Considering my last year of literary pursuit

Since there are just two weeks left of the Jewish year of 5773, I’ve been looking back at the last year and evaluating my life on every level: spiritual, physical, and even professional. And one goal still stands out at unfulfilled:


This issue depressed me a couple weeks ago, as I sat in front of my journal on Rosh Chodesh Elul (exactly one month before Rosh Hashanah), scribbling about the past year. I’d submitted a few picture books and two novels to multiple publishers and had zilch to show for it.

But then I counted how many times I appeared in print in the last year for pay: over two dozen times (bli ayin hara).

And then, I counted how many words I’d written. Essentially, it was the length of a novel. Wow.

I realized at that point how many more readers — potentially thousands more people — read my work in magazines this year than in my entire previous professional life.

That’s when I felt blessed.

Okay, I still have a major unfulfilled goal. It will be top of my professional goals again for this 5774. But if success is measured in progress, I made a lot of progress last year. And I could only do it with G-d’s help, which makes the year feel very sweet indeed.

How are you feeling about your last year, professionally? What is your top goal for 5774?

11 thoughts on “Considering my last year of literary pursuit

  1. I feel incredible: at one point I thought I was taking on something new by producing and executing internal communication plans. But then I looked back at work I’ve done in so many places and realized I’ve always been an internal communicator! At your urging, I wrote and submitted for publication my first piece of fiction in years. As I type this I am procrastinating on one of the most complex writing challenges I’ve had in my four years at Johns Hopkins.

    I think you’re right to focus on how your audience has expanded. Your pieces on Tablet alone have huge legs and have spawned so much discussion. Can’t wait for whatever’s next!


    • I’m so excited for all the progress you are seeing in the last year! I hope next year continues the trend. When I read your recent work, I can’t help thinking about reading your papers in college…your work is really growing and changing!


  2. As you clearly illustrate, it all depends what you focus on. Last year for me was a roller coaster. That shows no signs of stopping, just having higher peaks and bigger drops. But I’m pretty proud (and thankful) that I made it through as a stronger person and writer. And that I’ve landed somewhere where I’m finally happy.

    Good for you for all of your successes. Well-earned. Much-deserved. 🙂


    • When you describe the last year as a roller coaster, I wonder if we were at the same theme park… 😉

      I hope this coming year has more ups, less downs, and just a couple loop-de-loops.


  3. I find it hard to balance the shorter works–essays, stories–with the desire to produce another novel. Your two dozen publications is definitely a sign of success. To reach your book publication goal, you may have transfer some of the energy from freelancing to book writing and learning the process. Do you have an agent?


    • Oh, how I wish I had an agent. It seems almost as hard to find one as to get another book accepted. This year, I pretty much gave up on that part of the equation, focusing on submitting to venues that allow unsolicited subs or who were actively soliciting work from me.

      And I think you hit the nail on the head, about shifting my energy into writing & revising longer material. I’ve already started to cut back on the lowest paying of my magazine work, because it’s just taking over my life. I have a whole novel that needs reworking before further submissions, but I’ve spent so much time on deadline for magazine work, that I have hardly touched it in a year. Hopefully, opening up my schedule will give me the time I need to work on it. But it’s hard to say no to the guaranteed payoff when the stories are requested by an editor.


  4. I think most writers have ups and downs, and so it’s good to look back and acknowledge what we’ve accomplished. I also struggle between balancing the magazine writing with finding time for the larger projects. One thing that helps me is to be in tune with the Jewish calendar. I know that before the Yamim Noraim and before Purim/Pesach I will, b’ezras Hashem, be very busy writing magazine articles, so that’s not the time to berate myself for not working on my next novel. On the other, from Cheshvan through Shevat, and Sivan through Tamuz are times when I can realistically find the time, and so that’s when I put the novels on my to-do list and give myself weekly word count deadlines. Even if I don’t always make the deadline, it keeps me focused.

    By the way, can you send me links to some of the articles you wrote for Tablet? I’d love to read some of your work.


    • is my author page on Tablet.

      I like the way you focus on the calendar. Mine’s a little different, or at least it was last year. Usually, I had bi-monthly deadlines. It might work for me, though to break things up by week in the month, as opposed to month. Or even during the day. Like: spend 2 hours on short work, then one hour after lunch on my novel. You’ve definitely got me thinking.


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