Looking Back: 2016 in Review

This hasn’t been an easy post to write. At this point, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started, and stopped, and then started again.

2016 was awful, in so many ways. Starting with Bowie, and ending with the US election, this has been a terrible year for so many of us. And I really haven’t wanted to do any kind of recap—I’m too focussed on what comes next.

But if I look at the year from a purely creative standpoint, and if I think about what my plans for this year were, I didn’t do too bad.

Going into 2016, I had two major goals: to create more than I consume, and to consume with intention.

I’ll tackle the second one first, since it’s a little more straightforward. I wanted to make it a point to read and watch and listen to media that inspires me, rather than just stuff that fills the time. And I’ve been trying to do that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’ve been watching more movies and reading better books than I did in 2015.

It’s a process, and I’m going to keep it up.

The first goal—creating more than I consume—is a little trickier to measure.

I mean, yeah: I track my time. Strictly speaking, I know that I spent more time consuming media than creating it—especially in the first half of the year. But “time spent” doesn’t really feel like the best way to judge my progress on this particular goal, even though it’s the only way I can think of to quantify it.

This feels like a goal that’s better judged on quality, rather than quantity.

As far as photography goes, this year was… ok. Not great. Despite all my good intentions, I never did get back on track with my 52-Week Photo Challenge. And while I am a little annoyed with myself for that, I’m also kind of ok with it. Toward the end of the year, it was starting to cause more stress than it was really worth: the motivation wasn’t there, my schedule wasn’t cooperating with some of the prompts, and my perfectionist tendencies were starting to get the better of me.

I’m glad I started it, and I really like some of the photos I got out of it, but I also don’t really regret letting it go when I needed to. And I have a photo project in mind for next year that will take some of the pressure off but still manage to give me a bit of a challenge.

That particular project aside, I’m feeling pretty good about my photography this year. I didn’t take quite as many pictures as I would have liked (or as many as I probably should have), but I’m happy with the pictures I took this year, which is a nice change.

The big change this year was writing.

When I started 2016, I didn’t plan to write a word of fiction. I was pretty sure I’d left that behind for good, even though the ideas refused to leave me alone.

And now, somehow, I’ve got an almost-complete first draft of a novel that I don’t hate.

This is huge.

I mean… is it great? No. It’s a first draft. But I’ve already figured out how to fix the biggest problems, and I’m really looking forward to the next draft. I still don’t quite know what I’m going to do with it when I’m done, but I don’t remember the last time I stuck with a writing project for this long (the vague plans started in spring, the serious outlining started in October, and I’ve put actual words on the page nearly every day since November 1) without deciding I hated everything about it, including the very concept of writing.

And I’ve got at least two more story ideas that I want to start writing right now.

For me, this goal was about finding a balance between creation and consumption—spending less time scrolling through Pinterest and Twitter, and more time doing work I could be proud of.

And I think I managed that. I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m getting there.