2020: A Year of Intention

I didn’t set any goals last year. After previous years of massive, unrealistic lists, I stepped into 2019 with no goals other than to apply myself to what opportunities came my way.

The first eight months of 2019 found me juggling 25+ hours a week as an intern at 5280 Magazine, while maintaining my freelance business. Most days, I’d get up early and work on my laptop in bed before making breakfast and taking the bus downtown to 5280’s office, where I worked at least five hours each weekday. Then, I’d take the bus home and work some more, sometimes taking a break to go to the gym. More often than not, my eyes were still glued to my laptop at 10 p.m. 

What freelance work I couldn’t complete during the week I tackled on Saturdays, planting myself at the library while my friends skied or hiked or did who knows what else that the average person does on a day off.

I said yes to a lot of things, no to a few, and got much more than a healthy dose of blue light.

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During the month of March, I spent my limited spare time working on an application for a fellowship. I didn’t land the fellowship (or even interview for it), but I enjoyed working on the application and that process stirred a desire to pursue more independent projects. The question now is what idea to pursue.

When my internship ended on August 30, I was dazed and somewhat in shock. My experience at 5280 was overwhelmingly positive (and I wrote a lot, more than 30 articles over eight months). Though I was ready for a less jam-packed schedule, I wasn’t quite ready to return to the isolation of full-time freelancing.

That’s the hardest part of freelancing: Being alone. Almost all the time.

I’m an introvert and do well with a lot of time alone, but there is such a thing as too much. Since returning to my own desk on a full-time basis, I’ve tried to offset this by arranging in-person, daytime meetings—sometimes personal, sometimes professional—throughout the week. It’s helped, but I still miss that office culture. I’ve always loved working and part of the reason is because I love working with other people (which gets me thinking, maybe I should pursue a few collaborative projects this year).

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I returned to full-time freelancing with a few assignments for 5280 lined up and enough other work to keep me busy and, you know, clothed, housed, and fed. Now, as I look at a new year, I’m trying to decide what my new goals should be. 

Here’s what I have so far:

Writing Projects

Children’s books: I started realizing this summer that my imagination lights up around little furry animals and fairy tales the way other people’s imaginations light up for conspiracy theories. Maybe not the best parallel, but I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to lean into that imaginative, fun-loving side. I don’t need to be so serious all the time and neither does my writing.

Pitching & Rejections

I would like to land 1–3 feature pitches this year (5280.com doesn’t count because I’ve worked with them so much, but 5280‘s print magazine does, as does any other publication I haven’t worked with). I’m also trying to decide whether or not 50 rejections is a realistic goal based on the kind of stories that I want to be pitching, or if I should drop it down to 30 total rejections.

Freelance Business

  • I’m not at the point yet where I’m comfortable sharing my income goals (I live on pretty meager means because I’m cheap and never actually use my overpriced health insurance), but I would like to swap some of my less engaging ongoing work for more interesting, better paid work. If you’re in the market for a freelance editor or copywriter, let’s talk.
  • Connect with two new people each month, whether potential clients, media relations folks, or fellow freelancers or creatives.
  • Utilize the batching technique for ongoing content work in order to improve efficiency and make more time for creative projects. With this method, I would receive my assignments from content writing clients and schedule a few successive work sessions to complete the bulk of those assignments. This way, I’m not bouncing between projects and clients and having to reorganize my brain as often as I do now.

Reading

Thanks to GoodReads, this was the one area where I did set a specific goal in 2019. This year, I’m increasing my goal from 30 to 35 books (these are my favorite books from 2019) and aiming to read more classic literature, more women’s biographies (of course), and more diverse authors in general. Suggestions welcome.

Miscellaneous

  • Practice gratitude daily (a minimum of three points per day).
  • Add coffee and lunch/dinner date funds to my budget. This is necessary with how many meetings and get-togethers I’m planning to keep myself socially healthy.

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I have other goals in the physical, spiritual, and mental health categories, but I’m not sharing them here because my whole life doesn’t need to be online. Overall, I’m seeking balance and a fresh excitement for the work I have the privilege and time to do. Freelancing is hard, but I had a colleague recently remind me that I am succeeding: I’m making a living off of just editing and writing. That’s a big deal. And something to be thankful for.

2020 is going to be a year of intention. After setting no goals for 2019 and returning to full-time freelancing without any set goals, I’ve felt the need for specific targets and checkboxes to help guide my daily efforts. I want to live this year—both in and out of my apartment, er, office—on purpose. Let’s find out what happens when I do.

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Take the first step: A look back on 2017 and my crazy list of goals

I know it’s early to be talking about the end of the year—we have eleven more days! But with travel plans and being home with my family for the first time since last Christmas, my status on these goals will be overwhelmingly the same when New Year’s rolls around (except I might read another book).

When I wrote out my goals for 2017, I had no idea where I would be today. I was looking back on a year that had gone decently and looking ahead with a longing to take bigger steps toward my professional and creative goals.

In the resulting post, I wrote that in 2016 I’d learned to be kinder to myself. This year, the overarching theme has been:

Take the first step.

Usually we stop before we begin. Whether in friendship or creative pursuits or on our way into something we’ve never done, some place we’ve never been, we stop before we start. We reject ourselves before anyone else has the chance to.

My list of goals for 2017 was long. I shared eleven of them on this blog and kept a couple others under wraps.

I accomplished less than half of my goals, but in no way was that a failure. A glance over the last twelve months makes clear why.

2017 goals:

  1. Go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for this writing conference and stay a whole week to see the Tetons. I didn’t go to this conference, because I moved to Colorado at the beginning of June, two weeks before the conference would have taken place.
  2. Successfully complete Creative Nonfiction’s Science Writing course. Almost as soon as this course started, I realized I wasn’t interested in it, so I switched to a different course on beating writer’s block. The course did not dramatically impact my life.
  3. Diligently work on unnamed book-length work of fiction so I can spend November 2017 reading and self-critiquing. I did not do this, but I worked on some of my own nonfiction work which you can read here and here.
  4. Read 30 books (minimum). I did not successfully read 30 books, but according to my GoodReads log, I read 20 which is significantly more than I read in 2016. Most impactful was Written by Herself: Autobiographies of American Women. Nonfiction favorites: The Woman Who Smashed Codes and Love and Ruin. Fiction favorite: Before the Fall.
  5. Get personal training certified with ACSM. I did not do this, but I started working toward it by taking a CPR certification course after I moved to Colorado. I don’t know if I still want to pursue this certification. If I ever end up doing it, it will most likely be for my own self-education, not so I can work as a personal trainer.
  6. Do some freelance writing and editing. YES. Shortly after I moved to Colorado, I veered away from applying to full-time jobs and set my sights on being able to freelance full-time. I am now doing ongoing editing work for a couple different companies, and I recently was brought on to do some writing for a CrossFit blog that I’ll mention by name after my first pieces go up.
  7. Get a pull up by March, five by May, ten by August. I was super close to one strict pull up when I moved. Then I didn’t do CrossFit consistently for … the rest of the year. My muscles noticeably shrunk. However, just today, I did two single reps of 110 pounds on the lat pulldown machine in my apartment’s microgym, so I could be to a strict pull up soon!
  8. Do topical Bible studies on justice, light and darkness, living water, and the heart. I did just one of these studies, going through Scripture and studying all passages containing a form of the word “justice”.
  9. Do in-depth Bible studies of Joshua, Ruth, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Hosea, Nahum, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. According to records in my planner, I successfully studied the books of Joshua and Ruth. Soon after I moved, I started working through Acts, which I did not finish. More recently, I read through all of Isaiah following a reading plan from She Reads Truth. Next year, I want to be better about staying in Scripture all year long without it feeling like a chore.
  10. Play more classical compositions on piano. Progress in the more difficult keys. I started the year strong in this arena, but when spring rolled around and I decided to leave Taylor University (and its music building where I often played piano over my lunch break), I started playing less. I haven’t played piano since being in Colorado, and listening to instrumentals is a unique form of torture: Every recording makes me want to play piano which I can’t do right now because I don’t have access to a real piano and I’m too much of a snob to make do with a keyboard.
  11. Go real camping (in a tent not surrounded by RVs and campers). Yes. I camped in the snow back in September. I love the smell of campfire.

Red snow-dusted tent in front of a stand of evergreen trees.

Secret goal: Switch jobs and do serious graduate school research.

This is the one I’m proudest of. I decided this spring to leave my job and move to a place I’d never visited. In the process of making that decision, I decided that graduate school is not for me—at least, not yet.

Something I’ve struggled with since finishing college is wanted to write long, complicated stories, both fiction and nonfiction, but feeling that I don’t have anything to say. I’ve felt that my lack of life experience limits my ability to write anything worth reading, and I have no interest in being a hack.

Where do you get life experience?

Some might be able to find it in a classroom, but as much as I love learning, the life experience I crave is out in the world, where everyday people are living incredible lives.

Colloquial writing advice is “write what you know.” I’m more interested in writing about what I don’t know.

Step one to being able to write about what you don’t know:

Leave what you know.