On the heels of my Top 10 list comes my other annual rite — resolutions for the coming year. I’ve always appreciated how the mark of a New Year makes us look ahead with aspirations to be somehow “better.” But as the saying goes, the devil is in the details. To be healthier, we must exercise, eat better, manage our stress. To be more productive, we must write faithfully every day, cut back on TV and web consumption. To show more compassion, we must volunteer, donate, control judgmental impulses that are deeply ingrained.
One of the hardest things about resolutions is the critical self-assessment that precedes them. It’s a lot like the recovery step that calls for “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Never high on my things-to-do-for-fun list. Lately I’ve been putting more effort into an honest assessment of my capabilities, as it serves me no good to resolve things out of reach. That doesn’t mean my resolutions can’t be ambitious. I recognize that I’ve fallen off a lot over the last couple of years in terms of productivity and physical activity. It’s possible I’ve justified that too much with the excuse of getting older.
Before I get to 2018, I suppose I have to look back on how I did with my goals for last year:
1. Write a book: Bella Books issued Moment of Weakness in July, so full credit for that one. (five stars!)
2. Revisit some of my characters: I’d hoped to do a couple of look-ins on characters from previous books, either with a short story or by having them drop into a new book as secondary characters. Neither of those worked out. One star, because it’s as low as I can go. (one star)
3. Stay the course at Lambda: Yup, did that. What an amazing experience that was. Also, this time last year I teased a new program at Lambda Literary, mentioning my friends and fellow writers Lee Lynch and Michael Nava. Lee and Michael helped us launch our Literary Legacy program by designating Lambda, through bequest, as literary executor to their works. I’ve also named LL as beneficiary of my rights and royalties. If you want to be certain your work will live on long after you’re gone, check out the program.(five stars!)
Okay, so on to 2018, where my main goal is productivity.
1. Write 1.5 books: Now that my work at Lambda Literary is done, I’m pretty confident I can pick up the pace with my books again. I doubt I’ll get back to the 2-books-a-year pace I kept up for several years, but 3 books in 2 years seems attainable. One of them should make it to market by July. If I’m on pace for 1.5, I should have a second off to the editor by the fall.
2. More books, less outrage: When I looked back over my blog topics and social media posts of 2017 to hone the Top 10, I was astounded by the amount of energy I’ve poured into political outrage in 2017 at the expense of books. Since I have a larger goal of greater productivity in the coming year, it’s obvious I have to address that imbalance. Outrage need not be confined to social media — fiction provides an unparalleled platform for exploring conflict.
3. Read more books: Every time I sit down to read a book, there’s a niggling voice in the back of my head that says, “You should be writing.” I’ve talked to other authors about this and learned they too must contend with this buzzkilling Jiminy Cricket. There’s only X amount of space in the brain for characters, plots, narrative, etc. I worry about losing focus on my own stories when I delve into those of others. Another complication is that sitting to read puts a painful stress on my back, so I have to budget my time for that. I found in 2017 that I like reading on the elliptical, though it doesn’t address my brain space. Let’s see if my productivity goals pan out … in the meanwhile I’ll set a minimum goal of 1 book a month.
4. Gear up to relocate (again!) — One of my goals from 2016 was to settle in one place and stop flitting north-south-east-west in search of seasonable temperatures. We chose to stay put in the NC mountains; now it looks like that’s not going to work out. It’s a gorgeous place to be year-round, but too remote for our needs. We’re thinking Nashville in 2018.
Thanks to all for hanging with me in 2017. I hope your holidays were grand, that you’re somewhere warm and cozy, and that 2018 is the best year of your life!