11 Lessons from 2011

2011 was a crazy year for me. In spite of everything, 2011 is finishing up even better than it began. Here are 11 things I learned in 2011:

Gigi with her dad in India.
1. Writing a novel always takes longer than you think it will. After a late 2010 trip to India, I thought it would be easy to finish up the second book in my Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series, much of which takes place in India. Ha! It was June before I gave it to my agent. 

2. Conventions and conferences are worth the expense. I'm not talking strictly about monetary calculations, but rather about life experiences. My non-writer friends and family are supportive of my quirky writing habits, but they don't really get it. Hanging out with inspiring mystery writers at Left Coast Crime in Santa Fe in March got me re-energized to finish the above-mentioned novel. I was also on my first panel, and it was exciting to have attendees come up to me afterwards to tell me they looked forward to buying my book once it was out. 

3. Being Zen about changes of plans is the way to go. I'm a planner, both in life and when it comes to writing. I was planning on attending Thrillerfest for the first time, but a week before I was set to fly to New York, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to cancel all of my upcoming travel plans. The only way I could imagine getting through the rest of the year was to let go of the desire to continue life as usual. Thus began my crazy cancer summer.  

4. Wig shopping is best done with friends. I could have been secretive about going through chemotherapy and needing to buy wigs, but that's not my style. I'm so glad I brought my friends wig shopping with me. They picked out wig styles I never would have selected myself, but they were so right! (I've had enough people ask me for details about buying wigs that I'm going to do a separate blog post about it in the new year.)  

5. Chemotherapy isn't as scary as it is in the movies. I was so relieved this was the case. It wasn't fun to to be poisoned for the greater good, but thanks to modern medicine, drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of sleep, staying active, and remaining connected through the internet once my immune system dropped, I was able to get through it while accomplishing more than I thought possible (more on that below). 

6. Good friends, a great husband, and Victoria Laurie's Ghost Hunter mysteries are all fantastic ways to get through individual chemotherapy sessions. How did I miss out on Victoria Laurie's amazing mystery series until now? I have no idea how I missed it before, but I'm glad I found it at the exact time that I needed a new series to entertain me for several hours every few weeks. And while I didn't exactly take the people in my life for granted before, I certainly have a greater appreciation for them now.

7. Cancer can help you see what you want in your life. For me, I could see it was the right time for me to publish my mystery novels myself. I won't regurgitate what I already wrote about here, but point is that I'm no longer bound to doing what I'm "supposed" to do. I was able to see what was right for me, and not to worry about what anybody else thought about it. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do: spend more time on my creative passions—photography, art, and writing—in ways that were meaningful to me. Thus Gargoyle Girl Productions was born.

8. Setting a long-term dream goal can keep you grounded. In addition to my creative passions above, another passion of mine is travel. It's not something I can do this year, but I found that looking forward to traveling once I was better made me all the more committed to helping myself get well. In addition to planning individual trips starting next year, I decided I'd start saving up for a three-month round-the-world trip for my five year anniversary of being cancer-free.
    9. While stuck at home due to an illness, only watch TV when at your most tired. We got cable TV once I found out about the treatments I needed for my cancer. It was definitely worth it for those days when I was tired. But as soon as I felt better a couple days after each chemo treatment, I grew antsy and felt there was something I could be doing besides watching TV. I went back to work remotely, formed Gargoyle Girl productions, and wrote a draft of an experimental new novel.

    10. However busy you think your life is, NaNoWriMo can be done. I wasn't sure if I could complete the 50,000-word challenge of National Novel Writing Month this year, but those tend to be the times when we're most successful, right?

    11. Remember to not take things for granted in 2012 and beyond. It's easy to go back to life as usual, but I'm resolving to remember to be grateful for all of the things in my life. Like coffee. Oh God it's good to be done with chemo and be able to drink coffee again.

    Happy New Year!