New Year's Resolutions.

I don't like them. I don't make them. Sometimes I tell a (bad/obvious) joke that years ago I made a New Year's resolution to not make any resolutions, and I failed. I do make goals, what I want to achieve on both a measurable and a subjective level. Last year I made a handful of goals. I achieved almost all of them, at least the objective ones.

But there is always room for self-improvement. Every year around this time, people across the country... nay, people around the world, will begin to make critical self-assessments, lists of what they believe they can improve, how they want to look, how the new year is going to be different for them, how everything is finally going to change, with a capital C. They'll include things like "lose 15 pounds", "start reading more", "call my parents more often", "exercise more often and maybe run a 5K or a marathon."

I'm calling bullshit.
 
Everyone making New Year's Resolutions now and waiting until the New Year to start them is going to fail.

I'm not trying to be negative. I'm just trying to slap you all across your self-defeating faces (via this little read blog). If you wait until the New Year to start the things you want to change about yourself now, you're going to fail. And here's why: you don't really mean it. You're going through the motions. If you really wanted to change these things about yourself, you wouldn't wait a few weeks. You'd start now.

It's a simple dictum: if you want to do something, if you want something to change, do it now! By putting it all off until a specified date, you aren't fully engaging in your goals or yourself. You're setting yourself up for failure. For example: "I know I really want to know what all the constellations are and I know it's mid-November and I have a high-speed internet access and I live in the countryside where the city lights don't ruin the night sky and that I'm sitting here watching youtube videos of people getting hit in the nuts or walking into poles, but I think that should be my New Year's Resolution. To learn the constellations." This person (and I've been this person before) is stupid. They could easily achieve this: go online to see which stars are prominent in their hemisphere at that time of year, then go outside to see if they can spot them. Are they going to do this? No, or they would have done so already.

We make resolutions so we can have other people hold us accountable, because we're afraid of holding ourselves accountable. We think that our friends are going to reinforce our lack of will and discipline. They aren't. That doesn't make our friends bad people or that they aren't emotionally invested or excited in seeing you reach your goals. It means that they have their own shit going on and will always (and rightfully so, I may add) take care of their stuff first.


Picture
I have created new goals, some measurable, some not. Some are below.

- Qualify for the Boston marathon.
- Get two more long stories (over 3000 words) published.
- Read Virginia Woolf (I've always meant to) and Gravity's Rainbow. (I didn't say understand Gravity's Rainbow; just to read it.)
- Be more honest and direct with people.
- Stop making lists.

What are some of your goals?

As always, thank you.

 
 
Picture
So I've finally decided to jump off the cliff and write a novel.

That sentence will have one of many reactions, depending on the person:

1) The most common reaction: absolutely nothing, because most people won't read this blog post so they won't be aware of this momentous (for me) decision.
2) A modest shrug of approval to themselves followed up by the immediate forgetting that this is taking place.
3) "Why the hell are you telling us about this?" said to self, and sometimes coupled with the thought of "instead of actually just writing the damned thing."
4) Encouragement and support by well-meaning, kind-hearted people who will probably forget about it immediately upon reading this post or seeing this headline on the many social media venues where this will appear. This person's reaction will be along the lines of, "Oh, that's great. I'm sure he'll tell us about it when it's done."
5) And the least common reaction from people: a barrage of questions not limited to, but including, the following: "What's it going to be about?", "When will it be finished?", "How long is it going to be?", "It's going to take you HOW long?", "I think you should write a book about..."

But, yes, I have decided to write a novel. For those who know me, this is a huge deal. The idea of writing a novel scares the living hell out of me.  I am not what most would call attention sufficient. (It has taken me about an hour and a half to write this far due to various distractions which, were I to list them, would make this post longer than our tax code.) I've always written short stories and over the years have focused more and more on shorter structures, perhaps due to the aforementioned lack of attention sufficiency.


On top of the usual doubts that accompany the process of writing, I have decided this will be historical fiction. Which just increases the amount of doubts to a near crippling level: Do you conduct the research first and then start writing? Or do I start writing and then conduct research to fill in those details I am unsure of? Which voice/character starts the story? How much research is too much research? (And when will I be conducting research as a means of procrastination, instead of just writing the damned thing?); what if, after 200 pages, you realize you need to rewrite the entire book or the scene on page 250 is actually how you need to open the book, thus forcing you to rearrange the entire structure; or you realize you need to change the point of view from third to first person? With a short story, these issues are easier to handle: thirty pages is much more manageable to rearrange and cannibalize than three to four hundred.

"Why would you do this if you know it's going to cause this much torment?"  Good question, hypothetical reader.

Over the past few years I have jumped off many proverbial cliffs in terms of pursuing life goals that for various reasons--none of which were any good--I decided to avoid for years and years and years and... well, you get the point. Since I was in the process of tearing down my own self-constructed scaffolding, I figured I would just jump at the next obstacle, the next goal, and deal with the fear and prospect of failure later. That was writing this book, the idea for which has been bouncing around my head for almost six years now.

So for the next few years be prepared to be bombarded with blog entries about historical research, the frustrations of writing, and Cambodia. And the occasional writing-induced outburst.

As always, thank you.