Whether we like it or not, the year is almost over. Another 365 days have almost come and gone. And whether you mean to or not, you’ll probably end up glancing at the writing goals you set at the end of last year (or very beginning of this year).
And you won’t be able to stop yourself from counting up all the things you didn’t do — alongside all the things you hopefully DID manage to accomplish.
This is a necessary though not always a positive experience. Writers often accomplish a lot without realizing it because progress usually seems slow and hard to notice in real time.
But they also have a tendency to be way too hard on themselves when they look at goals they feel they could have accomplished but for whatever reason did not do so.
Should you even reflect on what you have and haven’t done, if it just means you’re going to end up feeling guilty about the things you didn’t do? Yes. And there are a few pretty good reasons why.
There’s nothing wrong with looking back. As long as you don’t use it to tear yourself down or submerge yourself in guilt for all the things you think you “should have” done.
I had a therapist once tell me that “should have” is the worst phrase you can subject yourself to when practicing self-care. “Should have” implies that you’ve done something wrong and are supposed to feel bad about yourself because of it. That’s not what reflecting is for — especially not when it comes to your art.
No. Reflection should be about not only what you did and did not do, but what you want to do from here. Where you want to go, who you want to be, how you want to avoid repeating your mistakes and achieve the things you didn’t achieve before.
Reflection is supposed to help you grow, not make you sink.
Remember where you’ve been and what you’ve done, so you can hit the ground jogging next week. Remember what you’ve done so you can do so much better.
Do everything you can to be even “more accomplished” next year — whatever that might mean for you. Spending more time with loved ones. Doing more personal writing. Setting fewer goals (THAT’S ME!). It doesn’t matter. Challenge yourself. But don’t get too down if you don’t do everything you hoped you would.
Overachieving just means you’re setting the bar higher. Even if you don’t hit or surpass it, at least you’ll still have accomplished a lot.
Good luck. May the Force be with you. Break a leg, and all that.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.