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Taking stock: the writer version

Those of you who have known me for a long time know that Christmas Eve Day used to be my special holiday with my dad. We would go out for lunch and people-watch and maybe buy a last stocking stuffer or two (but maybe not). The important part was that we would spend time together talking over the year we’d had and the year to come. My dad talked to me about his work from the time I was in the late single digits, and took me seriously when I talked about mine, so he made space from very early on for me to talk about what I was hoping to do in my writing and what I thought I had done. And it was very cool and very useful, and I miss Dad but also I miss this.

I am really, really resistant to anyone acting as Substitute Dad. (No, more resistant than that. Seriously.) But as I said to T when I was talking about this earlier this season, “I don’t have special lunch with anybody else on Christmas Eve now…but I still have to eat lunch.” And that analogy is kind of where I am with the stock-taking part: I’m not going to have a special lunch with one other person to do this stuff, but it’s still really good for me from time to time to sit down and think about the big picture. From time to time.

Some friends were looking at doing prompts from year-end assessment projects, but when I looked at this, they were far more general life stuff than I wanted. I have no objection to taking stock of one’s life! Sometimes a great idea! But it’s not the same thing as looking at one’s creative work in specific. The two definitely inform each other, it’s just that the general-purpose “what travel plans do I have in 2023?” “who do I want to see more of in 2023?” questions feel like questions for a different time to me right now. Some of the cues for self-reflection and planning in a more general sense can be repurposed for a more focused one for creative work. But others just felt extraneous and beside the point.

This is all a work in progress. I’m not done with this yet, and some prompts worked better for me in this moment than others. But here’s what I ended up with, in case it helps anyone else. I found that it works better for me to be as concrete and as specific in my answers as possible and to limit myself to things that I can do, not things other people might do or reactions other people might have. Here you go:
What do I trust in my work
What am I proud of in this year’s work
Where do I want to be brave in next year’s work
Where will I draw energy for next year’s work
What will I love in next year’s work
One big dream for my work next year [this is one where it’s easy not to be concrete/specific, and useful to fight that urge]
What was fun this year
What kind of fun do I want to have next year
Best thing I discovered about my work
What I want to write (subcategories: poetry, nonfiction, fiction)
For each item on my project list: how do I feel about this project right now? What do I need in order to make progress on it? What do I need in order to make it feel really great?

I am sometimes extremely resistant to doing this. I have written two new short stories and two poems this week as acts of avoidance of doing this. That’s no bad thing: now I have four new things I’ve written that I had not written last week. More of this may happen before I’ve finished the prompt list. That’s okay. I’m patient, by which I mean I’m stubborn. And if this doesn’t work, I’ll try something different.

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