1a I will write a minimum of 1000 words every day, weekends, holidays, and sick days included.
1b I will write and submit a short story to a literary magazine by October 31st.
To be or not to be, that is the question. Has anyone used that yet? Is it a thing? It’s such a catchy little phrase and it just so happens to perfectly sum up the impetus behind my first resolution of 2016. To be a writer or not to be a writer, that is the question I’m finally going to answer this year! You should also note it is a two part resolution, no less, which can only serve to accentuate the seriousness with which I am taking my resolutions this year.
I have been feebly dancing around the issue of being a writer for at least fifteen years now. Actually, dancing isn’t the best word for what I’ve been doing. Even feebly dancing suggests some sort of engagement in the activity. I’ve more or less been glued to the gym wall staring at the pretty girls gyrating on the dance floor and wondering if I should attempt to join them but ultimately deciding disappointment by not trying is less unpleasant than outright rejection. Not unlike every school dance I attended prior to discovering the benefits of covert alcohol consumption immediately before frequenting such events.
Sure, there were a couple creative writing courses I took at local colleges/universities before I was married which culminated in one single, solitary piece of genuine fiction, a whopping 500 words in length. And I’ve been writing my quarterly letters for twenty years now but only the exceptionally famous ever have their letters considered publishable. I sincerely doubt Ken Burns is itching to use my correspondence as the basis for a sprawling new documentary series on PBS, though I must admit the prospect of hearing my exploits narrated by the guy that did those Civil War shows is tantalizing. And, of course, there’s my blog which is nearing its second anniversary and remains one of the virtually unknown treasures of the internet. So I do write but hardly in any fashion that would warrant the label, writer, being affixed to my bio, CV, or business card.
My Sphincter Verges on Atrophy
Well I have decided it’s high time I determined whether I actually want to be a writer or not. Shit or get off the pot is the most appropriate idiom for my current situation and I fear my sphincter verges on atrophy I’ve been sitting so long. Time for me to try and shit for once and decide if I enjoy doing so and if what comes out is worth the effort. At least with this adolescent analogy, if my writing stinks I can say, “What did you expect?”
Last year I promised to write more. Technically, I succeeded in doing just that. Of course, all I needed to do was write a single word more than the previous year and I’d have successfully achieved this admittedly vague resolution. It’s almost laughable, really. This is exactly the kind of wishy-washy resolution I endeavor to avoid this year. Instead I have come up with the two part resolution to write a minimum of 1000 words every single day of the year and also to submit one short story to a genuine literary magazine for publication consideration.
My goal in making such a specific and daunting resolution is to imitate a job like atmosphere with my writing and see where that takes me. One thing I’ve learned from reading about and following actual working authors online is that they approach their writing as work. Which is to say, they write every day and often have targets for how much they write, be it words (most common) or hours. My writing habits, by contrast, border on the mentally ill. I’ll do nothing for days on end until the guilt of not writing something new for my blog crescendos to the breaking point and I self-loathingly write a new post. This is no way to enjoy or improve my writing. It’s also wildly unproductive.
The writing may be for my blog, or a letter, or a story, or bits of all three. It may be horrible or it may be brilliant; highly likely the former, if this timely article I discovered today in my Twitter feed is a reliable guide. Regardless, I will be punching the keyboard on my laptop or PC a thousand times a day and I will do it whether I’m sick or healthy, at home or on vacation, weekday or weekend and we shall find out once and for all if a writer I can be.
I Need That Rejection Slip
The second part of this resolution will be the real test. Writing 1000 words a day will be difficult, don’t get me wrong, but theoretically I could just babble incoherently for a couple pages and technically meet that goal. What is it with geologists and technical successes anyway? The point is I need a little something extra to push me in this writing endeavor. If I’m going to make it feel like a job then I’d be wise to expect production like a job and in the world of writing that is publishable material. My ultimate creation may be far from actually publishable, but submitting a finished product to an impartial, commercial enterprise is the type of benchmark needed to fully evaluate the purpose behind this two part resolution. I could go on lapping up the generous praise from family and friends or I can earn an authentic rejection slip. Right now, I need that rejection slip.
I also happen to have three nebulous ideas for short stories. Yes, ideas are a dime a dozen and I have no clue how to flesh mine out into complete, interesting tales as yet, but it’s a place to start. I think they may even be fun to read by folks with no well-intended but wildly biased interest in my mental wellbeing like say my wife or mother. Then again, I thought similarly about my blog posts when I started and let’s just say I vastly over-estimated my appeal to the broader, complete stranger market.
Finally, I envision much supplementary benefit from this resolution, should I succeed in fulfilling it. Not only should my writing improve but it will also force me to better prioritize my time and stop my procrastinating on social media. It will instill some routine and structure into my life. There is far too little focus in my life. Combined with a remarkable yet regrettable capacity for procrastination, my meager willpower is truly shameful. I want, no need, to address this if I’m to become the man I wish I were. Resolving to accomplish a predetermined amount of work each day will surely help me grow. It’s like I’m sending myself to military school only without the guns or swords which the pen is mightier than anyway. See, I already sound like a smug writer.
I Thrive on Deadlines
Add to the mix a hard deadline for a specific accomplishment and I should be a resolution master in no time. I thrived in school solely due to deadlines. If left to my own devices, I’d still be in grade 7 contemplating an as yet unfinished geography report. But give me a deadline and I’ll hit it. Oh, I’ll undoubtedly be finishing it up in the wee hours the night before it’s due, but it will get finished. Hopefully I can recapture some of that old high school and university magic by giving myself a deadline and announcing it to the world. At least thirteen of you, my few but mighty regular readers, are now designated my official nag squad and are hereby granted the responsibility to keep pestering my ass for progress reports.
To be or not to be, let’s finally find the hell out!