7 Lessons I Learned from 2017

2017 was quite a year. 7 Lessons I Learned from 2017

People say the years go by so fast, but 2017 was pretty slow for me. I can definitely say that 13-year-old me on January 1, 2017 is incredibly different from the 14-year-old me on December 31, 2017.

Reflecting on the past year, I’ve narrowed down the seven biggest lessons I’ve learned. I drafted this entire post in a half hour (which never happens, I go super slowly) and ended up writing a lot of personal stuff. Needless to say, a lot of editing was needed: I’ve been working on this post for almost a week. So, here’s what came out.

1. Having a Relationship with Jesus Goes Beyond Believing

I’ve grown up in church all my life. My family is Christian, the songs on the radio we hear are Christians, the kids shows we watched were Christian. I prayed the salvation prayer (I confess I’ve sinned, I believe Jesus died and resurrected, and surrender my life Him) when I was old enough to understand it. However, I never really felt close to God.

This year, something clicked. I went through pain that caused me to turn to God and I started to pray and ask God to guide me. Summer gave me more revelations, and one day I was sitting in service reflecting over the past and I was filled with joy. It was unexplainable, but it was the happiest I’ve ever been.

Since then, I’ve been working towards a better relationship with God — spending time with Him outside of church and letting Him guide my life — which has radically changed me.

2. People Actually Care

I’ve had bad experiences with people. I care about people and love too much and worry about others (though I’ll never tell you), but that never ends well. I guess I’ve always felt like the low-priority friend that you only talk to when there’s no one else.

Not always, but sometimes, there have been people that notice I’m alone. I remember last year I was telling my youth pastor in a lighthearted way that I generally I couldn’t think of anything good about myself. That’s a whole other story, but one of my friends overheard and after that went out of her way to compliment me and make me smile. I’m also used to being excluded from my group of friends, but one of my friends notices and she knows exactly what to say to make me feel okay again.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this — hurting people by avoiding them because you think they don’t like you — but I think that’s something I’ll talk more about in 2019. I’m still learning about that.

3. Learn as Much as Possible

There is so much out there that’s available to help you learn. The Internet is a great place to find resources for pretty much everything you can imagine (like music, writing, studying…). In the middle of the summer, I basically came to the realization my writing was terrible. Instead of quitting, I decided to learn as much as I could and not only did this help my writing, it made me more confident.

Seriously, the best thing you can do if you want to learn something is to go all out and soak in all the knowledge.

4. Slow Down and Enjoy the Journey

This is another writing-related lesson, but it applies to all areas of life as well. I’m hoping to expand on this more in the future, but I’ve had a problem with rushing myself. Gotta win NaNo. Gotta finish the book. Gotta get published before everyone else. Not only was this counterproductive, but it drained me and took all the fun out of my writing.

Slow down. Take your time while reading books ’cause you only can see them for the first time once. Don’t rush word counts and stats. Followers mean nothing in five years once the media platform crumbles. While traveling, don’t run around to see everything, chill where you’re at.

Life is a journey, and if I can’t see that, it’s not going to be a fun one.

5. If it Moves Too Fast, That’s a Warning Sign

Y’all, I’m fourteen and giving boy advice. But seriously, this was a tough thing for me recently. I won’t go into the whole story for the sake of privacy for everyone involved, but I’ve learned that things moving quickly with a guy might seem good at first, but in my experience, it’ll crash and burn.

Take it slow for now. Life is ahead of us.

6. There’s Nothing Wrong With Taking Care of Yourself

There’s a quote circling around the internet: “Isn’t it sad that it’s more socially acceptable to hate your body than to love it?”

Even when I was in good times and not completely hating myself, I was reluctant to take care of myself because “I didn’t deserve it” or “people are going to think I’m selfish” or “I’m going to get fat” — I don’t even remember what other excuses I had but I was reluctant and it’s harmful, but I’m getting better at it.

Not eating drains you of your energy, both physically and mentally. Not having enough water gives you headaches and is bad for your health. Bad hygiene makes you feel gross. Negative thoughts lead to self-harm and hatred. Not connecting with other people spikes loneliness. It’s a terrible cycle.

Take care of yourself, because I love you, because God loves you; because you love you (and I’m not talking about vanity and pride — I’m talking about respect for yourself and treating your body like a temple).
It’s such a hard concept, believing we’re loved. But we are, even if we don’t understand why.

7. Start Small

The best way to do things is to take them one piece at a time. Looking at writing an entire blog post is intimidating for me. However, creating an outline for a blog post is not. Then I move onto filling it out point by point, etc. This goes for bigger things too. Rome wasn’t built in a day, growth doesn’t come quickly.

This was a big year. I got braces, dyed and cut my hair, was in a choir or five, started this website, participated in Camp NaNo (twice!),  started 10th grade, took a photography class, and a lot more. I can’t wait to see what events and lessons 2018 has in store for me.

Speaking of 2018, I’ve created a short survey for what you guys want to see on S&S in 2018. It’ll only take a few minutes, so I’d love if you filled it out here!

What did you learn about life in 2017? What was your favorite part of the year? What are you most excited for in 2018?


Is the Dreaded Outline Really All That Bad?

Today, I’m going to discuss one of the most controversial topics in the writing world: to outline or not to outline? Note – this isn’t going to be an “I outline and you should too or your writing stinks!” post. The whole idea that just one method works for every writer is ridiculous. All I’m going to do is share with you some of the benefits of outlining in case they can benefit you the same way they did me.


How the Outline Improved My Writing Life

First, I want to share why I’m talking about this in the first place. For some of us, writing is an escape, a way to use catharsis, and for some of us, it’s one of the few good things we have. There have been times where the only thing I had the motivation to do was write – hence my crazy 50k week. June came and I began to edit hopelessly. Nothing was working. I had good characters, but my plot was falling apart. I tried to rewrite in July and that’s when I quit writing.

Or so I thought.

Thanks to a pep talk from the amazing Chloe, I decided writing was worth persevering through the darkest days. I started to learn more about writing than I ever had before, and that’s when I realized in-depth outlining could help me. So, now I’m going to tell you some of the many advantages outlining has to give.

1. It Will Keep Your Drafts at a Good Length

Many writers complain about either drafting books that are too short or too long. If you have an outline, you can prepare yourself in advance by asking: how many scenes do I need to make my book longer? Is this sub-plot really necessary? What can I brainstorm to fill this plot hole and boost my word count?

2. It Will Improve Your Speed

I’ve met many writers who fail to achieve their goals simply because they’ve been fed the false narrative that art should be created in a flurry of inspired passion, that laying out careful plans for crafting stories will only result in boring, unoriginal work…. Making a game plan for success won’t suck the magic out of your writing process, but rather help you avoid as many road blocks and hangups as possible throughout your NaNoWriMo experience.

Thousands, if not more, are currently participating in NaNoWriMo, the epic challenge to write a book in a month.  The writing community, support, and countless writing blog posts are awesome, but the hard part is getting that 50k. If you’re trying to make up your plot while making up your prose at the same time, it’s going to slow down your writing and lessen the quality. The ability to see where going is a huge help if you’re not writing fast enough. Just be careful you’re not letting yourself slip into the endless race of trying to have the fastest writing speed – one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a writer.

3. It Will Reduce Edits

If you’ve ever pantsed a novel, you know your drafts come out messy – and that’s an understatement. I’ve given up on entire novels only because of the state of the first draft. Outlining to get the plot the way you want lowers the chances of having to do rewrites. Cringe. One of my favorite outlining activities is brainstorming anything I can think of – then doing it all over again. This lets you get rid of all the bad ideas that won’t work before you waste time writing them out.

The All-Important Question: Should You Be a Planner or Panster?

What I don’t believe anymore is that there is actually such a thing as a “plotter” or a “pantser.” Even though writers certainly fall into general categories of right- or left-brain approaches to the writing process, we’re only distracting ourselves from true productivity with this idea that every writer must be either a plotter or a pantser.

There aren’t really two types of writers. There are just writers. Get out of your comfort zone. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Have you ever used an outline? Do you prefer to plan things out, or make them up as you go along? Are you an “I’m just gonna wing it” person in general? I know I am. In general, is it better to have a routine or be flexible?