favorite subject — writing. Along the way to this assignment, I contributed three guest posts to this great writing website: Hearing Voices? Maybe You're a Writer, How to Bring Your Characters into Focus, Writers Write — Creativity Is a State of Mind. Thanks to Suzannah for this exciting opportunity to expand the writing conversation.

These are just a few of the high points for me. I have more projects in the pipeline that promise to make 2012 a year that truly shimmers. I look forward to sharing it with you, and hope your new year shimmers as well. Look for the third annual Two Kinds of People Guest Post Contest to be announced soon. Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment about one or two of the glittering moments from 2011 that you plan to carry with you into 2012.


Christine Wolf said...

Truly inspirational, Susan. I don't know how you do it all. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

My list of shimmers is underway--but starting my blog will be near the top. Thanks for a refreshing perspective and good inspiration. And bravo to you for a fabulously productive and meaningful 2011.

Susan Bearman said...

Christine, you are an inspiration, too. I love your most recent post.

winsombella — congratulations on your blog. I hope your 2012 is full of wonderful writing.

Victoria said...

Susan, I hope our gatherings become an annual event. And congratulations on the Write It Sideways gig! I can only hope to have your kind of energy.

KatieC said...

What a great way to look at things! I really love that word--shimmer :)

I hope to make my writing better than ever this year. Good luck with yours!

Susan Bearman said...

EVF — annual is too limiting. I promised I would head to Wisconsin. I'm available after 1/21, when my girl goes back to school. Look for something fun.

KatieC — "Shimmer" really stuck with me, too. Good luck to you.

njdevilsfan24 said...

Kudos, Susan, on all of your accomplishments. Much to admire!

Lisa Romeo said...

oops - was signed in under my son's name - ditto above comment, Susan!
-- Lisa

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks, Lisa. I'm just going to pretend your son sent his good thoughts, as well.

Kim/reluctant renovator said...

"After years of waiting for life to "get better", I think I've finally figured out that it just gets different. Changes come, some welcome, some un."

That kinda sums thing up. My son's bar mitzvah and the (not quite ready for move-in) home purchase/renovation were highlights of my year. I look forward to finding a new normal with my family under our own roof.

It sounds like you had a stellar year--at least when you focus on the positive-- and I hope more good things are ahead in 2012!

Susan Bearman said...

Same good wishes for you, Kim. I can't wait to see your new home. It's been so much fun following your video blog.

Debra said...

I like Catherine Wallace’s suggestion for offering feedback because if I were honest with some of those whose work I’ve critiqued, I’d be spending too much time on their shitty first drafts and less on mine ;-) So when I do find anything – anything at all - that shimmers, that’s what I spotlight.

All the best in 2012

Susan Bearman said...

Good to keep in mind, Debra, especially for first drafts.

Meryl said...

I love your outlook, philosophy and your ideas. I wish you a happy, healthy, successful 2012 WITH LOTS OF SHIMMER!!!!!

Susan Bearman said...

Thanks, Meryl. Same to you.

Margot said...

I love the idea of focusing on moments that shimmer. I'm taking this month to figure out my plan for the coming year and thinking on the things that went well last year may be just the thing.

Shimmering moment of 2011 - making the commitment to exercise and following through on it. The body needs some of the attention that the mind has so greedily held onto.

Susan Bearman said...

So, true, Margot. My body is having some serious sibling rivalry with my mind and has thus far come out like the much younger sister who feels left behind. I think it may be time for some family counseling.