Tag Archives: new year’s resolutions

Accidentally Inspired Year in Review


When Orpheus went to retrieve his beloved Eurydice from the depths of Hades, the resident god allowed it with one caveat: he could lead her back to the world above, but he couldn’t look back, or she would be lost forever.

Which is a little bit the way I feel here on the last day of 2017. Like things are just on the brink of being okay again, but — when I inevitably turn to look back — it’s all gonna turn to sharknado.

I know I’m not alone in this. 2017 has been a bumpy ride for us creative types: it’s hard to focus on the art when you fear for the world as you know it. Production is down, frustration is up. If I had to put an estimate on it, I’d say the average word has gotten 77% harder to write this year, and good sentences are 183% harder to come by. The brain just isn’t connecting right — there’s too much fog, too much distraction.

Add to the strife and struggle that most artists were feeling in general this year the added stress of our summer-long move (seriously, we started the process in March and didn’t finish until July — just in time to go back to work), and the end result has been a donkey kick to the balls of my creativity. Progress on the edits of my novels stagnated, to the point that one of them stalled out completely and I’ve had to abandon it like an iceberg-struck cruise ship. My daily word counts have bottomed out like a Formula One racer pulling into a Wendy’s. Even my posts around here have tapered off like the back end of a dolphin. And if you notice that there’s little rhyme or reason to those similes, well, see the previous paragraph.

And like the finely-tuned but ramshackle Rube Goldberg machine that, when one element misfires the entire contraption goes sailing off the rails, as goes the writing, so goes the rest of the ship. My exercise routine and the motivation to keep it up has cratered. Work — my actual money-making job — has felt harder despite, by outward appearances, becoming easier. Feels like my parenting skills are in the ditch because they kids are always fighting and screaming and stretching us to the limit. Needless to say, I’ve packed on a few pounds, so add that into the equation for some good, old-fashioned self-loathing.

I am more than ready, in other words, to see the back end of 2017. But doing that properly entails taking a look backwards, like Orpheus, so that I can fully appreciate the sharknadostorm.

So.

Current novel project status:

  1. Accidentally Inspired: still querying. I’m behind on sending out letters (go figure), but I’m still happy with the book.
  2. Untitled time-travel project: trunked. I spent many months making not a lot of progress in the edits and it just wasn’t working. Maybe I’ll come back to it one day, but there’s only so much good time I’m willing to throw down a hole.
  3. Untitled superhero project: rebuilding. I’m in the midst of rewriting a chunk of the middle of the book, after which I’ll move into proper edits. Many good feelings here, even if the progress has been slower than I’d like.

If I had to put a total word count on what I’ve written novel-wise this year, I’d put that number around 40,000. Not great by any stretch. But I’ll temper that by noting that I wasn’t drafting much if at all this year; all my work has been in edits. Which is a bummer, because there’s nothing like the thrill of raw creation that comes with drafting, but there it is.

State of the blarg:

having fun GIF

Posts are down, which means readership is down. Interestingly, I have more unique visitors than in years past, but less views per visitor, which is both good and bad. Good: more people seeing my stuff. Bad: not as many clickarounds to read what else is on offer. I could make some excuses for this, but I think it comes down to tone. I’ve done a lot of grousing about how hard things have been this year, and people can only take so much of that. Hell, I can only take so much of that. I also suspect that the more time I spend splashing around in my mudhole of despair, the more despair I get on me, which demotivates my writing, and *begin 2017 death-spiral all over again*.

I look into my stats and I see that some of my most popular posts were my Terrible Reviews, which is a category I’ve neglected this year, and also a thing I quite enjoy writing, so getting back to more of those wouldn’t go amiss.

I also think, in a psychological mind-gaming myself into less effery kind of way, that my standards are hurting me. For a while, I prided myself on getting my average post length up over 1000 words. Which is great when it happens, but also — who has the patience to sit there and read 1000 words of drivel on a blog? I’m guessing not a ton of people, to say nothing of the time it takes to churn out 1000 words — especially when I could better use those words on my novels. The blarg still serves, I think, as a release valve for creative energy and is a solid way to Just Keep Writing, but it’s felt like a job somewhat. That doesn’t strike me as a formula for fun.

And this sharknado is supposed to be fun, for fargo’s sake.

John Goodman’s exterminator in the aptly-named Arachnophobia was a teetotaling sort. He brought a flamethrower to deal with a subterranean basement infestation, which, y’know, plus ten for total domination, but minus a thousand for good thinking. Still, when asked what to do about the problem of wood rot in a basement early in the film, he offered this gem: “Cut out bad wood. Put in good wood.”

Animated GIF

Easier said than done, probably. And the spiders totally got him in the end. But marvelous in its simplicity, and some advice I’m gonna try to live by.

In fact, I’m gonna take that quote, change one letter (okay, FINE, one letter TWICE) and make that my mantra for 2018. (Not a resolution, because resolutions are bullsharknado, but a mantra.)

“Cut out bad word. Put in good word.”

Maybe not poetic, but a good thing to aim for.

face off GIF

See you in 2018.


Resolutions Suck. (Make them anyway.)


It’s sort of my style to gripe and complain about things around here. Every year I take more than a couple of posts out to pooh-pooh the things that tend to wind most people up: New Year’s Resolutions. National Novel Writing Month. Birthdays. Puppies. Maybe it’s my skeptical nature, maybe it’s some deep-seated, culturally-cultivated urge to strive against, or I dunno, maybe at my core I really am just a grinch.

But here at the end of 2017 I find myself looking around and I see I haven’t done quite so much of that. Hard to say why off the cuff, except to point out that 2017 seems to have been a generally crappy year for lots of creatives, particularly those of us who lean liberal. No politics today, except to point out that it’s been hard to exist in the world without taking a higher-than-usual interest in politics, which comes at the expense of the fargos you have to give every day.

Still, it wouldn’t feel right to finish up the year without taking a big, hearty piss on a beloved American tradition, so here it is:

That New Year’s Resolution you’re contemplating?

You’re going to eff it up, and probably eff it up badly.

face

It’s just not going to work.

Or, at least, it’s not going to work right now, if you’re making the resolution because it’s the end of the year and you figure it’s time to get off your ass. We know this. Most NYRs fail, sure as the Browns taking the field on Sunday. We fail to plan, or we don’t have the resolve, or we don’t actually care that much. We’ll make it for a few weeks, maybe a month or two, but we’ll run out of steam, lose momentum for a day, then two, then we fall off the train completely and we’re right back where we were on December 31.

That’s because we make resolutions at the new year because we feel like we’re supposed to. Which is bullsharknado. The time to make a resolution is when it’s time to do the thing, when that little voice inside you — your conscience, the twin you absorbed in the womb, or god if that’s your thing — tells you this thing has to happen NOW. When, if you don’t do the thing now, you will suffer.

If that voice happens to speak up around the new year, great. Probably it won’t.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t make the resolution anyway.

Just because you’re going to fail at a thing, and probably fail badly, is no reason not to try it. Failure is the best teacher, after all, and once you fail at the thing, well, you know the mistakes not to make when you try the second time. And when you fail that time, you know even more mistakes to avoid. And if you’re lucky, eventually you learn to avoid enough mistakes that you just might finally make it through the mine field.

All of which is to say that 2018 feels like a great year for making mistakes.

Or, put another way, a great year to go out there and fargo some sharknado up.

Dang, I was supposed to be dumping on resolutions.

Okay.

Resolutions suck.

(Make them anyway. Whether it’s a new year or not.)

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.


Carved Outta Wood


A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood.

jacks-boredom

That’s a line from Fight Club, which, since I saw it early in college, has sat comfortably in my top five all-time favorite films. I love it mostly because I’m a man and RAH RAGE VIOLENCE BLOOD FARGO THE SYSTEM. Well, not really. There is that, but mostly I love it because it’s about a guy in a rut who pulls himself out of a rut in catastrophic fashion. No half-measures; the characters in this film go all-out for the things they want, and for the things they don’t even know they want.

The narrator and Tyler Durden get into a fight in Fight Club, not because they hate each other or because they disagree, but because they’ve never done it. Then other people join up and start fighting for the same reason, and soon Fight Club has evolved into Project Mayhem, with multiple chapters around the country and designs against the very pillars of society. These guys (well, spoiler alert, this guy) starts a thing for the hell of it, and like the proverbial snowball rolling down the hill, it gains a momentum of its own. Then it all goes sideways, of course. Great movie.

But the quote above, in particular, sticks out to me, because it’s at the core of the movie, but like all good movies and all good quotes, it’s really about life. Getting in a fight, handling one’s self mano-a-mano against another human, is the sort of thing that most people probably think they could do reasonably well at. I know I’m guilty of thinking I could handle myself if it came to it, not that I ever expect it to ever come to it (insert obligatory I’m a writer not a fighter cliche here!). But a fight has the immediate power to rectify your worldview by dint of the other guy’s boot crashing into the side of your skull. Training aside, athleticism aside, general awareness and savvy aside, there’s no substitute for stepping into the arena and facing the blows. However prepared you might be, however capable and willing, you can’t know how it’ll go until you actually get in the ring. The only thing that really teaches you is the trial.

Which is, I think, why there are so many would-be novelists out there, and why gym memberships spike in January but the gyms themselves empty out before February dawns. It’s why instead of trying the thing that intrigues and frightens us, we head for the couch and the reruns of Law and Order. It’s why instead of getting up with the early alarm and braving the cold to work out, we retreat to the warm, fluffy confines of our beds. The couch  and the bed are easy on our cookie dough asses. It’s easy to sit back and talk about how we could do the thing if we decided we wanted it. Just not today.

But that’s why I do get up and run before the sun, when it’s freezing outside and I’d rather be asleep. It’s why I park myself in front of the blank screen every day and pour the words forth, even when it feels like it doesn’t mean anything. Because my ass feels a little too much like cookie dough, and I’d rather be carved outta wood.

Of course, to get carved, you have to take the leap. You have to hold your breath and plunge into the icy water. Take off your shoes and walk across the coals. Jump out of the airplane.

self-ko

And yeah, sure. You’ll get knocked on your ass. Maybe more often than not.

But if you can master the fear and get used to giving yourself the lumps, day in and day out? And then stepping up to the bar and asking for just one more? Maybe you’ll actually stand up to the task when the real world comes calling.

Or, you know. You could just sit back and cookie-dough-ify yourself.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Finish What You Start; Start What You Can Finish


This is about the time of year when I post a big rant about New Year’s Resolutions. But not this year. This year? I’ve got enough of my own sharknado going on to worry about starting in on anybody else, let alone myself. You want to make a resolution? Go ahead. You want to be one of the throng that’s overwhelming every gym in the country during the month of January? Do you.

The only thing I’m going to say about resolutions this year is: finish what you start.

It’s simple advice, but I forget it myself from time to time, and there’s sure as hell a lot of unfinished business in the world to testify for it.

Finish what you start.

This is the year you decide to start doing the thing? Great. Be real specific about what that thing is. Make sure it’s a thing you actually can finish, and then start doing it with the goal in mind.

You’re going to take up running? Nah, that’s not specific enough. Decide instead that you’re going to run a 5k. Then, instead of going out on Jan. 1 (or, okay, Jan. 2 if you’re hung over), padding around in the cold a bit and deciding this whole “running” thing isn’t for you, you start down a path. You go out, run a bit, and it sucks, but you’ve still got that 5k distance looming, and you’re not there yet. Probably won’t be for some time. So the next day, you’re compelled to lace up again and try a little harder, until you can finish what you start.

Taking up writing? Super. Put a goal on it. If it’s a blog, make it a post a week, or a post every three days, or a post every time Saturn is in the house of whatever bullshirt astrology thing tickles your toes. If it’s a novel, well, then, it’s a novel; that means 50,000 words on a conservative estimate. If it’s just “writing”, nebulous and dreamlike, well, technically, you write an e-mail every couple of days, right? Or a shopping list? Or a note to yourself in the fog of the shower mirror? And that’s real easy to do, except that’s not what you meant by “writing”, and you know it. Writing 500 words a day, every day, until you have 50,000 words? That’s 100 days. That’s an accomplishment. That’s a thing that, when it’s finished, will feel solid in the hands, like a participation trophy or the trunk of the neighbor’s tree that hangs over your yard when you finally cut it down.

Me? I’ve got a handful of things that I’ve started, but I haven’t yet finished. Chief among them are several writing projects, but I’m not worried about that, because even though I’m in a lull right now (man, it’s hard maintaining a daily word count when you’re a teacher on holiday break) (make that nigh impossible) (okay fine I took a week off from my project, are you happy now??), I know I have the momentum to finish anyway.

Not because writing novels, or short stories, or even blog posts is easy. It isn’t. But I can write 500 words a day. (Okay, FINE, I can write 500 words a day when I’m not on vacation.) And when I’m in those 500 words, I finish what I start.

Then, the next day, I start again.

Then again.

By the end of a month, I’ve started and finished over twenty 500-word sessions, and that goes a long way toward finishing the 80,000-word first draft I started some five or six months ago. Two more months should just about do it. Two more months to finish what I started in the middle of last year, even though the end of that particular road wasn’t even visible from the starting line.

Manageable, achievable goals. Baby steps. Small successes lead to big successes.

This is why you won’t find me vowing to write and publish three novels next year, or resolving to cut all the carbs out of my diet, or promising myself that I’m really going to keep in touch with my friends this year. Those aren’t things I can reasonably finish.

But I can finish this draft I’m in.

Starting a project and finishing one actually feel very much alike. Lots of confused looking around, waiting and hoping for directions from on high, for the disembodied voice of god or the angels or your conscience to say, “look, this is what you need to be doing, so just get to it”. The blank page is disorienting in its perfection, its vastness. The completed page is disorienting as well, in that you’re suddenly untethered from this thing you’ve been attached to. There’s a lostness.

But if you never get lost, you never feel the high of finding yourself again.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: What Are We Waiting For?


What are we waiting for?

Seriously, every one of us has something in their lives that they are putting off. (Apparently the previous sentence is now grammatically correct; thank you, singular-third-person-they.) Whether it’s fear or doubt or uncertainty or perceived lack of ability, we have numerous and convincing excuses for not doing this thing. Those excuses, with the rare exception, are bullshit.

(The above is an absolutely terrible music video for a pretty on-point song.)

Your new year’s resolutions are in all likelihood floating face down in the kiddie pool by now. Forget about that. What’s the thing you really want to do, but haven’t yet? The thing you’re waiting for the right time to do? The thing that, if you had a little more time in your day, you could fit it in? The thing that terrifies you and entices you at the same time?

Sam Harris is responsible for a relevant quote:

Don’t you know that there’s going to come a day when you’ll be sick, or someone close to you will die, and you will look back on the kinds of things that captured your attention, and you’ll think ‘What was I doing?’. You know this, and yet if you’re like most people, you’ll spend most of your time in life tacitly presuming you’ll live forever. Like, watching a bad movie for the fourth time, or bickering with your spouse. These things only make sense in light of eternity.

The fact — and we know it, of course, even if we pretend we don’t — is that we don’t get that much time. Yet we sit around, not doing the things that we won’t admit really matter to us.

So what are you waiting for?

(Stop waiting.)

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


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