What I Learned From Writing A Novel For A Year

A smattering of lessons from the turmoil of 2023.

What I Learned From Writing A Novel For A Year
Digging into the driveway of our friend's vacation home in April after a "bit of snow".

2023, for me at least, was riddled with surprises and heavy lifestyle changes. I started the year with a notice of strategic alternatives at the company I was working for and ended the year with a new house, job, and a sixteen-chapter rough draft of a novel I wrote through it all. 2023 was uncomfortable, terrifying, and life-changing.

Let's back up, though, and review the end of 2022. At the end of 2021, I decided at the beginning of 2022 that I would learn piano. When I met people, sometimes they would ask if I played an instrument. In response, I always wanted to tell them that I could play piano but was relegated to "as a kid, I played". Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was probably the extent of my skills on the piano at the time, however, that didn't stop me from including the instrument in my repertoire of mentions. Playing piano was a skill I had all but lost after attending my last lesson around the age of thirteen after several years of learning. The worst part of all was that I couldn't read sheet music, even after all the lessons.

As a kid learning the piano, I would always use note legends and memorize the keys, rather than reading while playing the music. It was a horribly inefficient way of practicing and playing music, but it worked for me. In my adult life, I've learned that my way isn't always the best and that resilient people concede to better processes. In 2022, I decided I would put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and learn the piano while learning how to read musical notation.

So I did. I moved a free piano from a bar in Wyoming circa 1913 and got it tuned. Over the course of a year, I practiced every single day for around 30min-1hr. Even during at least a month of combined travel, I maintained my goal of practicing every single day by way of a "portable" 88-key digital keyboard. By the end of the year, I was able to fluently play some classics such as Canon in D, and others by the likes of Joe Hisaishi, who composed many singles for Studio Ghibli. The latter of which I had pushed myself with midway through the year when I got bored. I still practice nearly every day and hope to play more and more. Playing piano, as I didn't originally intend, has become a tool to de-stress and disconnect from work or other life churn. I certainly needed it for 2023.

With a massive goal of learning notation and an instrument completed, I sought out the next thing. I discovered writing as a passion while working for Boxed, writing technical documentation, tutorials, and guides. Despite their classic nature, I strived to make them fun, readable, and visual. (If you ever had the chance to read one of them as a colleague of mine, I hope they were just that! 😉) I looked to explore an idea I had for a novel and just started writing it in December 2022. At first, it was rough, but creating a world from scratch was something I craved, so I kept going.

The author in a sweater on the couch writing on a laptop.
Sometime in December 2022, furiously beginning the novel.

By the start of March, I had discovered that writing allowed me to disconnect from work, just as the piano had. Like the piano, emotion from everyday life ebbed and flowed in the writing. Every time I spent at least thirty minutes writing, I could escape somewhere. It was something magical. The more consistent I was with writing, the better the story unfolded, and the more coherent every sentence was. I was learning it was like a muscle: exercise makes for gains.

As the end of March rounded, I had been completely reshuffled. Between the goal of acquiring an acreage outside of town and the collapse of Boxed, life was getting in the way of writing. I was offered a position at the "spinoff" company, Spresso, however, warned that I would probably take a pay cut, the hours would be insane, and the workload would be enormous. Having been part of the chaotic sprint in vain to regain traction on every facet of revenue, and having worn myself to the bone with it with no pay raise in my tenure, my path seemed clear. I couldn't take a major pay cut, either with the new house in motion. I decided to say no and accepted an offer from a previous company to lead a new project, all while closing on a new home.

Hi Friend!
As I revive the blog in 2024, your support means the world to me. Some parts of some articles are for members only or paid members only, usually because they are "telling" or I don't want them indexed by search.

Sometimes I cross-post to Medium, where you may read for near-free, but being a paid member here is near-free anyway!

This post is for subscribers only

Already have an account? Sign in.