So, a month later... I'm announcing I won NaNoWriMo! Let's have a belated cheer!
Seriously, though, winning NaNoWriMo was exciting this year, almost as exciting as the first year I did it. It was exciting for a lot of reasons: I finally finished the story arc of the story I've been trying to write for NINE YEARS (yes, you read the caps correctly), I had a new companion in NaNoWriMOing (my friend Erin Danehy), and finishing was kind of a close call this year! Not only did I have three road trips that sapped my time and energy, but while I was out of town I wrote 6,131 words (of course I remember how many!) on my laptop to stay current with my wordcount and when I got back to Richmond I found that my laptop would not let me get to what I'd written. It's having a hard drive problem or something, maybe even a virus like I first thought. Lee and I tried a bunch of things, everything short of bringing it to a computer repair person, and finally I decided I would just have to write the 6,131 words again. So I did. It was kinda nice knowing that I had written an extra couple of thousand words, since I am not one of those Wrimos who does an extra 50,000 or 200,000 just for kicks. Yes, there are people like that.
That wraps up NaNoWriMo. Aside from NaNoWriMo, I am pleased to say that I'm more involved in writing than I usually am in the other non-November months. This is largely in thanks to Erin Danehy, who set up a brilliant little Google site that we call the co-motivators. We post links, articles, little mini progress posts (or rants, or "hey this is what's up with me" type ramblings), and creative writing to be critiqued. So far I haven't posted any of my writing, but I've been happily critiquing Erin's and we're getting so much out of it. She loves that I'm a "close reader" of her texts (that's a Peggy Knapp word--essentially, I pick up on a lot of the nuances, details, implications, etc.) and I love that she appreciates that! Plus her story is fun to read. We like a lot of the same literature so that doesn't surprise me. Her story inspires me to go back to my own story, which thanks to this year of writing is finally ready for--and worthy of--the vigorous revision process that I'm excited to embark upon. I've also been doing more with Holly Lisle's online clinics and such, but more on that in the New Year. I've only been fiddling with them.
Writing-wise 2008 has been more involved than usual, but art-wise the year was an explosion! In the best possible way, of course. In the spring I ventured into the classroom again for the first time since Carnegie Mellon, participating in two full-day workshops at the VMFA. Once I got my feet wet with that, I signed up for the Illustration Master Class, a week-long intense fantasy illustration workshop at Amherst, Massachusetts (which I still haven't written about, but was a pivotal experience of my life), and it was such a success I'm already signed up for next year's. In November I met up with a bunch of Illustration Master Class friends--yes, I've made some new friends--and had my first out-of-town-in-a-hotel-alone experience in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Closer to home, I'm pleased to say that I made a Deviant Art account and stuck with it, posting art and commenting on other people's art. I've found two new favorite artists this way. Perhaps most exciting of all (though I have trouble topping my excitement over the Illustration Master Class, or IMC) I've painted way more this year than any other year since I was a kid. And, I love painting again! I'm pleased with what I'm painting and I enjoy the process. That's not to say that I don't stall on finishing a painting for no discernable reason, but it is safe to say that I don't hear the old criticisms and scathing remarks in my ears anymore, both when I'm painting and when I'm going to sleep. I want to jump up and down and say "I'm cured, I'm cured!" but the fact is that the negativity from CMU does still crop up and sucker punch me from time to time. But I'm so much better.
One big, huge reason I'm so much better now is my therapist. I've been seeing a therapist since last January. I didn't want to write it about here not because I'm ashamed, but because I felt it was safest to keep it to myself until I knew what impact it would have on me to share about having a therapist. Sometimes I say too much about it to my parents or others, but mostly I think I've struck a good balance of what feels right to share, and it feels right to mention it now. The fact is, every piece of unhappiness I've had this past decade has been utterly worth it because it led me to this therapist. People like to find a purpose for their suffering, and I can safely say that without every bit of unhappiness I've had, I might not have seen a therapist. Not because I don't believe in talking about your problems (anyone who knows me more than 5 minutes knows that I do!) and not because I don't believe in the therapeutic process, but because... well, I guess I grew up so aware of my privileges and how good I had it, I didn't think I had a right to be unhappy and tell someone about my unhappiness in the hopes that they'd help me cope better. I'm thinking this through now as I'm typing and wonder if that's what would've held me back. Maybe it's just that I needed a certain amount of unhappiness to push me over the edge of "I'm okay, really I am" into "Wait, something is not right." I'm not sure even now. But whatever it is, I discovered through talking with my therapist that Carnegie Mellon touched upon old wounds as much as it introduced new ways of being unhappy; it wasn't that CMU was my first miserable experience. Instead, it was miserable because it brought up so much from my past that I had never thought about, like feeling lonely and excluded by my peers. Stuff like that. Anyway, I'm digressing. Essentially what I want to say is not only has my therapy great for identifying the "what" and "why" of my feelings and behaviors, but it has also taught me ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions and patterns of thinking. And that is invaluable.
Let's see, what else about 2008... camp was a great success this year, marking the first year that I felt really comfortable and centered in the classroom. (I suspect that therapy contributed a great deal toward this feeling of competence and likely success in my teaching endeavors.) While I didn't accomplish all of my 5 New Year's resolutions from last year, I did make strides in most of them. I also accomplished my informal goal of reading 52 books this year. I meant to post the list but it's still on my computer in Virginia and here I am in Connecticut, and there's no way I can remember them all. This year was, I think, my first full year of buying used books and turning in old ones for credit at Book Exchange. I've also bought a lot of books from Goodwill. I can't remember when I started going to Book Exchange and Goodwill but I wish I could. Book Exchange has become one of my favorite places to go with Lee.
Lee and I are getting along. We're moving out of the apartment at the end of January and going to live with our families for a while. That means I'm moving back up to Connecticut. We've decided that we need to focus on ourselves, individually, without all the distractions of our very old and complicated relationship. I know, I know, whenever couples say "it was a mutual decision" it's pretty much a lie, but as far as I can tell we have mutually agreed and we're both pretty peaceful about it. Of course there is anxiety and anticipation of the loss and loneliness, but we both want to improve our lives and we think this is a good tactic to try. We're trying to say "wait and see" about everything... but I must admit this is quite difficult for me.
All in all, 2008 was a big year of growth for me. I'm so much better off now than I was this time last year. So, so much better. I am not sure what kind of hopes and expectations to have for 2009. That is, I'm hesitant to put big goals out there and not reach them. However, I think it's safe to say that I want to continue on my current track, which is continuing to read a lot and do a lot of art. I also want to expand this toward selling my art and working on writing more. Essentially, I want to become more and more myself.
Edited January 6, 2009 to add this: In rereading this entry it occurred to me that saying "Lee and I are getting along" and then essentially "we're moving out" seems incongruous. Let me explain by saying that Lee and I have been planning for a while to take some time apart when our lease ends in January and, despite the impending shake-up, we are getting along. I think that makes more sense, but it probably sounds mixed up. It should, since I still feel awfully mixed up myself.