We’re finally due for freezing temperatures here tonight, which will be the first true indication we’ve had during this unusually warm fall that the end of the year is approaching. You know, aside from the calendar and the annual onslaught of new Christmas CDs.

Anyway, it dawns on me that I’ve been lax this year in maintaining the running tally of writing-related successes that I’ve kept since 2001. I need to remedy that, because it feels good to be able to look at that list each December and see that there’s been some progress during the previous 12 months.

As I look at the tallies for previous years, I’m struck by how my definition of “success” has shifted over time. In 2001, the bulk of my success came from having written and submitted several (nine) manuscripts, with a smallish slice of that year’s report set aside for the two Category 1 rejections I received. Some of those manuscripts weren’t very good — nothing I would submit today, at least — but during my first full year of writing for children, quantity was what counted. And that’s all right — the sense of progress helped keep me going.

In 2002, it was fewer — though, on the whole, better — new manuscripts, but a lot more Category 1’s, plus the first instances in which editors actually requested my stuff. I was still doing lots of multiple submissions then, but in 2003, as I focused more on exclusive submissions and completing a novel, what qualified as a success changed once again. Probably my biggest accomplishment for the year was going to the SCBWI annual conference.

I got better at submitting and rewriting last year, even as the number of new manuscripts dwindled, and by this time in 2004 I’d sold a book. My work revising that book has limited the amount of new writing I’ve done in 2005, but that doesn’t bother me because I’m so thrilled with the way The Day-Glo Brothers is turning out.

Would I have liked to have sold another book already in 2005? Duh. But between completing my first trip through the revision process, starting Bartography, and making a thorough go at finding an agent, I know that how I define success for this year — when I get around to it — is going to be different than in any other year so far, and certainly unlike how I’ll define it next year. And I know it’s OK.

I’m saying all this in the hopes that it will inspire someone else out there to take a look at what you’ve done this year (or month, or fortnight, or whatever unit of time you prefer to divvy your life into) and recognize that you’ve accomplished something, that you’ve made progress, that you’ve enjoyed some success, even if it’s not the sort of success you had in mind or celebrated in prior years.

Acknowledge that, and then be sure to enjoy the holidays.