I love the beginning of the year, the renewed bout of energy, and the eagerness I usually feel to start working on something new. I’m one of those people who make New Year’s resolutions, and I’m very determined in sticking to them throughout the year¾except with sugar. I have yet to succeed in eliminating sugar from my diet for more than five months, my current record.
When it comes to writing goals though, I’m very good at staying on task.
What I’m not good at is at celebrating victories (big or small), and recognizing my own progress.
Example: last January I graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Earning my MFA degree was one of the hardest things I ever achieved. At the end of the ride, I was euphoric, fueled by adrenaline and positivity. Except for when I tallied myself against the expectations I had for my career at the beginning of this journey. At the time of my graduation, there were no editors vying for my work, and a part of me saw this as a failure.
It was unfair of me to expect this. The MFA was a journey to improve myself as a writer, and I was under the (unfounded) impression that a book deal, or many, would be the validation I needed to prove to myself that all the money, time, and effort I’d dedicated to my craft had been worthy.
It was unfair of me to judge my writing through the sleep deprived, emotional eyes of a person about to deliver a lecture and have a reading of the most personal writing of their life in front of the whole college. But that was what I did.
It’s no wonder that after my graduation I had the deepest bout of depression of my adult life. After reaching for a goal for so long, and achieving the pinnacle, the drop wasn’t a pretty sight.
However, during these months I did one thing right. even though I was depressed and unmotivated, was keep writing. Keep at the habits I had established during the two years of my graduate program. When I couldn’t read because nothing interested me, I got my fill of story through the many TV shows I’d neglected the last twenty-four months (GOT FTW!). Slowly, as I kept writing, something happened.
I understood that I had grown as a writer. For the first time, I enjoyed my new writerly muscles. In my mind, I found writerly tools I didn’t know I had. I knew how to use them too.
When I had to write outside of my comfort zone, or under a short deadline and I could turn in a first draft that in my previous life would have been a fourth or fifth draft, I saw my improvement. The time, money, and effort weren’t for nothing. They made me strong in ways I hadn’t recognized before.
This year, my resolution, my wish is not to undervalue my journey, not to ignore the small victories, not to compare myself against others. I’m going to celebrate each victory (there will be sugar), and I’m going to keep on keeping on. I’m already feeling good about 2018 because actually, I can!
Yamile (prounounced sha-MEE-lay) Saied Méndez is an immigrant writer and reader, a dreamer and fighter, a Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA graduate, a 2014 New Visions Award Honor Winner, and one the 2015 Walter Dean Myers Inaugural Grant recipients. Born and raised in Rosario, Argentina (cradle of fútbol), she now lives in Alpine, Utah with her husband, five children, and three dogs, but her heart is with her family scattered all over the world. Find her on twitter: @YamileSMendez and online: yamilesmendez.com.