At the end of December I inevitably begin taking an inventory of my accomplishments for the year, and look forward to the upcoming year and this year I realized a few things:
I didn’t achieve crap. I didn’t make any formal resolutions. I didn’t put together a marketing plan for my writing projects complete with assignments, projects and tasks. I didn’t set any goals on how much income I should generate from my writing endeavors (from teaching classes, selling books and JumpStart Jars).
I didn’t complete that second book, or begin aggressively marketing the JumpStart Jars, or expand the scope of them in any significant way. I haven’t updated the website in quite some time and the blogs… Well, neither Grist for the Muse http://gristforthemuse.blogspot.com/ nor the 15-Minute Writer http://15minutewriter.blogspot.com/ has been touched in almost two months now.
I didn’t even read a lot this year, unless you count superhero graphic novels and audio books. I haven’t been sending Grist for the Muse on time (supposedly the last Wednesday of every month or the first Wednesday of the month, depending on my whim) on a regular basis, sometimes even skipping months just because I didn’t get around to putting it together on time. I haven’t made efforts to expand my readership of it either. My email is in shambles, my firstname.lastname@example.org address is choked with SPAM for approved loan requests, endless false bounced addresses usually advertising some penny stock that is guaranteed to take off TODAY, and I haven’t figured out how to curtail this within my web-based email account.
My master bathroom renovation, started back in July, is still not yet finished. On the third attempt to properly install vinyl floor tile, I think that I have at last succeeded, but the walls are still stripped down to drywall, and we only have a working toilet and (hopefully later today) a new working sink in the bathroom. The new shower base is propped up against the back wall of the bathroom and the shower stall walls still sit on my front porch, next to the front door. I have storage tubs of summer clothes piled up in the hallway, awaiting their trip up to the attic for storage. I have a woodstove that isn’t drawing air properly, so it is not heating our house with any sort of efficiency, and in fact seems to be generating a huge amount of creosote, making it dangerous. I haven’t changed the oil on the lawnmower for over a year. I haven’t yet taught my kids how to play Risk.
Those of you who know me well will be SHOCKED by this revelation, but it is true nevertheless. I haven’t been doing my writing practice. I probably completed less than 50 wide-ruled notebook pages of it the entire year. Yes, I am breaking the very rule that I beg all of my students to follow. Do writing practice, if not every day, at least do it five days a week. And the result of it shows… I am slow to get started with my writing, when I do it, it is harder and it takes longer to pull a decent draft out of me. I frequently forget how much I love to write and I am crankier in general because I haven’t been doing it on a regular basis. I feel guilty about it. I feel like a hypocrite. A fraud. A slacker.
I forget that I decided to help coach Isaac’s soccer team, because the man who was supposed to coach was called up to serve in Iraq. I forget that the finished bathroom will be a considerable improvement over the lime-green carpeting, the leaky, rust-stained, mustard-colored shower stall with matching toilet and sink. I forget that I can’t help that I’m a home-improvement retard who isn’t even qualified to shop for myself at Lowes. I forget that I completed an outline of, and most of a proposal for, my next book, The 15-Minute Writer: How to Achieve Your Creative Writing Dream in 15 Minutes a Day. I forgot that I finally completed the Fabulous Fiction JumpStart Jar, which has turned out to be the most popular jar of them all, but most of all… I forget to be forgiving. Not only of others, but myself as well.
For writers forgiveness is essential. You are going to have days where life is going to get in the way. You may have an urgent project at work that requires extra attention, or a friend that needs help putting in a new picture window in his atrium, or a tree that falls down in your yard that needs to be cut into pieces to haul them off. You are going to catch the flu and not feel well enough to do anything, especially write for a couple of weeks. And you may have a month, or two, or three where time just gets away from you, and you are not quite sure where it went, and you can choose to feel guilty about it, call yourself names: loser, dreamer, slacker, and you can criticize yourself, questioning your desire, your dedication, and your skills, or you can wipe the slate clean, forgive yourself, and pick up a pen and start all over again. That’s what I did yesterday. I sat down and wrote this rambling reflection of 2006, and began drafting a plan to make 2007 more focused and productive.
So if you haven’t been living up to your writing potential and still are punishing yourself for it, time to let go of it and start fresh, and what better way to start fresh with a brand new year? I’m drafting all of my resolutions right now and I will post them here when I have cleaned them up and decided which ones are realistic. One of them is to post to this blog more often and make it work, so stay tuned.