This Year's Candle Burns Low

This is likely my last blog post of 2014, given the hectic schedule ahead of me. I have edits due, Christmas (though I am Jewish, half of my family isn't and so we celebrate Christmas every year with my mom's side of the family), and then off to the Adirondacks with my family. Same house that we do our writing retreats in so no internet, no cellphone connection, lots of snow. Hopefully I'll be able to get work done up there!This year's been one of incredible highs, and incredible lows. At the end of every year, I like to read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye (this will open in a new tab) and set goals for the next year.Last year, I had just read the ARC of WE WERE LIARS, E. Lockhart's critically acclaimed YA suspense/magical realism book that came out this past spring. In the book, Lockhart (who is one of my favorite authors) introduced me to the lovely JM Barrie quote, "Always be a little kinder than necessary." I made that my New Year's Resolution for 2014.I'd love to say that this year I was always a little kinder than necessary. But there were times when I was not. There were times when I remembered this and hung onto it, and I was, in fact, kinder than necessary. (What is necessary anyway?) For me, this meant being patient where I wanted to be impatient, being empathetic when I was irritated, slowing down when I wanted to rush. These are things I'm working on. They didn't happen this year all together, but I hope that this year, I was a better person than I was last year. And so in 2015, I hope I am a better person than I was in 2014.This year, I seriously queried my first romance, got an agent, and a book deal. I went from participating in contests, to mentoring in contests. I went from being a writer, to an author. I rewrote a book from scratch. I learned my process better. I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I left a job that sucked the soul out of me. I found a job that doesn't drain me. I went to two professional conferences. I read widely. I learned to stand up for myself in a writing group where I was often a doormat. I wrote two and a half (novella) more books this year, as well as finishing another and writing words for a dozen other works in progress. I grew, enormously, as a writer.This year, I put down my horse because I could no longer afford to keep him at his increasingly expensive level of care. I'm still grieving. I don't talk about it publicly, but there are days when I think, "This is the perfect day to go to the barn," and then I remember that I have no barn. I have no horse. I have no second home for the first time in fifteen years.Highest highs, lowest lows.I've thought a lot about how I want to approach 2015. Some of this I've discovered through writing. Some of this I discovered through friendships. Some of this I discovered through mistakes. This is how we learn.I want to make empathy a cornerstone of my life. I want to make empathy a guiding light. I am not always as empathetic as I want to believe I am.I want to question my own assumptions. Including my assumptions about my privilege, the space I occupy in the world, and the ways in which I create space, allow for others to claim space, and listen to what others say in a shared space.I still want to be kinder than necessary. I've found that quote to be deeply moving and to be a very clear signpost for my interactions. It works for me, in ways that other philosophies have not.I want to write vulnerably. Being vulnerable is an act of courage. It's how we change and become better people, better actors in our communities, better parents, better friends. I want to write about the things that scare me. I want to write the books that scare me. Because I still learn about myself and my world primarily through books, just as I did when I was a younger person, and I know I'm not the only one. I want my books to matter, and for my books to matter, my words must be written from a place of courage. I want to try and always write from that place.Sure, I have other, concrete goals. I'd like to sell a YA, write a certain number of books, start a blog on creativity and mental health, pick up more freelance jobs, read more blogs, listen to more podcasts, be more responsible with my money, send the elevator back down and help other writers as I can, etc etc etc. But those aren't the ones that inform me as a human being. I want to work more on the being part of me.