November Magic

I love the month of November so much, I named my newest puppy November (Nova for short) although she was born in October. My birthday’s in November, you see?, and as a child growing up in the Southern Hemisphere, the best things happened during this magical month. The weather finally warmed up, and the best strawberries were for sale on every corner verdulería. As if the sweet scent of fresh strawberries weren’t enough, the perfume of blooming jasmine intoxicated me with possibility. It must have been that it was the last stretch of the year (our school calendar actually matches the year calendar. School ends in December), and I felt like in this, the most magical month of the year, I could do anything.

When I moved to Utah, one of the greatest shocks was that my birthday was now in the Fall and not Spring! Not only that, but after the Christmas holidays school resumed (before Three Kings day! Blasphemy).

I’ve always been a writer, and had fantasized with writing a novel. Some day. I was already out of college, and the mother of four, when I heard about NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. The basic premise of this now worldwide event is to challenge yourself to write a fifty-thousand word manuscript in 30 days (see how it works here). It was November 6, and knowing the odds were slightly against me because I’d never written this much in such a short period of time, I signed up anyway. I’m happy to report that I achieved my goal, and after typing THE END, I felt a high like no other. I was hooked on writing forever.

This November, I’ll write my eleventh NaNo manuscript. A Master of Fine Arts in Writing, several literary awards, publications, and late-night writing sessions with a fantastic community of friends later, I’m thrilled that once again, November will start and I’ll challenge myself to finish what I now think is impossible.

Last year I wrote on the official NaNo blog about three main things I learned through the years:

  1. I can do hard things
  2. Writing is a process of discovery and surprises
  3. Writing in community is a powerful experience.

You can read the whole post here. But my main message today is this: use NaNoWriMo to your advantage. There are a few NaNo rules (start a new manuscript and only include words that you write in November), but I don’t have the freedom to do that this year. My schedule is full to the brim with deadlines, and I need to finish three manuscripts: a YA contemporary I want to send on submission by March, and two middle grades (one of which is a super-secret project I hope to announce soon). The minimum word count for NaNo is approximately 1,667. I write way more than that every day. In fact, I do a NaNo every month. But November is special. There’s an electric charge in the air. Think about all the people in the world typing with abandon! (or yoked to an outline, but still).

For some people, writing this amount of words in thirty days is daunting endeavor. Set your own goal then. If you can’t write every day, dedicate a few days of the week just for writing. Free that story waiting inside you. Let it out in the world.

As for me, I’m going to lasso the energy floating around and finish the year with a bang. Who else is with me?

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YamileMendezYamile (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.

 

Exploring Your Writing Identity

Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do I define myself as a writer?

We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. Self-reflection is inevitable when we face frequent rejections and pour so much of our hearts onto the page for the sake of art. Our personal and creative identities are irrevocably linked.

Your voice is unique. Think of the countless influences and experiences that have shaped you. You are a complex, glorious being made up of every hardship, heartbreak, disappointment, desire, joy, and triumph you’ve ever known.

Your distinct writing identity stems from an endless list of factors: where you grew up, your socioeconomic status, family dynamics, belief system, schools, friends, jobs, favorite books–even the TV shows and movies you enjoy.

Are you writing the kind of books you want to write? How about the ones you have to write? Perhaps there is a certain type of book you longed for growing up, one you wished someone had written that spoke to your dearest hopes, your deepest fears.

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If you find yourself examining where you are in your writing journey and where you want to go from here, try these five simple questions:

  1. What are your strengths as a writer?
  2. What genre do you enjoy writing (and reading) the most?
  3. What do you want to say to potential readers?
  4. What are your long-term writing goals?
  5. How would you like to grow or change as a writer?

My Happy Place is writing for middle grade readers, preferably with healthy doses of adventure, humor, and the paranormal. Moving backward through time I can clearly pinpoint several touchstones on the path that led to this point: the children’s lit class in college; the bleak novels we were force-fed in high school English; the stacks of ghost stories I devoured as a young teen; the steady diet of earnest, cheesy 1980s TV shows I adored as a kid.

I used to believe that my Happy Place was static and unchanging. But as I grow older, as I read more widely and interact with other writers, as we as a nation wrestle with our values and face our shortcomings in the struggle for social justice, I realize that my writing identity is still evolving.

As writers we owe it to ourselves and our readers to learn, to soul search, to expand our minds and hearts.

Consider writing something outside of your usual comfort zone. Read something completely new and unfamiliar. Seek out news from a wide range of reliable sources. Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know. Plan a trip or a simple change of scenery. Wander through a new neighborhood. Observe people in new places. Engage with them. Hear what they have to say.

You will become not only a better writer but a better person, more qualified to explore, understand, and represent the human condition. You will learn to write from a place not just of sympathy but of empathy. You will speak not from secondhand knowledge but from firsthand experience.

I firmly believe that you should embrace what you feel called to write—compelled to write—without fear of judgment that your work isn’t important. When you write from a place of authenticity and a well-examined life, there will always be an audience for what you have to say.

_______________________________

 

Growing up, Christine Hayes loved reading stories about creatures that curl your toes and legends that send a shiver down your spine. Now she loves writing about them, too. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released in June 2015 through Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. Christine seeks inspiration by haunting flea markets and estate sales, searching for cool vintage finds with a story to tell. While earning her degree in music she visited Asia for the first time, and later moved there with her family for several years. She has been addicted to travel ever since. Christine and her clan now live in northern Utah. Find her online at www.christinehayesbooks.com.

How to be in the top 10% of your industry

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest, Ryan Decker!

In a world where there are literally thousands, if not millions of people competing to do exactly what you want to do, how will you stand out? How will you ever get noticed?

You may assume there are too many obstacles to overcome or not enough opportunities out there. You might feel like you’re not connected enough, skilled enough, or have what it takes. You may even feel like you have done everything you can already but nothing seems to work. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re right.

“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

So why not think you can? Why not you? Why not now?

Good news…

The world has a way of rewarding those who decide what they want and work to go get it.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Step one: start

Begin where you are with what you have. Start down the wrong path if you have to. Explore even your bad ideas. Be okay with failing and start creating. At this point, don’t let creating something perfect get in the way of creating something, period. Do this and you have already beat out 80% of the competition. Most people fail before they even begin. They get a bad case of paralysis by analysis and never begin working to make their dreams a reality. You too may have been stuck in this trap before. But not anymore.

Step two: keep going

The next 5% of your competition will burn out after a while and quit. By being consistent with you craft, you have already placed yourself in the top 15% of the world! Keep patiently and diligently working. One day, your chance will come. One day, you will be heard.

That’s the amazing truth behind consistency. There is a certain compound effect taking place. When you improve even less than 1% every day, before you know it, you’re where you want to be. Exponential growth only comes with time and commitment. This type of commitment isn’t easy. If it were, there would be more people doing it. That’s why by simply following step one and step two, you will already be in the top percentile of your industry.

Start. Keep going. If you want something bad enough. You will make it happen. There will be sacrifices, but when you love what you do they won’t seem like sacrifices anymore. You’ll sleep less, watch less tv, spend less time with friends and doing hobbies. You’ll replace some of those things with getting educated, connecting with like-minded people, testing your ideas, failing a lot and learning a lot. But that’s what you signed up for, isn’t it?

Step three: breaking into the top 10%

After showing your craft the level of commitment it requires, you can now take your performance to the next level. Here’s how:

  1. Find a mentor or hire a coach.

As the proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” You will not get to where you want to go without the proper training. People who have been there before or are doing what you want to do can help you avoid certain roadblocks saving you both time and money. The right mentor will help you gain clarity around your unique message. They will help you connect with the right people to help spread your ideas. The wrong mentor or coach can have the opposite effect, so be sure never to take advice from someone you wouldn’t want to switch places with.

  1. Create something remarkable. 

Easier said than done. That is why testing and failing and learning about your target audience are so vital to your success. Your purpose is to gain trust and earn attention. The only way you can do that is to write something people will want to read, sell something people will want to buy, and serve people how they would like to be served.

  1. Be a marketer.

You are a marketer now. It doesn’t matter what your skills are or what you think you role is, if you are serious about being in the top 10% of your industry, you will need to learn marketing. Pay attention to how people respond to what you do and say. Observe what favors people are asking you to do for them. Ask more questions. Listen. Learn how to best fulfill the needs of your market. You have more to offer than you think. It’s time for your market to understand that.

  1. Think like a designer. 

Designers are taught to pay close attention to the details. Because details matter. Everything designers do, from eating to grocery shopping to driving down the street, influence their work. In order to make the most out of what you do, your work will always need to be top-of-mind. A commitment to your work requires a commitment to solve the interesting problems that come your way. They will demand your attention because you have promised your attention. So when inspiration comes your way, go to work. Organizing your thoughts for a later time is good, working on your craft as soon as inspiration comes to you is better.

  1. Do it because you love it.

If you love what you do, stick with it. It’s a marathon – almost everything meaningful you will do in life is. It’s supposed to be hard. Would you do it even if you wouldn’t get paid to? If the answer is yes, then keep going. Think of the many people you can and will touch by creating meaningful work. Think about what might happen if you don’t. Do what you do because you love it. Love what you do because of who it helps.

Conclusion

You are either getting better or getting worse. There is no middle ground, no state of stagnation. What got you where you are today will not be enough to get you where you need to go. Remember, you aren’t doing the world any favors by thinking small. Play big. And then, don’t settle for being in the top 10% of your industry. Instead, ask: what can I do to to get to the top 1%?

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RyanRyan Decker is an entrepreneur and blogger who writes and coaches about personal growth, leadership, and marketing. When Ryan is not making lists or thinking about goals he is cooking, cycling, reading, or traveling with his wife, Hannah. Connect with Ryan at ryanwdecker.com.

Writing is Intentional: My Wake Up Call

There’s a very big reason I write. I’ll get to that in a minute. I used to have this false assumption that if something was meant to be it would just happen. You know the drill, the stars would align perfectly and a meteor shower of possibilities would open up and by simply star gazing your world suddenly turns amazing.

Funny. Funny, mixed up, twisted up thought globs. And not quite likely at all. It takes much more than that. Writing, my friends, is quite intentional.

Yep. You have to make it happen.

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DON’T WAIT FOR TOMORROW

A big life changing experience helped me realize that. Just over 4 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer with a re-diagnosis 2 ½ years later. It came as quite a blow. I had plans for my life that stretched out until I was 88 years old. Life’s direction was now a galaxy of guesswork. I had a wake up call. My life plans were not so solid any more. But, it also came as a beautiful blessing because this cancer curse helped me focus on what I wanted to do with my life. So, naturally, I decided to amp up my writing. And I can’t complain about that.

It was during that time that I forced myself to follow my dream to write. I faced the reality that life doesn’t wait for big moments… you create it. And if you wait you just might miss your opportunity. It was time to chase mine. It was fun to dream about writing success (and I think that is the magical part of writing) but it was time to set my alarm and get to work.

Sure, before cancer, I did a little writing here and there but mostly it was sporadic.

COMMIT TO A PROJECT: START SMALL

The biggest thing I did to follow my heart was commit to a project. It was the starting point of my personal success.

I started small. I wrote a free article for the cancer center then worked my way up. I materialized that blog that had only been a hologram in my mind (and nearly puked from anxiety when I launched it). And I got brave and submitted some articles (though I haven’t devoted much time to article writing it was quite rewarding). I accepted opportunities to stretch me as a writer by attending workshops, writing regularly for the thinkingthroughourfingers.com website, and said yes to speaking engagements.
All of this was intentional. And all of it stretched me.

Explore your options. There are many ways you can be intentional: start a family newsletter, write the words to a song (youtube it if you’re brave), write greeting cards, wallpaper your bathroom with old journals (ok, maybe not that one). Find something you aren’t doing and get to it. Commit to a project and go.

PREMEDITATE

Ok, so here’s the nonfiction junkie part of me. Bear with me. The Oxford Dictionaries site had these synonyms for intentional: “deliberate, calculated, conscious, intended, planned, meant, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, done on purpose, premeditated, preplanned, preconceived.”

The word I liked best was “premeditated.” I find it a strong word, probably because it’s associated with some supped up Matlock case, but if we want to kill it in our writing there has to be some forethought. Think about it. That is the one thing you can do as a writer to make you most successful. Take time to figure out what you can do to take your writing to the next level. Plan your next move and take action. Ask yourselves what little thing you can do to expand your writing experiences.

Then be intentional about it.

I love the explanation found on the nationalgeographic.com site under the topic: stars. It states, “Some stars have always stood out from the rest. Their brightness is a factor of how much energy they put out…” or into it, right? Writing takes work. You have to plan, study, premeditate; pull the telescope out and look closer at the details. Devote some energy into your writing and naturally it will become brighter.

BE PATIENT
One of my favorite things to do with my family is to star gaze from the trampoline. The weight in the middle of the trampoline forces us into some cuddled bump glump. If you lay there long enough you will see a shooting star about every 5 minutes. But, you have to be looking for it. Patience and focus is key.

Give yourself time. According to nationalgeographic.com, stars take billions of years to evolve. How’s that for a black hole of hope? You’re welcome. But, I think we can relate to that, just ask any writer you know. Becoming a writing star takes time but if you don’t be intentional about your writing you will never go anywhere with it.

Every effort counts. Don’t worry if things don’t go exactly as you planned in your head (they won’t). It’s all part of the process to build you as a writing star. Enjoy the process of writing and in the meantime you will see star wonders of encouragement in the sky if you are looking for it. Be patient and stay focused.

BE INTENTIONAL

Once I made the small efforts to step it up as a writer I was amazed at the meteor shower of possibilities that opened up by not just star gazing but by pulling out my telescope and looking for and maximizing my opportunities.

I’ve learned that writing isn’t a matter of destination, some predetermined lot in life that will land gracefully in my lap. Writing success is a matter of where you take it. Writing success doesn’t just happen.

Put yourself out there. Take that step in the dark, get a little scared, look to the stars then board your rocket and take off. Don’t get stuck being star struck. It’s time to be a little more intentional with your writing. You’ve got something amazing to share. I know it because you are here reading this blog. Your passion for writing exists… now don’t miss your opportunity because life can change in a moment and you’ll realize tomorrow may never come. Believe me, I know. Today’s the day, don’t waste it.

What intentional step are you going to take today?

_____________________

christie-perkinsChristie Perkins is a survivor of boy humor, chemo, and faulty recipes. She loves freelance writing, blogging, and is a nonfiction junkie. Her stage 4 cancer doesn’t knock down her passion for life and writing. Not a chance. A couple of magazines have published her work but her biggest paycheck is her incredible family. Christie hates spiders, the dark, and Shepherd’s Pie. Bleh. Mood boosters: white daisies, playing basketball, and peanut butter M&M’s. You can find out more about her on her blog at howperkyworks.com.

New Year Old Fear

“Sometimes your destiny is wrapped up in a veil of fear to check if you really have the courage to face it.” — Marcus Hades

So, did you do it? You know, state “new year, new me” at the top of new year? It’s okay. I did too. The only problem is that I said the same thing last year. Don’t blame the motto though. You can and should strive to better yourself, but if you keep carrying around that old fear of the unknown you’re likely to be that same old person you were.

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So here are a few things to help you into becoming the new you your writing self deserves.

Stop fearing failure.

“Failure is part of the creative process. If you’re afraid of it, you can’t really create.”Danny Devito

Writing is a challenge in itself. However if the goal is to see your work out in the world there is another challenge waiting for you. Actually putting it out there. Gasp! Don’t allow the voices that say you can’t or no one cares take over. You have to be willing to take that leap.

Stop telling yourself there is no time.

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” — Henry David Thoreau

It’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll never have enough time to finish that novel. But there is. Even the time reading this is enough time to scribble a couple of words down which will propel you closer to completion. Carry little notebooks and a pen, get apps on your phone, use a voice recorder. Finish that book!

Don’t go it alone.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” — Edmund Lee

I had a little chuckle as I thought back to the original Legend of Zelda game where the old man in the cave offers you a wooden sword while saying “It’s dangerous alone. Take this.” Okay, nerd chuckle over. As lonely as writing is it doesn’t need to be. Have some writerly friends, start a writing group, make an online writing community. They can be accountable for you, and you can be accountable for them. Make a game of it to keep each other going, you know, do what non introverted people do.

That’s a few things to help with the new year, old fears. What do you do?

Until next time have a writeous day!

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Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

Looking Back and Forward

Can you believe 2016 is almost over? We at Thinking Through Our Fingers have had a tremendous year, from book deals, to agents, to tackling a new genre, to finishing a difficult manuscript. I asked my fellow contributors to share their best accomplishment as a writer from this year as well as what they look forward to achieving next year.

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Rosalyn Eves—My writing high for the year was two-fold: seeing an actual copy (ARC) of my book for the first time and getting to meet my editor and the staff at Knopf this past November.

My goals for 2017: finish writing book 2 and survive the launch of book one in March!

Cindy Baldwin—2016 was a red-letter year for my writing! After unsuccessfully querying two other books, I managed to land both an agent and a book deal with a third. I’m now prepping to be a 2018 debut author and couldn’t be more excited!

I have lots of things I’d like to do in 2017: write more books, master tricky craft aspects that aren’t my strong point, etc. But the biggest thing that’s been coming to my mind as I’ve contemplated moving forward toward my debut is how much I want to focus on mindfulness and gratitude in my writing journey. Writing carries so much angst and neuroticism with it, and I know that debut years in particular can provoke a lot of anxiety. As I prepare for mine, I’d like to really focus on establishing tools that will help me deal with that anxiety moving forward.

Amanda Rawson Hill—I signed with my dream agent and wrote the book of my heart.

In 2017, I plan to finish an R&R, write my fourth novel, and be proud of myself whether or not I get a book deal.

Wendy Jessen—I just finished a revise and resubmit on my self-help/inspiration nonfiction. Lots of growing as a writer and as a person.

Goal for next year: self-pub some contemporary sweet romance novellas and get my YA rough draft. Or that might change depending on what happens with the aforementioned R&R and there may be some more NF in the works. Clearly, I have a solid plan.

Jolene Perry—I wrote my first middle grade novel, turned it in to my agent, and it’s now on submission 🙂

Next year, I want to get one of my YA horror novels on submission and continue working on my adult historical. This year, and who knows how many other years, are dedicated to stretching my writerly wings in any direction I please 🙂

Elaine Vickers—On the publishing end, my debut came out in 2016, which was every bit as wonderful (and stressful) as I’d ever imagined.

In 2017, I’m looking forward to all the same things again–first pass pages, ARCs, signings, conferences, trade reviews, launch party, etc.–with a little more experience but no less enthusiasm. On the writing end, I worked and revised in 2016 but didn’t draft a whole new story. I’ve got one I’ve been itching to write for months now that’s still just a skeletal outline, so my main writing goal is to get it written in 2017.

Dennis Gaunt—Lots of good things happened to me in 2016, including being asked to emcee the 2016 Storymakers conference. But my biggest news is that the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley book that I helped produce, became available.

Looking forward to 2017, I have a couple of books that I’m working on, and am dipping my toe into the fiction world for the first time.

Orly Konig—Highs for 2016: Finished revisions on debut and got to cuddle my ARCs. Sold the second book.

My goal for 2017 is to enjoy being a debut author and not get lost in the frenzy. Oh, and write the next book. 🙂

Tasha Seegmiller—Personally, I signed with an agent (Annelise Robey – Jane Rotrosen Agency) and revamped the book that got me my agent TWICE! I also got re-elected as secretary for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, oversaw the publication of four editions of a quarterly ezine (Write On!), and expanded the frequency of TTOF posts to five days a week. (YAY!!!)

Kristina Starmer—My biggest accomplishment in 2016 was to give myself permission to make writing a priority.

For next year, my goals are to revise my NaNo project and continue querying a previous work.

Ilima Todd—My writing-related highlight of 2016 was probably having a book released (my second) and signing with a new agent (my third) all within a month. Crazy times!

My goals for 2017 include finishing off a couple of projects that I’ve started and writing something completely new. I want to write a novel in a different genre/audience than I’ve ever done before. I’m excited!

Helen Boswell — This was a hard year for me for writing,  but I coauthored a paper with Tasha Seegmiller in American Biology Teacher titled, “Reading Fiction in Biology Class to Enhance Scientific Literacy.” It’s currently more important than ever that we promote scientific literacy, and fiction writers can help!

Goals: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and finish writing this damned book I’ve been working on for two years. Maybe get a standing desk to help, so I don’t have to keep my butt in the chair after all. 🙂

Annette Lyon—Probably the biggest thing for me this year was hitting the USA Today bestsellers list in July. I also went on my first round of submission with the book I got my agent with a year ago. I’m finishing (another!) round of revisions before we go on sub again early 2017. My hope for next year is that it will sell, of course. 🙂

Lauri Schoenfeld—My massive high this year is that I went through a complete revision of my novel—multiple times. And sending it off to my editor. This is a huge and new step. I’ve been working with this novel for five years.

Next year, I’ll be querying, finding an agent and writing a new baby. I haven’t written anything new for a while so I’m super excited about that stage too.

Jenilyn Collings—I suppose my high was: starting an MFA in writing for children and young adults.

My goal for 2017 is to finish the MFA program and query the novel I’ve been working on.

Emily R. King—My highs of the year were landing a fabulous new agent, Marlene Stringer, and selling my first two novels.

Next year, I hope to enjoy (and survive) the release of my first two books and sell a third (fingers crossed).

What was your high point for 2016? What goals have you set for 2017?

Whatever achievements you have accomplished or plan to attain soon, all of us at Thinking Through Our Fingers wish you a Happy New Year!

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Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S.A., she’s perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and an active participant in her local writers’ community. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find Emily at emilyrking.com

Considering the Cost

considering-the-cost

The year is drawing to a close, and one of the themes that seems to be on everyone’s mind is time. It’s certainly on mine.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak to a group of students at the university where I teach. The topic? Time management. My gut reaction was, “Let’s find another speaker so I can listen to a talk on time management, because WOW, I need to hear that.” But I reluctantly recognized that the best way to learn to manage my own time a little better was to do the work of figuring some of this out for myself. So I got to work.

The students I was speaking to are like many of the readers of this blog: bright, motivated, and working tirelessly toward their goals. I asked them to start with this exercise: Write a list of the things that are important to you. No ranking, no set number of items on the list. You might include writing, family, work, exercise, sleep, activism or volunteer work, mediation or worship, travel–it’s your list! But there are a few to get you thinking. (This is the part where you actually take two minutes to write the list. Tasha’s insightful and inspiring post on essentialism might help.)

Okay. Now. Time is one of the most precious commodities any of us have to invest. I would assert that emotional energy may be the other, and that they are related through one of my mom’s favorite quotes:

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Consider, then, the goals you’re pursuing and the important things on your list. What is the cost of each–not only in terms of time, but the emotional cost as well? How much of your life are you willing to exchange for a finished manuscript, a book deal, an online presence? For a close relationship with your parents or children? For a physically and mentally healthy body? For the social or environmental causes that are close to your heart?

These are not rhetorical questions; there is no answer or position I’m guiding you to. But the cost of each of the things on your list–those most precious, important aspects of your life–is worth considering.

As you look toward 2017, reflect upon how you spent your time and emotional energy in 2016. Unless you’re perfect, there will be adjustments to be made. (I know there are for me.) But know that if you’re investing in the things that are important to you–even if the balance isn’t perfect, even if you sometimes feel you’re falling short–then you’re doing okay. Make those adjustments. Ask for help. And then be fierce and steadfast and work hard.

We got this. Look out, 2017.


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (out now!) and PAPER CHAINS (coming fall 2017) from HarperCollins. She loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.