My 2014 Attack Plan

This is the fifth New Year’s post I’ve had the opportunity to write on this blog– hard to believe my little writing experiment has been going this long. From a writing perspective, 2013 has been a fairly good year: I had three stories published, and wrote half a novel during the Clarion West Write-a-thon. On the flip side, I didn’t actually finish the novel… but more on that later.

Of course, looking back on 2013 in the future, I won’t be counting stories published or places seen or anything else. 2013 will be indelibly etched in my mind as the year Mom passed away. And even though it’s been ten months since then, and a lot of good things have happened this year, it’s impossible for me to really say 2013 was a good year, in a larger sense. Losing a family member isn’t like most pain, in that it doesn’t fade away with time. It’s just one of those things that you learn to live with, because you have to. So while other successes and triumphs and failures and losses will fade with time, that will not.

But that said, I did lay some groundwork in 2013 for things that I very much hope will result in many positive experiences and memories in 2014. In mid-November, I quit my well-paying I.T. job, with the intention of focusing on a few creative and business-related ideas that I’ve long pursued in some form or another. I’ll be writing, of course; I’m also planning start a hypnotherapy practice and I also want to work on monetizing my photography. My goal is that by the end of the year, I’ll make enough money from a variety of sources that I won’t need to return to the world of I.T.

If not, then I hope I’ll at least have a couple novels, some epic photographs, fond memories, and a fantastic year to show for it.

From mid-November until now, I’ve largely been on vacation, enjoying some time off and travelling to see friends and family on the East Coast. But it’s January 2014 now; this is where the rubber hits the road. I have a long to-do list, which I won’t post in its entirety here, but suffice it to say I have two new websites for my photography and hypnotherapy businesses that I’d like to get up and fully running by mid-January. I also want to get into the rhythm of writing– actually writing, not just social media content or blog posts– for at least two hours a day, and work to increase that as I settle into a routine.

It’s always been tempting for me to try to clear the rest of the to-do list first so that I can focus better when I sit down to write, but the problem with that approach is, there’s always something else on the to-do list. So writing is my top priority this year; even if I don’t make a cent, I’ll consider this year a success if I have a publishable story or two by the end of it.

I have other weekly and monthly goals as well. I plan to have at least least one interesting “photo expedition” every week– whether it be exploring Seattle or some part of its surrounding environs, going to a big event like a convention, or doing a pre-arranged photoshoot. And I want to keep going to the gym and doing full workouts at least twice a week (preferably three).

There’s a personal goal I want to strive for as well. In my New Year’s post for 2013, my second resolution was to find a talk therapist and work on my depression, which is something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time. I did find a talk therapist and worked with him for a few months, but we never really clicked. That’s okay, though. I feel like I did pretty well in my struggle against depression this year; I switched from taking Sertraline to taking a combination of Escitalopram and Bupropion (aka Lexapro and Wellbutrin), and overall feel pretty good about where I am. My confidence has generally improved, and I feel more in control of myself and my goals.

Yet I still feel quite a bit of anxiety when it comes to interacting with others. This manifests most strongly in how I interact with romantic interests, but to some level affects my interactions with family and friends as well. Looking back, I can even see how I’ve unconsciously sabotaged relationships in the past, because I was confronted with a new and different set of anxieties with which I was not familiar.

In essence, it comes down to this: I know how to be depressed and alone; it’s something I’ve spent years doing, and even though it’s not healthy, on some level of my subconscious it’s nevertheless home. It’s a natural state of being; a comfortable blanket I can wrap around myself, because even though I’m depressed, at least I’m used to it. I think on some level all our minds seek out homeostasis, that comfortable mental and emotional status quo with which we’re most familiar. When something threatens that (even if it’s a positive change), it can take a strong conscious effort to embrace the change and not recoil in fear.

I feel like I’ve learned to embrace a more positive state of being on a personal level. I have the confidence to confront and dealt with the things that come my way, and to set difficult challenges for myself (as evidenced by my career plan this year). in 2014, I want to work on extending that to how I interact with others– to have confidence in my ability not just to confront unknown challenges for myself, but to confront unknown challenges with others as well.

When confronting personal challenges, it’s easy to shove anxieties to the back of my mind and successfully deal with whatever comes my way, but when confronting interpersonal challenges my subconscious mind seems to actively work on creating new anxieties, and it’s much harder to just push things to the back of my mind so I can deal with what’s in front of me.

So in 2014, I want to work on not being so anxious when new people get close, to work on improving my ability to trust, and not to defensively wall myself off. Because that defensive recoiling doesn’t just protect me against negative things, it sabotages positive things. (And it’s not a particularly great way to deal with the negatives either.) It even hurt my relationship with my Mom in the year before she passed. I need to trust myself enough in how I deal with others that I no longer feel a need to withdraw into that safe, comfortable shell of loneliness. Or, at least, to gain better control of that need.

So I’ve got plenty to keep me busy in 2014. Working for myself is going to be a huge exercise in self-discipline: to actually buckle down and motivate myself on all these goals, and to accomplish everything I want to get done. In a year, I don’t want to look back with regret and feel like 2014 was wasted; I want to look back and be proud of what I was able to accomplish.

Wish me luck. And here’s wishing for a wonderful 2014 for you and yours.

Dream Big

For me, today would be incomplete without a brief nod to the fact that exactly nine years ago, on March 8, 2004, I started my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. It’s an anniversary I’ve noted before, and it continues to serve as a reminder to always set big goals.

Going through Mom’s stuff, I found a copy of the following poem, which once adorned the sidebar of my original Appalachian Trail webpage. That site has long since been re-absorbed into the aether of the Interwebs, but the poem is still poignant, especially given the recent passing of Mom. My mind’s been circling around these sort of thoughts a lot lately, and today it seems particularly appropriate to post this.

In more mundane news, I’ll be heading back to Seattle next week, ready for life to move on, even though things will never quite be the same. And the memory of the last few weeks, like the memory of the Appalachian Trail, will serve as an ever-present reminder to keep dreaming, and to keep setting those big goals.

 

Dream Big
Author Unknown

If ever there were a time to dare,
To make a difference,
To embark on something worth doing,
It is now.
Not for some grand cause, necessarily,
But for something that tugs at your heart
Something that’s your aspiration
Something that’s your dream

You owe it to yourself
To make each day here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though,
That things worth doing
Seldom come easy.
There will be good days
and there will be bad days
There will be times when
you want to turn around,
pack it up,
call it quits.
Those times tell you
That you are pushing yourself,
That you are not afraid to learn
by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea,
determination,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart
guide you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power
Of all the things that will cross your path.

The start of something new
Brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only one you,
And you will only pass this way once.

Do it right.

Happy New Year!

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” -Charles Kettering

Happy New Year, everyone! I usually don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I figure New Year’s is as good a time as any to set some goals. Most are goals I already have, but I’ve found that if I can clearly articulate what I want to accomplish, it’s often easier to follow through. (Hence the quote.) A lot of people are scornful about New Year’s Resolutions– I used to be one of them– but really, they’re just a tool, and how effective they are depends entirely on how you use them. So I don’t make resolutions simply for the sake of having resolutions, but I do use them to articulate goals and reflect on long-term plans.

First, though, a quick look back on 2010. Last year was without a doubt one of the craziest years I’ve ever lived through. If you told me on January 1 that I would end the year living in a tiny apartment in Seattle, I probably would have laughed at you. But it’s been a good year, mostly.

Ways 2010 Was Awesome:

-Moving to Seattle, and thus breaking out of a years-long career and personal rut
-Three words: Cross-country road trip
-Summer trip to Europe
-Started writing more regularly
Lots of sci-fi conventions
-Managed to network at said conventions, to the point where I’m on a first-name basis with several published authors and editors
Several great backpacking trips

Ways 2010 Was Not So Awesome:

-Unexpected deaths in my own and friends’ families
-Saying good-bye to everyone in Raleigh (yes, one event can make both lists)
-Failing to sell my house in North Carolina
-Not finishing my novel
-One word: politics

So there you have 2010 in a nutshell. All in all, I call it a very good year. Heck, the first bullet point in the “awesome” list alone would have made it a good year. But now on to this year.

Goals for 2011:

-Finish the first draft of aforementioned novel
-Write at least one short story every quarter
-Submit those stories to Writers of the Future, and magazines if/when they don’t win
-Get out and date. I’m tired of being single.
-Finish online classes and become a certified hypnotherapist (I should really do a blog entry on this)
-Attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno in August
-Also attend Dragon*Con in Atlanta in September
-Keep doing photography, both studio and outdoors
-Go on some West Coast backpacking trips

There’s another category of things I’d like to do, but these are not 100% in my control, so I don’t feel right making them goals. But if I pursue the goals above, I’ll hopefully increase the odds of them happening. Let’s call them hopes:

-Get a story published
-Be able to leave Software Development behind as a career
-And on a more personal note: Fall in love

So there you have it: my own goals and hopes for 2011.

Happy New Year, folks. May 2011 be everything you hope for.