3 Things I Learned in 2023: Writer Edition

This year I’ve learned more about the writing community than I have in the last decade of my writing experience. I could spend much long than a simple blog post listing tips and ideas, but I’ll focus on the 3 at the forefront of my mind.

#1 Tracking your progress

It wasn’t until I started my MFA that I heard of using spreadsheets to track progress on submissions, projects, and writing goals. At first, I was averse to the idea; it just seemed like too much work. Yet, in the last few months, this kind of tracking method has been encouraged in some of my classes and by friends.

After reviewing some templates on Pinterest and talking to some friends about their methods, I made my own! It took several hours, only because I made sheets for each individual thing you can track (contacts, publishing houses, literary magazines, submissions, and projects), but it’s been immensely helpful, especially now that I’m on a strict time limit for my thesis.

What I Learned: Track your progress! Track the magazines you want to submit to! And let me tell you, it feels so good when you start checking things off your lists and hitting your goals!

#2 Celebrity crushes and community building

I’ve never had a celebrity crush, but I’ve definitely had authors and celebrities that I admire. This year though, I got an opportunity to meet a wonderful writer and accomplished author, Elsa Wilson Cruz, who was published in my fiction section of Reed Magazine, Issue 156. At the Launch Gala for Reed Magazine, Issue 156, I got the opportunity to talk with Elsa and was overjoyed to hear about her experiences. After speaking with her and other published writers from Issue 156, I was empowered to progress my writing journey and stay connected to people.

Additionally, Anthony Doerr came to SJSU for a CLA San Jose event, which I unfortunately had to miss, but knowing that he was in the area and giving craft talks and readings nearby was inspiring. Just knowing that I’m in the heart of a vibrant literary community has been empowering and inspiring!

What I Learned: Find writers that you connect with on the page and look for ways to interact with them on a respectful personal level in real life. While some authors prefer to stay hidden, others are open to talking with you and exchanging information, experiences, and tips can be both inspiring and incredibly helpful on your writing journey.

#3 Be Open to Weird Feedback

Okay but here me out. In fiction workshop this last semester, I got all kinds of feedback that I felt I didn’t need, or wasn’t related, or didn’t help. But now it’s been a few months since those workshops and I’ve listened to other people get workshopped as well, so all the feedback has been marinating in my brain for weeks and weeks and I’ve had EPIPHANIES! Some that have led to rewriting more than half my thesis!

I’m not saying that all feedback is good feedback, but I am saying that some feedback is “right concept, wrong time” or “relatable, but not relatable to this one thing.” Taking in feedback from other people’s workshops can be helpful too because it encourages you to think outside of your own writing world and consider other genres, approaches, and strengths.

What I Learned: Feedback is more flexible than you think. Save your feedback and try to figure out how to apply it to more than one story, poem, or chapter, and be open to the routes that it takes you. And, as my mother always taught me in dance, if you hear feedback for another student, always think about how you can also apply that feedback.

And as always with the new year, make some new year’s resolutions and new writing goals! Creating short-term and long-term goals can always be so inspiring. May 2024 bring everyone all the writing successes of their dreams!

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