Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dealing with Regrets

Hello, everyone. I'm back from Christmas weekend hiatus! It was nice to have a few days away from everything and I was especially glad to not be trying to put posts together with the level of internet access I had where I was visiting. No wireless for my netbook, very little data signal on my phone, and a balky connection on the desktop PC made for a very 1990s internet experience. Fortunately, there was nothing I had to be doing, so I largely unplugged for those several days.

My phone was good for receiving/sending email, though, and I got some good news Christmas morning. Kazka Press has accepted my story "Credit Where Credit Is Due" in their December fiction contest. If all goes according to plan, it will be live on their site January 1st. I'll make sure to post a link here so anyone who wants to do so can go read it.

Given that I didn't pick back up with writing until late-July I've got to say that 2011 has been an absolutely phenomenal writing year for me. I've completed a couple dozen short stories, finished the first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo, and made over 100 short fiction submissions to a wide variety of markets. Naturally, I'd like it if I had a few more acceptances to report, but I'm reasonably confident that 2012 will bring some more of them.

Along with feeling good about how 2011 has gone, there have been some days when I've said "Hey, why haven't I been doing this the last twenty years?" I've talked before about my sporadic writing history. In brief, I wrote a lot as a child, took my writing very seriously in 1990 and 1991 and then stopped. I picked it up every now and again -- I've got several stories I originally wrote in 2007 that I'm still circulating -- but my entire 1992-2010 output is probably smaller than my December 2011 output.

What really brought this home was a recent conversation where I was talking with my wife and daughters about how excited I was to have a couple of stories which appeared to be getting serious consideration at the pro-rate markets to which they were currently submitted. (Alas, one of those has since been rejected...) I mentioned to the girls that getting three pro sales allows one to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and that this is something I’d had as a goal since I was about the age my oldest daughter is now. To which she replied, "And yet, we've only heard about this the last few months" or words to that effect.

She's right. I'd let this dream sit essentially idle for nearly two decades. And I do regret that. I would venture to say that most people have regrets about things ranging from the trivial to the gigantic, and not just in our writing lives. So, how do we deal with these regrets?

As with so many things, avoiding the extremes is critical. Letting the regret overwhelm me, saying something like "If I had kept it up those two decades, maybe I could have got somewhere, but I put it off too long and, besides, I’ve got too many other things I should be doing now..." would only exacerbate the situation.

Similarly, failing to acknowledge the regret and learn something from it means that I will have failed to learn from mistakes and increases the chance I'll make new decisions in the future that I'll then end up regretting down the line. Instead, I've been trying to take those feelings and channel them into keeping forward momentum working on my writing.

This measured approach to dealing with our regrets can apply to goals in life besides our writing goals. I've also always wanted to travel to Europe, but have never done it. Yes, that may have been easier when I was in my twenties than it will be when I'm in my forties. But that doesn't mean that I need to regret past choices and give up on these goals and dreams.

If you've been letting yourself get weighed down with your regrets, take time to think about what lessons you can learn from them and use that information to propel yourself forward. You may be amazed at just what you can do.


  1. Congratulations on getting close to joining the SFWA. I'd like to do that but my short stories keep getting rejected. I guess I need to write better LOL. Yeah, I'll work on that.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Michael.

    No congratulations in order yet, I'm afraid. I'm still way far away from "Getting close to joining..." I seem to be somewhere near "Getting close to a first qualifying sale." :)

    I probably don't need to tell you this, but the pro-paying markets are incredibly tough. I've racked up dozens of rejections from them (just this year!) and figure I'll rack up dozens more before I get those three sales.

  3. Your method of dealing with those regrets is actually the best. Acknowledge and learn. Then apply. May not make life completely perfect in the future, but it's better than sulking forever on things that can't be changed. Instead, moving forward with a new nugget of knowledge is so much better.

    Keep at it. You'll reach your goal before you know it.

  4. You just need a single sale (min $50) from one of the SFWA qualifying venues to join (BTW, Daily Science Fiction is an approved venue but hasn't been added to the web page yet). Having three sales (cumulative total of at least $250)just means you go from Associate to Active level, giving you certain additional privileges (e.g voting for the Nebulas instead of just nominating them). Also, if you have a story published at a venue that later qualifies for SFWA, your story gets "grandfathered" in as long as you were paid at the "pro" rate of $.05/word or better. So good news, you might be even closer than you think.

  5. I think it's smart to set manageable goals for just about everything. Make the goal something attainable, but not so easy to accomplish that you don't have to push yourself a little. What's important for writers is to keep writing, getting a little better with each story. Success (however you measure it)is rarely going to come quickly or easily, and there are a lot of factors completely out of a writer's control. I still remember fondly the first personalized rejection I received. Buoyed by my "success," I wrote a better story than was rejected. Much of writing is a roller coaster of despair, with those occasional successes pushing you up one more hill.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Angela!

    Rob, thanks for the clarification about Associate and Active. I was thinking of the Active membership when I wrote that, but you better believe that once I get that first pro sale I'll be applying for the Associate memnbership! :)

    And I know exactly what you mean about the personalized rejections. I count as successes the positive personal rejects I've gotten this year from DSF and other pro-rate markets.

    As an amusing aside... I dreamed last night that I received a personalized rejection from Asimov's. On the one hand, that shows just how much those personalized R's matter to me at this stage of the game. On the other hand, as I said in a tweet "Come on, dream brain! Can't you aim higher than that?"

  7. Congratulations on your success!

    Sometimes we just have to wait for the time to be right. It's great that you've decided to learn from your regrets rather than wallow in it. I hope you get that pro sale!

  8. This post really resonated with me--I have been sucked into the vortex of regret lately. I loved your words of encouragement!

  9. Julie, I'm glad to know that you found it helpful! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Best of luck with the new year.

  10. You've had a great year and should rightfully be proud. I don't like to think about regret. I don't like the word at all, but I think we all dwell from time to time. Have a great New Year.

  11. A fantastic 2011 - and you'll have an amazing 2012. I'm so glad you're writing now.
    And actually 1 pro sale allows you to join SFWA as an associate. The 2nd and 3rd sale let you go to full membership and if they happen in the same year, you only have to pay the difference in membership fee to upgrade.

    I'm happy to see you're chasing your dream.

  12. Thanks, Miranda and KT! I appreciate you both stopping by.

  13. What a fantastic 2011 you had, Michael! I'm similar to you in that I wrote a ton from childhood through college, then let life and other "priorities" get in the way as well as my fears. Now that I've integrated my passion back into my life, everything shines more. There are some twinges on time lost, yet I don't regret the journey.

  14. Sounds like a great way of looking at it, Barbara! The best thing we can do is look forward, not backward, eh?

    Good luck with your writing work in 2012!