Brace yourselves, it’s coming–the holiday crush. As I’m writing this, school has barely started and the stores are already stocked with Halloween candy. Before you know it, it’ll be turkeys and snowmen and Santas galore. And as the end of 2008 approaches, however rushed, I’m inclined to reflect on the past year.
My mental list of accomplishments now includes not only personal and professional goals–got married, sold an essay to a national magazine–but family milestones as well. My son started preschool, my husband got a new job, and we’re pregnant with our second child.
I used to end each year by reviewing a written list of New Year’s resolutions or goals. More often than not, I’d accomplished most of them. Especially before I had a husband and child, there were fewer “extenuating circumstances” to knock me off track. For the most part, I could control how many hours I worked, how many queries I sent out, and which conferences I would attend.
Then I became a wife and mother, and things changed. Kids get sick, sitters cancel, husbands get called away for work. I had no choice but to adapt. Out with the lengthy, multi-source articles on a tight deadline, in with the slower paced editing jobs. Out with the relentless pitching to dollar-a-word national magazines, in with the regular assignments from lower-paying regional magazines. Out with the timely news pitches, in with the evergreen essays.
This may be the first year that I didn’t even come close to achieving my goals. I did not get an agent, publish a book, or break into O, the Oprah magazine. I did not send out two queries a week, or make six figures.
Here’s what I did do: I taught my first writing class. I wrote two blog entries a week. I had an essay accepted for a parenting anthology. I got regular writing and editing assignments from regional magazines and corporate clients. I contributed to the household income. I balanced-not always gracefully-the demands of two things very important to me, my career and my family. And that’s not too shabby.
It’s not easy to be a freelance writer and a mom. It can often feel like you’re being pulled in two different directions, and not doing either of your jobs very well. Compared to colleagues with no kids, older kids, or more help than you, it can seem like you’ll never measure up. But here’s the thing: there’s no one-size-fits-all set of goals for writers or parents. You get to come up with your own list. And that list can, and will, change along the way.
I’m willing to bet that like me, most of you accomplished more than you realize this past year. Maybe you joined a writer’s group, finished a novel, or submitted your writing for publication for the first time. Maybe you potty trained your toddler (finally!), learned to cook Indian food, or organized a family reunion. Yes, it all “counts”!
So as the New Year approaches, if you do come up with a list of goals, make it broad, make it fluid, make it your own, and make sure to pat yourself on the back for what you have already achieved. I bet it’s a lot.
Abigail Green is a freelance writer in Baltimore. Over the past 10 years, she has written for national, regional and online publications including AOL, AAA World, Bride’s, Baltimore Magazine, Cooking Light and Health. Her latest project is raising her first child, which she chronicles in her blog Diary of a New Mom http://diaryofanewmom.blogspot.com/. Abby teaches the class, Personal Essays that Get Published for Writers on the Rise.