It is a reflection of our times that I have to consider apologizing for 2016 being a good year for me and my family. But ultimately, reflecting on how the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ has gotten harder for many citizens, I feel it is important to share the positives of our pursuit, and so here are mine:
Beginning my second year of full-time teaching at my current school, which finally fulfilled my career’s leading desire by giving me upperclassmen to teach (not as mature as I had hoped, but light years away from freshman), I got to a place where I didn’t have to invest so much time in the logistics of teaching—the lesson planning and creation, daily prep, observation planning, etc.—and was able to commit myself to writing again. I started this by making it a policy that, the minute I was outside of my contracted hours at work, I would drop anything school-related and focus on whatever writing task was current for the thirty-to-forty minutes before my wife picked me up for our commute home. This has continued into my third full-time year of teaching, where I am now tenured (at least until Trump busts all the unions and bans education).
January and the first week of February I spent polishing short stories, five of which were accepted for publication, trouncing my personal best of two acceptances in a year.
February to June I worked primarily on my zombie novel The Two Loves of Ugly Doug, finishing the first draft of the novel before summer vacation.
June through August was unproductive writing-wise, but in September I got back into rhythm, beginning my screenplay My Dad & His Whore, and Ugly Doug revisions. In November I gave NaNoWriMo a try, where I finished the screenplay, and put 33429 words into my novel Education (previously titled Diary of a Sadman) which I began and relegated to the backburner years ago, getting it within sight of the first draft finish line. Then, after all that NaNoWriMo madness I refocused on Ugly Doug revisions, getting to page 302/377 on the first run-through before the year ended.
Part of my recommitment to writing involved pledging to write a page a day. Being realistic—knowing I would miss days here or there from travel or work or life necessities—I just focused on tracking monthly word counts, figuring one of my longhand-written pages averages about 250 words: so at 366 days I set my goal at 91500, and after my NaNoWriMo push I exceeded this, ending the year at 93829. Part of me wanted to work through December to push my wordcount over 100000, but I like to think that choosing to revise over producing new stuff was the more mature choice. Building on this I am only setting a 50,000 wordcount goal for the year, and I figure that will be enough to finish my last two novels-in-progress (perhaps over Camp NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo 17), while giving me time to revise and publish at least two novels, and revise and submit the screenplay (to where I don’t know; maybe The Black List).
Reading-wise, for the first time since joining Goodreads I met my yearly reading challenge, getting 40 books in (22 audiobooks, 18 traditional). I’ll write more about my year in reading later, but my top five reads for the year were Joe Clifford’s December Boys, Sarah J. Maas’ Crown of Mist and Fury, Andy Weir’s The Martian, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Next year I’m challenging myself to read 45 books, with a mix of reading the rest of the books in my collection from authors I’ve previously read, and books from writer friends.
So, good luck to all in the new year!