Around this time last year, I described my weekend skiing experience, which could best be summed up as:
1) Learning from the experts makes a difference. I shelled out money for several writing conferences last year in order to learn more about my craft. They were worth every single penny. When I went skiing this weekend, I spent money on a private lesson. I learned more in an hour and a half than in the past ten times I've been on skies. If money is tight, there are a ton of writing-related blogs and agent blogs that have a wealth of information at your fingertips.
2) You have to fall to get better. This may be just me, but sometimes you have to let yourself make mistakes in order to grow. One of my biggest struggles with skiing (besides staying upright) was making parallel turns, instead of the pizza wedge turns I normally use to snowplow my way down the mountain. This is the first year I've been able to do them, thanks to my wonderful ski instructor. But in order to do them, I had to play with the edges of my skis, and the first time I tried it, I fell. That fall taught me a ton as I finally understood the technique, and made real parallel turns after it. In writing, you have to give yourself permission to write that terrible first draft, include enough adverbs to make Stephen King cringe, and have so many "just"'s in your manuscript that your FIND function explodes. It's okay. "Just" use your mistakes as learning experiences, rather than seeing them as failures.
3) Comparing yourself to others is not helpful. Sure, I could dwell on the fact that my 6-yo has been skiing twice and can already ski circles around me. Or the fact that my hubby (who also skies better than me), decided to try snowboarding this year only to have his instructor tell him that he was the fastest learner she's seen in all the years she's given lessons. Whatever. I could also obsess over writers who only had to send out five query letters and got five offers of representation. Or published their first book and made a gazillion dollars on sparkly vampires. The only comparison you need to worry about is with yourself. Are you better than you were last year? Are you making progress? I'm continuing to grow in both skiing and writing. Would I love to be able to hang with my son on the blue runs next year? Absolutely. Would I love to be able to say I have a book coming out in the next year. Yep. But I know I'll get there. One step at a time.
What baby steps have you taken this year, either in writing or any challenging recreational activities?