New Year's Resolutions, or, What You Will

A lot of people want to start the new year off in a driven, dedicated kind of way. I'm one of them, and I must say that it usually serves me well: when I set out some specific goals, even if I look back on them at the end of the year and laugh and laugh, I feel like I've gotten a running start on accomplishing things. But 2016 was a year of extremes for me — extreme highs, extreme lows, for me and for the planet: it was a game-changing year in a lot of ways. And so my approach to my yearly goals, resolutions, and inner monologue is going to have to change as well. Let's see how these resolutions go for the coming year.

I resolve to broaden my definition of "valuable work", and have faith in my moment-to-moment choices. Number of words per day? Bah! Number of days in a row writing? Life isn't that straightforward. Number of submissions? Better, but still a dreadfully simplistic measure of the complex job of being a writer. Every second of every day, I am a writer. Absolutely everything I do in each of those seconds, I do as a writer. If there are seconds in which I'm putting words down, callooh, callay! But many other things I do are part of my writing vocation. Running my editing business, reading, cooking, listening, taking care of my horse, getting some exercise (and regular readers of this blog will recall how I feel about that), going to museums, watching the cricket (game, not insect, although they're not mutually exclusive) — everything, and I mean everything, goes into the mix that makes me the writer I am, not to mention giving me story ideas on a non-stop basis. Moreover, dozens of tasks accrete around the specific writing of the words; such tasks are mandatory for the working writer: publicity, web-site maintenance, marketing, public relations, record-keeping, critiquing and mentoring, and pitching in to one's own writing community (for example, I participate in cons as often and extensively as I can, because it's fun, it gets my name and my work better known, and it helps other people). Why on God's green earth would I want to chastise myself for doing any of these things? Think about the writers you most admire, whose work you really love. Don't they tend to be the ones who get out there and grip the world by the ankles and shake it until treasures drop from its pockets? Well, then.

I resolve to be scared. "Write what scares you" is common advice to writers. For once, I'm going to agree with common advice. I don't mean "write about zombies" or whatever (at least, I don't specifically mean that). I mean "write the things you're afraid to write". I resolve to write about deeper emotions, more-ridiculous situations, more-improbable solutions. I resolve to make what my characters go through matter more and more and more, in ways I've never seen other writers make them matter. I resolve to risk writing stories that struggle from my grasp and turn on me to devour me. I resolve to dare humiliation, embrace incompetence, and endure the terror that I'm an unfit vessel for what I yearn to write.

I resolve to rejoice. I am thrilled beyond words to be a writer (which is kind of ironic, actually). I am excited to be in a world where many of the riches of my own language are available for free (and I resolve to read more classics; first stop, a great big Hemingway feast). I am geared up for new writing adventures, and I'm happy and grateful that they look from here like they're entirely feasible. However, I have many, many days when I lose track of all these wonderful things. Not without cause, mind you: life regularly (and irregularly) dumps sadness and rage and horror on even the most determinedly optimistic people, and I'm by no means one of those sorts. And I have no illusions that there's some sort of balance sheet whereby the good "outweighs" or "cancels out" the bad. The bad is the bad, and everyone's particular bad needs to be respected, not waved away or used as a source of guilt or shame (as in, "How can you complain? Look how much worse off some people are!" *shudder* Like that doesn't make me feel a thousand times worse). But the good is also the good, and also needs to be respected and cherished.

I wish all of you all wonder and miracles for 2017. Whatever you do, I wish you joy of it.

Where I was on New Year's Eve (the Twelve Apostles, Victoria's south coast)


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