A Look Back at 2017

2016 was a really hard year for my family. We lost a lot and went through some significant changes, which I'll touch on in the republishing of my most popular blog post on my last blog in a month or two.

2017 was the year to pick up the pieces and move forward, try to carve a path through uncharted territory. Try to find new grounding when the carefully cultivated earth that had sustained us for so long had just been swept from under our feet.

The changes, for me, weren't over yet. I graduated from college with a B.A. in Art History and English, and then moved to Siena, Italy.

graduating college

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

graduating college with friends

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

palazzo pubblico, siena

Image credit: Alexandra Wendt.

One of the biggest highlights of this year was getting offered membership to Phi Beta Kappa, "the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society." I find it hard to put into words just what this meant to me, to the former invisible girl who always felt overlooked and spent all of high school beating herself up for not being perfect in academics and not being in the "gifted program."

When I got that e-mail, I just started crying. As I commented on Twitter at one point this year, "Not peaking in high school was the best thing that ever happened to me."

I've grown a lot as a person over the past couple years, but especially this year, I think. I've learned the value of holding onto friends that are worth holding onto even when you all live hundreds--thousands--of miles apart. I've learned the value of letting go of people who need to be let go of, and moving away from the past. And in the past few months, especially, I have come to cherish what I describe as "serendipitous friends:" those people who you know will be in your life only a short time--maybe a whole semester, maybe just one night--but who you befriend and stay in touch with anyway, because you have no idea when life might bring you back together.

As for my writing, there have been ups and downs. The first half of the year saw me grow tremendously as a writer. I used a novel (which I'm currently querying) for my senior thesis, and so researched the artworks in it and revised it under two advisors for six months. That project and the experience of working on it brought me leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be as a writer.

The second half of the year saw my writing take a bit of a nose-dive. I started querying that novel, and began working on another. Though I loved the new novel and was immediately passionate about the project, I just found I didn't have the motivation to write... Sure, I had just moved to Italy and was busy with getting settled into my new life, but I had managed to write through busier periods. What was wrong?

I had lost something of my passion. Not permanently--I don't think I could ever wake up one day and decide to never write again--but I definitely hit a rough patch. Despite all the progress I had made earlier that year, I started over with a new novel and felt like I took ten steps back. My writing had begun to feel like I was walking into a brick wall over and over, hoping in vain that one day I would break through.

I think the real problem was my regular life was moving full speed ahead, while my writing life felt as static as ever.

It's hard, to constantly write and revise and put all that time and effort into something that might never see the light of day. I've struggled with this a little before, but not on the scale I've been struggling with it recently. You have to be in a committed relationship with the craft, you have to love it, in order to be a writer. That's all it takes. And though I know I'm still in love with it, the relationship is going through a bumpy period, as relationships do.

I forced myself to do NaNoWriMo to get some progress on the new novel, but it dropped off again at the end of November. My motivation's been getting better, though, especially as I set some New Year's Resolutions. What I have to do is remind myself that I am becoming a better writer with each story I write and with each revision I make.

And, at the end of the day, all that matters is that I love what I'm doing and that I'm working to improve.

2017 was a crazy year, full of changes and plenty of promises for 2018. Here's to the new year and everything--good and bad--it will bring.


#newyear #writing

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