Reviewing 2011: Measuring Success

As I read year end reviews in the various online magazines and news sites that I follow, I realized that I have never done a year end review of my own goals for the previous year. How can that be? I am an over-analyzer of epic proportions. I analyze things for my day job, for every major purchase, for gift purchases, for — well, everything. So how is it that I never look back at what I've accomplished for the year? I think I have been afraid to look back. Afraid that I’d be disappointed.

Due to a number of personal crises in the past ten years, my writing had taken a back seat to dealing with other things. 2011 continued with numerous challenges. There were serious health issues in my immediate and extended family, overwhelming issues at my day job that sucked the energy right out of me, and emotionally wrenching events – the news that one of my dogs has a life-limiting health condition, and the hardest news of all, one of my family members is getting divorced. There were positive things I tried to do, but somehow things didn't work out. It has been difficult to see the trees for the forest (Yeah, I know that's backward – that has been my life).

And, for an optimist at heart, I tend to be rather harsh on myself. For example as I was contemplating writing this post, I thought 'how can I write a year end review when I didn't accomplish very much?' Translate that to I didn't finish my novel-in-progress nor did I finish my revision-in-progress. Thus I failed as a writer.

So all-in-all 2011 seems to have been a total bust.

Wait a minute. I think Mrs. Darkside has gotten her grips into me.

For those of you who have not been formally introduced, Mrs. Darkside is my alter ego. Her full name, Mrs. Darkside of the Force, says it all. She is the doubter, destroyer, and nay sayer who used to haunt me a lot. Mrs. Darkside is a master at negative self-talk. Negative self-talk (I didn’t get anything done, I'm not very good, etc.) starts a self-fulfilling downward spiral of energy and self-esteem.

So how do you beat Mrs. Darkside? Learn to identify your cycles of negative self-talk is the first step. Naming Mrs. Darkside takes away her power and it refocuses you on the good, the hope, and the yes-I-can attitude. But even more important is learning to master positive self-talk. Honor yourself for your spirit, for the struggle to survive, for the desire to make good choices. Celebrate the good choices you did make. Take in the positives. Even when life events overwhelm you, celebrate the small steps such as “I got out of bed today,” “I got dressed,” or “I ate a healthy meal.” Count your successes, no matter how small. You’ll be amazed at how positive self-talk empowers you.

So, now that Mrs. Darkside is put firmly in her place, what have I accomplished in the past year?

    I made a commitment to make writing a higher priority in my life. (Previously, writing came after family crises, working the paying job, all household chores, etc., resulting in very low word counts for too many years.)

    I took a total wreck of a novel I wrote more than 20 years ago and have crafted more than 32,000 words in revision, transforming the wreck into a thing of pride. For that I have to thank Holly Lisle and her amazing How to Rewrite Your Novel course. Not all of her methods work for me, but studying her course gave me a bunch of new tools that do work.

    I learned a bunch more about HTML and about CSS code and crafted a web site for myself.

    I learned how to use twitter and a blog to create my own writer's platform with help from Kristen Lamb’s Blogging 101 course. I also met a bunch of amazing friends as a result of that course and whose support and encouragement is something I count as a big positive for the year.

    I wrote and published nearly 20,000 words in blog posts and online articles.

    I wrote 11,000 plus words in my writer's journal.

    I created a new website and shopping cart for a new phase of my husband's online business.

    I babysat grandkids, celebrated birthdays, celebrated another wedding anniversary with the man I love, had an overall successful year at work, and managed to keep my tiny rose garden alive for another year.

So, you might ask me, did you make any money writing in 2011? Not one red cent. Yet, my writing skills have improved significantly. My increased commitment to my writing is measurable in a markedly increased word count for the past year. I made a public statement that I am a writer with a website and a blog. My faith in my writing ability is stronger than ever and has been reinforced by the many wonderful comments I've received on my blog and through my web site.

Looking back, I'd say that while 2011 held many challenges, it has been a successful for me on a personal level and happily, a very successful year for me, the writer. I am looking forward to developing friendships, to writing more, and to discovering the successes in store for me in 2012.

How about you? Does your version of Mrs. Darkside grab you when you look back at your progress? How does your 2011 in Review measure up?