“Regret is a part of life. But keep it a small part.”
—Blakes 7, 1980, BBC
Specifically, anything I regret from 2017? The actual question was: is there anything I would do over, do differently?
I try to avoid things like that, if only because…well…where do you stop? There are always regrets, always things you would rather have done differently. But, really, would you? Should you? As trite as it is, we really are made from our experiences. Do things over, do things differently, and you start changing just who you are today.
Besides…as not-good as parts of 2017 were for me, there were others that were very, very good. Those good things are what color the entire year as I look back. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to be too full of regrets when you’ve spent half the year living in the middle of Yellowstone.
No, I didn’t write as much as I should. No, I didn’t break any new creative ground. And, no, I definitely didn’t make shit for money (or did make shit for money, as the case may be!). But what I did do was renew myself, and rediscover certain parts of me that I thought I had lost.
If February and March were low points, well…they were that bleak moment, that point of despair, in the story before the protagonist starts to pull it together. They made the next bits all that much better.
Now, if I leave aside my life and just focus on the writing…
Well, there are always things to change, things that could and should have been done differently. I could have played with the tone of Silence earlier. I could have thought more about the fragile mental state of my protagonist. I could have planned and anticipated better the swings and changes, and the evolution, of the story I wanted to tell.
Most of all, I guess, I damned well should have changed back from writing sequentially to writing the scenes in the order I chose. My outline is there to serve and help my writing, not the other way around!
But all of that is ancillary. All is merely detail. If I were the hero of my own story, as the old writing exercise goes, the choices I made may not have been optimal, but damn if I didn’t advance the plot!
So, instead of looking back, I have to look forward. And, looking forward, I have to, above all, write more. I have to be more intentional about the work, and about the goals and milestones I set for myself. I also have to rediscover that voice, and that focus, that is so important to making my (current) stories work.
Writers write, as the old saying goes, and in the end I need to remember that. I used to have a daily goal that I stole from a Chuck Palahniuk piece: put on a good album, and write for the length of it. If things are working, just put on more music and keep writing. If things aren’t working…hey, you got in an hour of writing! It has proven, for me, a better “win-win” system than trying to produce X words per day. Now, I just need to remember that…
As a last thought on the regrets thing: I want to shout out my thanks to IWSG and the folks I have met, and am meeting, through that group. Y’all are awesome, and joining has been one of those “very, very good things” I mentioned above. Writing is inherently a solitary activity (even when you write in taprooms!), so it’s good to know I’m not doing it alone!