2011: My Year in Review

This has been a really strange year, in which time has both flown and stood still. I don’t really understand how that can be possible, but I’ve never been one for quantum physics, so there you have it. I was really a little worried going into this year-end review, because as rough as 2010 felt creatively, 2011 definitely felt rougher on pretty much all fronts.

Here is my great confession for 2011: I spent the summer in as severe a depression as I’ve ever been through, and I am not being dramatic when I tell you it was probably the scariest phase of my life. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t bring myself to do any sort of workout other than running. I couldn’t go an entire day without crying. And I could not for the life of me figure out how to fix it. None of my previously successful tools were working. I had six vials of blood drawn because I had doctors run every possible test to see if there was a medical reason for my inability to get myself out of that place. And never has the news that I am in perfect health been so distressing. I’m not sure what happened to finally lift me out of it, but I suspect it was a combination of:

  • a change in diet (I went gluten-free, or close to it, for several months),
  • a change in perspective (“this too shall pass,” and that I cannot and should not try to control other people’s reactions, and that as long as I am doing my best in regards to right action and right speech, I can let go),
  • getting the news about my script reaching the AFF semifinals,
  • and eventually sheer stubbornness.

I wish I had been brave enough to reach out to more people than I did, to talk about what I was going through, but that is one of the terrible things about depression — it tricks you out of wanting the things you need most. I’m lucky; I got through it.

Even though I’m grateful to have made it over that hurdle, I was feeling pretty despondent about doing my year-end creative review since I’d had such a long dry spell.  So, it was a huge relief when I went back and actually listed everything I’d done on that front and saw it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared.  But the truth is I didn’t meet many of the big goals I set for myself last year.

  • I didn’t query any of my scripts (though I got lucky with the Austin Film Festival picking up some of that slack for me) or my children’s story.
  • I didn’t do ScriptFrenzy because I was desperately (and unsuccessfully) reworking a script to resubmit to the BlueCat Fellini Screenplay Competition.
  • That script was the still-enigmatic M. Valentine. And I will break that thing one day. But this was sadly not the year (though I did get a tiny consolation when it made the quarterfinals of that competition, considering how terribly, terribly clunky I thought it was).
  • I did not write a stage play.
  • I didn’t quite see something I wrote produced, but I am currently post-producing something I wrote, so I’m willing to call that one a draw.

So that’s the bad.  But the rest is pretty good.

I got my house in order, or as close to it as I feel it needs to be. I no longer have a junk room (or rooms, as the case may have been), and this, my friends, is a definite win.

I hit my film-watching goals, and I read a ton of books this year, compared to usual, topping out at 34.  Highlights there, in case you’re looking for something to read:

I visited three new places.

Council Bluffs, Iowa: Where I got to watch and listen to the Monkees rocking it out, albeit from behind a fence, because it was unbeknownst to us a 21-and-over show, and my sister was not 21-and-over. I also got to meet my friend Matt for the first time since we made our acquaintance, what, 4 years ago? It’s always nice to find you can sit down with people you converse with all the time across the internet and have pretty much the exact same rapport when you’re sitting across a table in a smelly, grimy casino restaurant.

New Orleans, Louisiana: Where I caught an eyeful on Bourbon Street, ate All The Desserts, had my fortune told in front of St. Louis Cathedral, made friends with strangers, and listened to some fantastic jazz.  Bonus: In an amazingly serendipitous occurrence, one of my old friends from high school (whom I hadn’t seen since) happened to be passing through, and thanks to twitter, we got to sit down and catch up over some beignets & gumbo.

The woman on the right was very concerned for my emotional welfare because I was sight-seeing solo. "If you don't have any friends, you should make some! Preferably a guy!" she told me.

This street jazz band had just set up, and it was too early for the New Orleans crowds, so I asked them to play me a song, any song they liked. They chose "When You're Smilin'," and insisted on flagging down another tourist to take a picture of me with them. A perfect example of the Spirit of New Orleans.

Austin, Texas: I’ve written about my amazing experience at the Austin Film Festival here, but the thing I keep going back to is the great folks I met. I get a little thrill of delight every time an e-mail or tweet pops up from one of my fellow festival attendees. Bonus: I also got to catch up with a couple of friends who had moved away whilst there. Austin’s a great city, a place for hippies and hipsters and artists of all sorts. I’m definitely hoping to head back for the festival again next year.

After a full day of panels and films, nearing the end of the Wrap Party somewhere around 1 or 2 a.m., Jess, Jarrod, Nate, and Bleary-Eyed-Barely-Standing-Not-Used-To-This-Sort-of-Schedule Me

Me & Jess at the Paramount Theatre

There were some other pretty neat things about 2011, too.

My team won third place in a 3v3 corporate basketball tournament, which is pretty cool considering I hadn't played since my freshman year of high school & probably half of the team had never played more than recreationally, if at all, beyond this tournament. I also survived a 3v3 soccer tournament as the only bonafide soccer player, including the last few games with two players, and then me + an injured player. That was fun.

I ran in two 5Ks, and I ran three events in my first track meet ever. This picture is from the Thanksgiving 5K after my sister & I spent literally an hour trying to find my car.

We picked out bridesmaids dresses for my middle sister's wedding this coming July (they'll be black), and even more exciting, we helped my sister pick out her wedding dress. As a big sister, that's a pretty neat thing.

This is where I learned to suspend myself from a nylon ribbon attached to the ceiling thanks to an aerial acrobatics class. It is also where I came to terms with the fact that, despite considering myself a pretty athletic chick, anything that requires grace and poise just doesn't come naturally. Give me something I can throw, punch or kick, though, and I'm good!

I learned humility by losing to all of my family members at mini-golf. I may also have sent the ball careening off the green like six times. These things happen.

I learned that I do not have the patience for pottery, but I still made these, and that's kind of cool.

I survived my 10-year high school reunion.

I kissed the guy who gave me this.

And this.

I definitely flew in a tiny helicopter.

And what year could be complete without crazy hats?

As I said, the creative front wasn’t as awful as I’d feared going into the review either.

Recognitions

  • 2011 CS Open Round 2 Qualifier (Top 100 Entrants from Round 1)
  • 2011 BlueCat Fellini Quarterfinalist – MONSIEUR VALENTINE
  • 2011 Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition Semifinalist (Comedy Feature) – ‘TIL DEATH PARTS US

Creative Achievements

I worked on five screenplays.

  • Rewrote M. VALENTINE twice.
  • Polished TDPU.
  • Polished MUTE.
  • Wrote a draft zero of JOLENE.
  • Outlined and started writing SOUNDS OF SILENCE.

I wrote seven film-related posts.

I wrote and posted 13 short pieces, and wrote at least 3.5 unposted short stories and a couple handfuls of unposted poems:

I wrote three short scenes for competitions, one of which I might like to expand at some point.

I wrote a bad novel in November.

My sister and I interviewed and filmed people talking about their Valentine’s Day experiences — good, bad, funny & sweet.

And last but definitely not least, I wrote and directed a short film, STILL, which I am currently editing.

Thanks to my DP, Amy; my make-up artist, Kate; my gorgeous statue jilted bride, Meg; and my persevering, resilient human statue, Mike.

All in all, it was a really bizarrely terrible and wonderful year. I’m not sure I’ve ever had such a rollercoaster 365 days before, but I wouldn’t trade it. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

  • When life gets too overwhelming, there is no better temporary escape than into a good book.
  • There is nothing as resilient as the human spirit. People survive the worst horrors and still find a way to see beauty in the world. Our only responsibility is to keep trying.
  • Life never gets less complicated, so there’s no use waiting ’til it does. I think the key is this: As much as you can, choose complications that bring you joy.

No Year in Review post would be complete without some goals for the coming year. I’ve got some other year-long initiatives that I might detail in a future post, but for now, here are the big goals.

  • Write three spec scripts.
  • Write twelve short stories/pieces.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo.
  • Finish STILL and submit to festivals.
  • Submit scripts to Nicholl, Austin and BlueCat.
  • Visit three new and/or awesome places.
  • Read 24 books.
  • Watch 200 films.

FYI, I used these two fantastic guides for my own year-end review.

That’s it! Did you guys do any sort of year-end review? Favorite moments of 2011? Things you’re most looking forward to in 2012? I’d love to hear about them!

Posted on December 30, 2011, in 2011-in-review. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Awesome year review, Elizabeth. I’m really happy I got to meet you in Austin.

  2. I just want you to know how awesome of a sister you are. You are very inspiring and a downright beautiful person inside and out! I think I might write a year-end review. So, thanks for inspiring me in that way too!

    Your middle sister,

    Stiney

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