The past few weeks of 2016 have been rough on a national level that has felt, for many of us, very personal. As if to underscore the national mood, it’s raining and dark outside the window of my Brooklyn apartment and, to be honest, I’m feeling a little lacking in the holiday cheer department.
So I’m especially grateful for this opportunity to reflect on the good things in my writing life this year—of which there are many—and to try to make a little meaning out of them. 2016 was, to put it mildly, a landmark year for me. I signed with my agent in the spring, went on submission for the first time this summer, and signed a book deal for my first two YA novels this fall. I also joined the PitchWars mentor crew and spent a wonderfully productive month in residence at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. You might call my year an embarrassment of riches. *Hides in embarrassment.*
But the fact that these things came together for me in 2016 is mostly a fluke. Yes, I’ve been putting in the work leading up to these milestones for years, but there was also a lot of good fortune and chance involved—and ultimately, it was up to others (agents, publishers, residency juries) to allow these dreams to become a reality. So what I want to focus on here is actually something else I did in 2016—a decision I made and put into action all on my own. Because the truth is, sometimes you query hard, and that book doesn’t get you an agent. Sometimes you apply to every residency program under the sun, and you don’t get in. Or your book doesn’t win awards. Or your second (or fifth) book doesn’t sell. And so on. I think we give a lot of focus to these milestones when they do happen for us because they are so important—but also because we feel so lucky. There is always luck involved. So if 2016 was not your landmark year, I want to encourage you to do two things:
But also, Dream Possible.
Before any one of these gifts landed in my lap this year, I made the decision to leave my day job in academic administration to pursue writing and editing full-time. It was a risk; I was starting my own editorial practice from scratch, and I had no guarantees that I was going to make any money from my writing this year or any year in the future. But I planned for months (about 18, to be exact), I saved, I put a business plan in place, and ultimately I took the plunge. It was the best career decision I’ve ever made. My day job was stable and secure and perfectly fine—but I wasn’t passionate about it the way I am about writing and editing. In the end, it was making me unhappy. And I knew I had to change that, even if it meant taking a big risk, leaping into the unknown. When a year before, a friend left her job in web development to freelance, a colleague told her, “jump, and the net will be there.” She told me the same thing when I left, and she was right.
Now I’m not saying, “everyone quit your jobs!” Of course not. What I am saying is this: there are writing and publishing dreams that you can pour your blood, sweat, and tears into, but ultimately the power to turn those dreams into reality rests at least partly in someone else’s hands. And then there are the things that you alone can control. Maybe it’s something that seems small, like making the commitment to wake up 2 hours early each morning to write, or signing up for NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano—and committing to it. Maybe it’s registering for a workshop in your community or online. Or maybe like me, it’s something big like changing careers.
The point is, you cannot control everything in this writing and publishing life. I’ve had exactly one year like 2016, where I started hearing “yes.” For you, that might be 2017. Or 2018. Or 2022. Invest in those big dreams, but invest also in the possible, the now. Is there a part of your writing life that is suffering, feeling malnourished, making you unhappy? You can’t control when you might be offered a book deal. But you can control a lot. Chances are, my 2017 isn’t going to serve up the embarrassment of riches my 2016 did. So I’ll focus on the things I can control: Write the next book. Connect with new editorial clients and writer friends. Work from home on this rainy, cold day. Keep going. Keep the big dreams in sight, and the possible at my fingertips. I hope you’ll do the same.
Kit Frick is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the author of the young adult novel See All the Stars (Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018). A second YA novel will follow in 2019. Kit is also the author of two poetry chapbooks: Echo, Echo, Light (Slope Editions, 2013, winner of the Slope Editions Chapbook Prize) and Kill Your Darlings, Clementine (Rye House Press, 2013). Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Kit studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. She is a Senior Editor at Black Lawrence Press, where she edits the nationally distributed chapbook series, a Book Coach for Author Accelerator, and Founding Editor of the private editorial practice Copper Lantern Studio. In 2016, she is excited to be a National Poetry Series finalist, a MacDowell Colony fellow, and a PitchWars mentor. Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.