My Year In Review

My studio - about a 60-second walk from my back door.

My studio – about a 60-second walk from my back door.

My greatest achievement this year has been consistency: I’ve walked out to my studio and written in solitude almost every day, sometimes only for a couple of hours, and sometimes from dawn until dark.

This year, I’ve put drafting Ellen ahead of everything, including sculling, one of my summer passions. But rowing requires the same early morning hours as writing, though for different reasons: The water is flat early in the morning, and there are rarely any motorboats out at that hour. Most of all, though, rowing is hot work once the sun rises.

All told, driving to the river and rowing takes a bit more than two hours. But these are the same early hours when I’m best able to tap into the fictional world I’m creating. I decided that entry into that world was more important even than sculling –for this year, at least.

All year, I protected my mornings, often (but not always) walking out to the studio before dawn. It seems as if my resistance to work is lower at this liminal hour. Put another way: my imagination is more available. During these early drafts of discovery I’m learning about my characters, their world, my voice –  and sliding into my imagination before my rational mind objects is critical. I’ve learned this year that if I can access that part of my imagination before sunrise, I can often sustain it in the bright light of day. But it’s harder, and sometimes impossible, to find my way into this magical place once the workaday world has awoken – usually because by then I’m too distracted by the activities of daily living to engage in my imaginary life.

It’s all paid off: My goal for this year was to complete two drafts of the novel. Instead, I’ve finished three. I had hoped to hand in a finished book to my agent today, but it’s not ready yet.

That’s my other big achievement this year: patience. The book has some time-sensitivity to it; I do need to get it done. But I need to get it right.

In addition to writing Ellen, I’ve also had some great jobs come my way. I did a special project for Vermont Public Radio the first quarter of the

The view from my desk.

The view from my desk.

year; I started accepting developmental editing work, helping writers of prose hone their projects; and I’ve had a few invitations to speak and/or teach, both as a commentator and a writer. These are jobs that do more than put money in the bank; they connect me to people through my skills as a writer, editor and educator. And they all came to me: I didn’t have to pitch for any of them.

To keep my focus on Ellen, I put a price tag on this kind of work – a minimum I had to earn to make it worth putting my novel aside.  When I was offered a job that required too much time for too little money, I turned it down. Turning it down was hard, but I worked on the novel instead, which was better.

My desk, where I've written three drafts of Ellen this year.

My desk, where I’ve written three drafts of Ellen this year.

As in all other years, I’ve sometimes been stuck, cranky, angry and despairing, sometimes all at the same time, and especially when I’ve been impatient to be finished and published. But I know from experience that publication is the biggest distraction of all, and marketing is a different kind of hard work. So this year, instead of wallowing, I kept returning to my desk, where I’ll stay until I’ve finished.

Happy-New-Year            One thing that alleviates the loneliness of writing is participating in this blog. At the end of a day of fiction, I can pound out a post – a kind of love letter to other miners of words – you, the writers who read this blog. Hearing from you always gives me a boost. Thanks for sustaining me this past year, and wishing you the right words in the next. Best wishes, Deborah.IMG_1106

Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist and educator.

55 thoughts on “My Year In Review

  1. Congratulations. Love your studio. I finished my first novel ‘Dead of July’ and feel very proud. I have a lot ot learn, but plod ahead with my passion. Good luck and a very Happy New Year to you.
    PS (not daring or good enough to have an agent yet. Taking the plunge and self publishing)

  2. Deborah,

    I loved this post- felt a sense of connection as a writer.

    So here’s my unsolicited and cheeky advice to you. Look at this post. It’s exquisitely composed. You should pick one of those drafts and let it fly. “Getting it right”? It is right, already, I’m sure.

    Anyhow, I was moved by this eloquent take on writing and solitude and connection. So thanks and best wishes for what’s ahead.

    Tom

    • Thomas,
      Thanks so much for your comment; I’m glad it helped you feel part of this supportive, virtual, community.
      And thanks for your advice – even though I’m not going to take it! I’ve made the mistake of sending books out too soon, mistaking the flush of finishing a draft for having a salable book. When I send it to my agent, I want her to absolutely fall in love with it; that will make it possible for her to sell it for me. And I know, it’s just not there yet; I’ll know when it is.
      Best of luck to you in your writing endeavors, Deborah.

    • I don’t know if I’m inspired there so much as I’m undisturbed. (No phone; no internet.) But it’s a safe, soothing, place, so that my imagination can go to the edge . . .
      Thanks so much for reading the blog. Happy New Year! Deborah.

  3. Very motivating! I am still searching for such a place ’cause I truely believe that it’s worth being away from daily distractions to be creative. And you proved it. 😉

    • I’m lucky to have such a place, and it suits how I work. But I know writers who choose to write in cafes and train stations, or at home with the television on. Just as every writer has her own stories to tell, every writer has to figure out for her/himself not just how to tell those stories, but how to arrange life so they get written. For years, I had two jobs and three kids; now, all I do is write. It’s heaven – having the kids and the time to write.
      Good luck to however it works for you, Deborah.

    • It is indeed a sweet little cabin – my Chapel of the Imagination. It is a gift from my husband, who designed and framed it. His brother and some friends did the finish work.

    • By all means, make Consistency and Patience your intentions. Imagine a world if everyone did the same!
      And thank you for your kind words. I’m blessed to be included in this blog collective, and continually in awe of my colleagues here, who are all so talented and so different. It makes for great conversation.
      Best wishes to you, Deborah.

    • Hi Kim,
      I drive through Concord whenever I go to Boston, and I confess: I’ve never been to Walden Pond. Maybe I’ll change that in 2014.
      Thanks for reading our blog – and for your kind words, Deborah.

  4. Pingback: My Year In Review | pjbyerwriterblog

  5. Inspiring post. I love your studio cabin in the woods. Reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem with a twist, “Whose words are those? I think I know. She pens them in a cabin surrounded by snow.”

    • Robert Frost lived nearby . . . and I live with a man who’s memorized most of his poems, so I found your riff quite amusing. And, we’re expecting snow tomorrow – so life is good.
      Thanks for reading our blog and taking the time to comment. Best wishes for 2014, Deborah.

  6. Wow Deborah. You have truly inspired me. I need to make time for more writing. 2014, here we come. Thanks for that New Years gift! I just love your little writing house. It invited me right in, and your words were so inspiring.

    • So glad you found my post inspiring. Good luck with your writing – let me know how it goes. All best, Deborah.

  7. What a lovely little Fortress of Solitude you have to help you write! I’m impressed that you achieved so much and stuck by your goals usually one on,y hears of people failing at keeping to resolutions and whatnot. I really enjoy your blogging thank you

    • Hi Ned,
      Yes, “Fortress of Solitude” is exactly right! In fact, one of the reasons it’s so small is so that no one can spend the night in it. As for New Year’s Resolutions: I gave them up years ago; I make daily resolutions – to much greater effect.
      Thanks for reading our blog – and for your kind words. They mean a great deal. All best, Deborah.

  8. Oh, to have a studio outside my back door! Sadly, outside my backdoor is a 13 foot drop from the balcony to the neighboring apartment complex. But, with that said, I enjoyed your post. Your last year of writing consistently is what I hope to achieve in 2014. No, WILL achieve. Thanks for the inspiring post. On a side note, the area you live looks beautiful. I’m jealous. 🙂

  9. Well don’t fall out your back door! Vermont is a beautiful place – but there are lovely spots in England, too. I once spent the summer in Doddington, near Wooler – in a gameskeeper’s cottage atop Dodd Moor – it was a terrific place to read and write – at least it was a long time ago (1977?). All best wishes for the new year, Deborah.

  10. Thank you for this insightful essay about how you have kept your commitment to creative writing. I am inspired by your authenticity and your discipline.

  11. O for a room of one’s own! Must admit I have to agree with Thomas’s advice, no matter how sage your reply. I could be reading your latest book by now! But each to his own. You know what’s best for You.

  12. I’ve been meaning to respond to your blog some time, Debrah; this was one I read several times, enjoying your mood of serenity. Your little cabin contributes to it, but more of it is internal.
    Keep up the good work; I enjoy your posts.

    I write in a guest room which faces east; I get morning sun and like to watch it creep across the room until it’s overhead.
    In the afternoons, I often work outside w/ a sweeping view of hills looking over Salinas Valley.

    • Jack,
      Thanks so much for your kind words – and for the description of your writing room and routine. There’s comfort, I think, in knowing there are others out there, looking out at their particular view while writing down their internal one.
      All best,
      Deborah.

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