2017 In Review

It’s the first day of February, which means it’s time to review my goals and accomplishments for 2017. Most people would write a post like this in the beginning of January, but my January was filled with travel and illness. I’ve been wanting to write a year-in-review post all month but I haven’t felt up to it until now. So, here it is, about a month late.

2017 Goals

I wasn’t blogging back in the beginning of 2017, but I did set two goals for myself, one for reading and one for writing. The reading goal was to read 50 books in 2017. A few years ago, this would have been an easy goal for me to make, but in 2015 and 2016, I landed somewhere in the mid-40s for books read. So this was a very a very achievable goal for me, but was still a little bit of a stretch. My goal for writing was to collect 50 rejections. I’ve often heard, as a new writer, that it’s important to set goals that are within your control. So setting a goal of getting a story published is a bad goal. Ultimately, that’s up to editors that I submit to and not up to me. I can, however, control how much I write and how much I submit. And I’d like to be doing more of both of those things. So, setting a goal for a number of rejections to receive is a good goal. To reach it, I have to write and submit. I know a lot of other writers set goals like this.

So, how did I do on these goals? Well…

Reading 50 Books

I did it. I hit the mark exactly. Some of those books were graphic novels that didn’t take me long to read, but I want to be counting those. I’m happy with hitting this mark, and I’m hoping to do better in 2018.

Getting 50 Rejections

I fell well short of this one. Honestly, if I had gotten 50 rejections, that would have been more than I had gotten in my entire life up until 2017, so it was an ambitious goal for me. I still think it was a good one. I still got more rejections in 2017 than I had in any year before. It was looking like I might get an even 20 rejections, but I ended up with 19. Because…

My First Pro Sale!

I’ll write more on this later, but I had my first acceptance to a pro-paying publication in 2017. Coming in just under the wire on December 31. The great thing about selling a story on New Year’s Eve is that I have a lot to look forward to in 2018. My first payment for writing fiction will come in 2018. My first fiction publication will come in 2018. So, 2018 is already going to be a great year for me. I’ll post more about the story when we’re closer to the publication date. Needless to say, I’m excited to have hit this milestone last year.

So… 2018

As I’ve mentioned, I already know that 2018 is going to be a great year. What I haven’t talked about yet are my goals for 2018. Again, I have a reading and a writing goal. My reading goal is to read 60 books this year. I’m intentionally setting this goal a little higher this year than last, and I think I can reach it. I’ll be honest. I’m not off to the best start. But I want to set an ambitious goal here. For writing, I’ll stick with the same goal that I had from last year. I’m hoping to collect 50 rejections. Since I didn’t come close to that number last year, this remains an ambitious goal. But still, it’s one that I can make easily if I write regularly and submit regularly.

So, that’s 2017 review and a 2018 preview. I’ll revisit this post at the end of the year and see how things went.

Brewing in Pictures

A couple days before I brew, I make a yeast starter. I add my brewing yeast to a small amount of wort and put it on a stir plate. This insures that I have enough yeast cells come brew day.
Malted barley waiting to be milled.
The Barley Crusher is my grain mill and the electric drill turns the rollers. The malt needs to be crushed for the mash.
If the malt is crushed too fine, it will clog up my mash tun. If the malt isn’t crushed fine enough, I won’t get enough fermentable sugars out of it. This is the malt after it’s been crushed.
I brew on the balcony of my apartment.
My equipment. The red cooler is my mash tun. The coil of copper tubing is my chiller.
The crushed grains are mixed with hot water to make the mash. The ideal temperature for the mash is 152 degrees.
After steeping for an hour, I drain the mash to get my wort.
After the mash is drained, I fill the mash tun up a couple more times to rinse any remaining sugars from the grains. This process is called batch sparging. When the pot is full, it goes on the burner.
Some proteins and polyphenols coagulate as the wort heats up forming a film on top of the wort. This is called the hot break.
Stirring the wort and swirling the hot break.
The wort is close to a boil.
The wort begins to boil.
Eventually, I get a nice rolling boil.
Shortly after the boil starts, I make the first hop addition.
Hops normally look like little green pine cones. These hops have been ground up and formed into pellets.
Right after the first hop addition. You might notice a slight green tinge to the foam.
Just before the boil ends, I hook the chiller up to a source of cold water.
As the wort cools, various things precipitate out of solution. This is called the cold break.
A close up of the cold break.
As the wort cools, it also settles and begins to look more clear.
When the beer is cool enough so that it won’t kill the yeast, it can be siphoned to the fermenter. In this case, a 6.5 gallon glass carboy.
As the wort goes into the fermenter, an attachment on the end of the tube sprays the wort to aerate it.
The final ingredient is yeast.
Later that evening the wort begins to ferment, indicated by the bubbles on top. An airlock is attached to the top of the fermented so that the carbon dioxide can be released without letting outside air into the fermenter.
And the next morning the fermentation is bubbling up out of the carboy.
I attach a blow off tube to the fermenter and run it to a flask filled with sanitizer. This quickly overflows as well.
Brewing is not a clean process.

Why Blog?

I think that’s an appropriate question to ask as I sit here and write a blog post for the first time in a few years. (Though not the first time ever.) I’ve asked myself that question many times over the past few months. I’ve asked other people that question.¬†And I’ve come up with a few answers.

First though, I have to say that I’ve also spent a lot of time persuading myself not to blog. It told myself that it was a waste of my time. No one would ever read my posts. Why would I ever spend my precious free time on something so useless? I could be doing something much more productive. I decided ultimately that I wanted to blog precisely because it was unproductive. I almost titled this post, “On Not Being Productive.” And I may one day yet use that as the title of a blog post. I have lots of thoughts on not being productive. To sum them up here, I came to feel that my problem was that I was making an argument to myself that my writing was unproductive. That’s because, by most definitions of productivity, writing is an unproductive activity, especially when you’re starting out. I’m spending lots of time writing lots of words that will never make me money, will never be published, and will never be read by more than a handful of people. I think most successful writers are able to ignore these things and see their writing as productive anyway, but I was getting stuck there. I needed to decide not to be productive. And here I am. Butt in chair. Making words happen.

I also want to blog because I want to have my own platform. As I mentioned earlier in an aside, this is not my first rodeo. I’ve blogged before, during the time 10-13 years ago when blogging was in its hey day. At the time, it was the best way to communicate and share ideas with the wider internet. Since then, most people, myself included, have moved to proprietary platforms like Facebook and Twitter for these kinds of interactions. It may just be nostalgia, but lately I’ve started to miss having my own platform. In no small part because today’s social media platforms tend to push people towards shorter writing formats. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but having my own platform allows me to write whatever I want. Even if it’s 500 words on why I’m blogging again.

Lastly, in order to meet some artificial notion of completeness, I decided that I needed a third reason for this post. I actually spent 15 to 20 minutes trying to come up with one. And I failed. My third reason is no reason. Why do I need a reason to start blogging again? It was clearly something that I wanted to do. I was wracking my brain to come up with reasons. So why am I blogging again? Why not?