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2024 Words

Or, my plan to help facilitate a change in circumstance

By Penny FullerPublished 4 months ago 9 min read
Top Story - January 2024
2024 Words
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Preface: The Life-Changing Promise of January

Even if studies and skeptics suggest that most people have abandoned their New Year goals before spring, there is perpetual hope in the fact that we keep trying.

I have always been a fan of resolutions. As someone who spends way too much time deliberating before choosing a course of action, I tend to take the whole month of January before deciding on my goals for any year. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I’m not. But I’d like to think that even my failures bring the gift of self-awareness and the opportunity to rethink my approach for the next year.

I am grateful to Vocal for offering this challenge. Not only does it align with my own delayed timeline for setting a new year of goals, it comes during a year when our family wants to make some very large life changes. If my goals are successful, our ability to make this change will also be more likely to happen.

Our Year-End Goals and How We Got There

My husband and I have been dreaming for years of renting out our home, buying a boat and sailing around the world with our children. While we had hoped that this would happen sooner, several things have delayed our journey in unexpected ways. COVID delayed a lot of the groundwork that we had planned to do. Additionally, two of our beautiful boys both have their own challenges that have been time-consuming (and somewhat expensive).

And yet, our children are the reason that we want to move forward before my cautious instincts are completely comfortable. One of my boys was born with a rare gene defect that causes a degenerative form of muscular dystrophy. While slow and somewhat clumsy, he is still fully mobile and capable of traveling without help. If we waited until adulthood or even his late teens to see the world, we run the risk of doing so with a walker or wheelchair and missing out on some of the places he can comfortably and capably go now and for the next few years, at least. This summer, he will be in transition from elementary to middle school, as well. He is a very sensitive kid, and while he tries to be resilient when he hears kids make fun of the way he runs or how much smaller he is than the rest of the class, it affects him very deeply. We fear that next school year will be infinitely worse for him.

His younger brother has always been headstrong and impulsive, hyperfocused on some things and completely dismissive of others. Last summer, we had him tested to see if he may have ADHD and came back with a diagnosis of ASD-1, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. While he is very bright, getting him to do work usually requires an hour or more of convincing him to try before he will begin. The work itself is typically easy at that point, but this kind of timeline and one-on-one focus is impossible for his public school teacher to spend when he has dozens of other kids to also attend to. We are starting to realize that he needs some more specialized, intensive instruction before he falls behind and begins to believe that he is simply not smart enough.

For both boys, the ability to change their learning environment for a few years may be the thing they need to continue to believe in their own worth. As parents, this is something we will gladly rearrange our world to give them.

With that, our goals for 2024 include buying a boat, renting our home, moving onboard and using it to explore the world as at-sea-nomads.

We are not independently wealthy. Instead, both my husband and I will need to be creative in pursuing a career change. It is my hope that platforms like Vocal can help me to earn the income we need to sustain this lifestyle. For that to happen, I know I need to make a much more intentional effort toward becoming the writer I have always wanted to be.

The Steps I Am Committing To

Like many, I have a very loud inner critic. This curmudgeon is quick to let me know all of the reasons that I should quit (or never start) writing the piece that is in my head. This is the year that I will begin to silence them with routine. A friend reminded me that the daily goal for a 30-day novel, based on NaNoWriMo, is 1700 words. I have been sitting on the majority of a plot for four different novels,It but I have not been able to transfer them from brain to keyboard. In addition to this, I need to be able to get paid for some of the work that I do more quickly. I also find that stretching my comfort limits within the wide variety of forms of Vocal contests helps to make me a better writer and to better understand my point of view.

Because of this, it is my goal that by year end I will be consistently writing 2024 words a day. Some of this will be in pulling those novels out of my brain. I am going to write at least one, edit it, finish it and attempt to share it with the world. While I am trying to find it a home, I plan to start writing my next, so I am more likely to be excited about the new world in my head than the risk of failure that my inner critic will be shouting about.

I am also going to attempt to submit something to every Vocal contest. I have felt very honored and supported by the positive feedback from commenters and staff in past contests.

I have loved the platform changes that now reward discussions, commenters and trending work. I think this is a huge way to inspire the entire community. I am also going to make a stronger effort to get on those leaderboards. I am going to begin by going back through every one of my submissions and finding 2-3 pieces of work from each commenter to read and comment on. It will be my goal to encourage with some in-depth feedback about the parts of the work that moved me the most. I want to subscribe to those I love and be sure to read more when they publish new work.

I am also hoping to submit at least 3-4 additional pieces of work per month to Vocal outside of the contests that I enter. I have not found my community niche(s) yet, so this will be an experiment. I am not a fast writer (again, I think much too slowly for that) but I can commit to slow and consistent.

For accountability's sake, I plan to publish updates on how successful I have been in my writing goals and how it may contribute to our family’s big transition. I’m not sure how often I will be posting these updates yet. I think it will be somewhere between quarterly and monthly, but I think it depends on how much I have to say.

Self-Awareness and Sideboards

Self-awareness has two sides. I will begin with what I know about my strengths when it comes to meeting goals. I love setting long-term goals. We have (most of) a way to move to a boat because of this planning. I rock with the marshmallow test. The dream of something better is often enough to sacrifice for. I am also good at making spreadsheets and keeping track of my performance. I am a problem-solver. If I notice I’m struggling, the scientist in me can look at the outside influences and try to find the patterns with what is helping me to succeed and where I might be shooting myself in the foot.

But I am far from perfect. And writing is such a personal thing for me that it has been harder than researching the best treatment for my child’s ultra-rare condition or saving the money for a different life.

In making this commitment, I am well aware that there have been goals that I have not met in previous years. I have also spent more years than I’d like to admit to with the goal of finishing a novel. However, the years that I have successfully met goals are the years where I was flexible in the rules I created for myself. Because of this, I will attempt this goal, celebrate every day that I can get there and aim for being successful on most days. The days that I do not meet a goal are not failures, they are a time to remind myself that there are other parts of my life that I must also balance.

My children require love, care and attention as all kids do. They also require medical appointments, time with friends and extended family, and unlimited attempts to try and find ways to support their own attempts to be successful. If my daily or weekly goal is incomplete because of this, it is not failure.

I still work a full-time job (not related to writing) that is, at times, very stressful. There are times when rest is required to avoid burnout. We will be able to mitigate some of that when we get our boat and rely in part on our savings, but this is not feasible until we make the change. Not writing after an unbearable day is not failure if it is self-care.

My wonderful, hardworking husband also deserves my whole attention when he needs it. Giving him love and support while writing half my daily goal is also far from failure.

Unless I become incredibly successful, our family’s next iteration of making money may be a patchwork of different gig work. If I have to choose between completing something that pays for groceries and meeting a writing goal, choosing food is not failure.

As I write, I also have some sideboards for myself.

Despite the fact that we have a nest egg for our goal, I am not really interested in writing about how others can make money, like me. I don’t have any get-rich quick hacks. My progress has been slow and has required sacrifices, long workdays and multiple jobs. I love the power and creativity of fiction. Even if how-to content pays better, it feels inauthentic and unfulfilling.

I write under a pen name, which lets me share some truths related to being the parent of two children who are physically and neurally atypical without compromising their privacy. In the future, if I write about our journey, their privacy will always be more important than my need to entertain or sell content.

On the same note, I don’t plan to market or have a public social media account documenting our journey. I will do some personal updates for friends and family, but I put too much value on my kids’ digital privacy to put the remaining years of their childhood on public display. If we continue our adventure into their late teens, we will work together to decide what we show to the bigger world.

I will, however, be willing to write more about my life in a way that keeps my children’s privacy. I can speak to my experience as a mother, the steps of moving from a home to a boat, my worldview as a scientist, the search to find and create curriculum that allows my kids a diverse, inclusive education and critical thinking skills, and the impressions of the many cultures and continents we visit.

A Final Note: The Pessimism of My Name and How Vocal Proved Me Wrong

My pseudonym, Penny Fuller, was born of the frustration that I have had when trying to publish my own authentic, creative, non-salesy content on online platforms. The meaning of the name is simple- every story published (despite the time and effort it took to bring to fruition) was likely to only make my bank account about one penny fuller.

I have been pleasantly surprised and deeply grateful that Vocal has proven me wrong in this regard. While I cannot support myself with what I make here, it has been a place that has been great for nurturing my confidence, finding opportunities to build supportive communities and challenging the limits of my creativity. As I make this plan to dedicate more time, effort and dedication to the platform this year, I cannot wait to see how much more my writing and connections to other community members can grow.


About the Creator

Penny Fuller

(Not my real name)- Other Labels include:

Lover of fiction writing and reading. Aspiring global nomad. Woman in science. Most at home in nature. Working my way to an unconventional life, story by story and poem by poem.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (10)

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  • Anna 3 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳

  • Carol Townend4 months ago

    Good luck with your goals. I am setting goals this year, but I, too, have to balance them with other needs and self-care. I have chapter stories to finish that I started many years back, and I will be making space in my life to complete them too.

  • Gargie S Anand4 months ago

    Wow, this is such an amazing writeup I read just now. Good Luck!!!!

  • Test4 months ago

    Hats off to your work! Keep it going—congrats!

  • Naeem Ullah4 months ago

    Thanks For Sharing. Best Of Luck.

  • Kendall Defoe 4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this. You speak for a lot of us with this one!

  • sleepy drafts4 months ago

    This is wonderfully written and clearly organized which made it easy to follow along. I also loved the addition of personal anecdotes and goals! I love the way you opened this piece with such an optimistic and hopeful mindset. I can't wait to see what 2024 brings for you!

  • L.C. Schäfer4 months ago

    I love the balance you strike here between authenticity and privacy. Well done 👏

  • Test4 months ago

    Wishing you the very best on your journey, both in your writing endeavors and in embarking on the life-changing adventure with your family. I look forward to hearing more about your progress and experiences as you pursue your goals throughout the year.

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