No, my year-ending ritual is to make an *I Did It List*.
A mini brag book, so to speak. Each December since, I've talked about how it has become important to me to spend some time at the end of the year noticing, recognizing, and recording what I accomplished in the year that's ending.
I am a writer who--like many of you--routinely deals with rejection from editors, setbacks, uncooperative drafts, lost opportunities, time constraints, deadlines, idea droughts, revision hell, and other unfriendly aspects of the writing life. One December, after I'd had a particularly awful week, I needed some perspective. Surely I had done something right that year I could be happy about?
It would be a short list, I was sure. I was wrong. I had actually done a lot.
I don't mean only the "big stuff" (like getting published someplace nice or winning a contest or landing a new gig), but also many less obvious, less shiny, but significant ways I'd grown as a writer and further developed my writing life.
I invited others to do the same. Since then, many writers have taken up the *I Did It List* challenge.
I would like to encourage everyone to join me again this year, and make your own *I Did It List* for your life as a writer.
What did you get done? What new thing did you try? Did you intentionally move ahead or move sideways, or back to a better place? What did you learn? What did you do differently?
Did you make X more submissions than you did the year before? Did you make one submission, finally conquering your fear of hitting send? Did you start something? Finish something? Work hard on the middle of something? Take a class? Read more? Find a writing friend? Go to a conference? Write regularly? Learn to blog? Ask for help? Help another writer?
How long should your list be? As long as you keep thinking of things that mattered, that you set out to do and did, things that you are proud of, pleased about, jazzed by. As long as it needs to be to include even stuff you didn't mean to do but now that you think about it, you did and you're glad you did. Or as short as it takes you to nod, smile to yourself, and realize that--despite any internal default I-should-do-more setting--you did a lot this year.
List it, and be proud.
Nothing, really. I make my list, read it a few times, then put it away until I am having a particularly awful day in the new year; then I take it out and skim it. Oh yes, I'll think, that's right, I actually do accomplish a lot each year, despite awful days, awful weeks.
I like to imagine we can all keep our lists to ourselves, mostly because I don't want to encourage folks to create *I Did It Lists* to outshine other writers' lists, or read like one of those overblown exaggerating holiday letters we all hate to get (and rarely believe).
So while I'm suggesting the list is a personal activity, I'm also thinking that the experience of making the list is something useful to talk about publicly. Write a blog post, Facebook update, a tweet, Tumblr or newsletter note about what making an *I Did It List* did for you.
What, if anything, did it tell you about the one wild and precious writing life you already have?
However, while my personal take is that my list is for me, yours is for you, I'm aware that spreading this idea via a blog post that I'll be sharing around the web, and expecting others to keep lists private may seem a little strange. And, I'll concede that it is possible to gain (and impart) something meaningful out of sharing such a list.
But let's at least also take public the collective experience of many writers compiling *I Did It List*. Think of the positive rippling effect we can create by reviewing our year and writing down the highlights, the shared power of naming what we really and truly did; instead of listing what we should/could/ maybe will do, or the soul-crushing empty exercise of shaming ourselves for what we did not do.
Mind you, I have nothing against also making a list of things you want to do in the coming year to make your writing life better. But first, consider how good your writing life already is, and what you did to make it that way. Join me, and who knows, perhaps like other writers did last year, your list will not be only about the writing life, but about life.
Find some time in the crazy final two weeks of the year. Create your *I Did It List* and ask other writers to make their own. Concentrate on what you did, not on what's to come or what's come undone.
Please share this post, and let me know if you have started or completed your own *I Did It List.*
Image: Flickr/Creative Commons/Daehyun Park