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:
- The Hunger Games Trilogy
- Ender’s Saga + Ender’s Shadow
- The Paris Wife
- One Day
- The Help
- The Principles of Uncertainty
- Sarah’s Key
- The Night Circus
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
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.
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.
There were some other pretty neat things about 2011, too.
As I said, the creative front wasn’t as awful as I’d feared going into the review either.
- 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
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:
- [short fiction] Notice
- [short fiction] Frogs
- [short fiction] Contained Heart™
- [short fiction] Fire
- [short fiction] The Knight & the Dragon
- [memoir] A Valentine’s Reflection
- [memoir] This Recipe Will Change Your Life
- [memoir] Fortune #3
- [memoir] Perspective on a White Hair
- [memoir] Reunion
- [memoir] A Farewell to Borders
- [memoir] Pottery #1
- [poetry] Primitive Telemetry
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.
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.
- For Life: Nicole is Better’s 6-Step Process, Eff Yeah List, & Goal-Setting Template for the Obsessively Type-A & 100% Crazy
- For Writing & Creative Stuff: Go Into the Story’s Writing Goals Series
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!