I’ve never put much stock in New Year’s resolutions.
That’s not to say I haven’t ever made any, but like most of the population, my success rate is less than stellar. As much as we all would like to believe that something magical happens when the calendar resets, our behavior—and personalities—seldom change with the flip of a switch.
I understand why we do it. Anyway, it’s not as though we’re apt to make major life changes during the marathon of late-autumn and early-winter holidays…
When it comes to my writing, I prefer to work under deadlines. Sometimes those goals coincide with the end of the calendar year, as was the case recently. I dedicated much of 2013 to a couple of sci-fi short stories and the children’s chapter book I co-wrote with my wife.
I knew I wasn’t going to have time for The Soul Sleep Cycle in 2013. And I was OK with that.
But I knew I didn’t want another year to go by without working on the rewrite of Book 2, so in the back of my mind there was a Dec. 31, 2013, deadline for my other projects, including The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers. And when friends started asking if the book would be available in time to order copies as Christmas presents for sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews, my wife and I made a priority of self-publishing the book as early in December as possible.
Well, sort of.
As far as The Pajamazon Amazon goes, there is still a lot we could—and arguably should—do if we want to achieve any kind of commercial success with the book, including making it available as an e-book. Marketing and PR are my day job; I know there’s no shortage of tactics at our disposal.
Likewise, submitting short stories for publication is an ongoing process: as soon as a rejection arrives, there’s always the next destination on the list.
Then there’s the rest of the writing-related activities that vie for my free time, such as updating this website, co-managing the Allied Authors of Wisconsin website, and helping friends with their writing and publishing endeavors…
My days of being able to focus on a single manuscript for long, uninterrupted periods are over, which leaves two possibilities for planning the year ahead:
1. Work harder!
Been there. Done that.
In fact, I tried this approach in early 2012. The overly aggressive writing schedule was unsustainable. I doubt anyone can allocate every spare moment of his life working on (or even thinking about) writing. Even the best jugglers need a break, or they risk dropping a ball. Or a chainsaw.
I’ve done my best to narrow my focus since then. Well, I stopped writing the newspaper column at least, and some of the other side projects have decreased their demand for regular attention. Nonetheless, I continue to have a dearth of opportunities to tackle everything I’d like to do.
I’m at the mercy of physics. Cramming more time for fiction into my week just isn’t a viable option in the real world. Whenever I try to do that, it all starts to feel like a burden—like doing work for the sake of doing work.
2. Stop thinking of it as work!
I have fond memories of my days as a dabbler, back when the writing itself was the endgame, not publication. While there are a few fundamental differences in a writer’s approach when he decides to write commercially instead of just for fun, it shouldn’t be at the expense of fun. If one finds satisfaction only when reaching a milestone or achieving some measure of success (e.g., recognition, profit, etc.), then the activity is doomed to resemble a dull “day job.”
Or worse, it’s a part-time job that doesn’t pay.
While I still intend to partition off regularly scheduled periods of time for writing and writing-related activities, I simply can’t afford to be a slave driver when it comes to my fiction. If I want to succeed, I’ll still need to be strategic, but not sadistic, when it comes to self-made deadlines.
So instead of making a bold declaration like “I’m going to have Book 2 of The Soul Sleep Cycle completely rewritten and edited by the end of 2014,” I prefer to make a different kind of resolution…no, make that a mission statement.
My goals for 2014—and beyond—are to find genuine happiness in the craft of writing, focusing as much (if not more) on the journey as the destination; to define success in terms of quality, not quantity or pace, of projects; and to maintain healthy, realistic deadlines while treading the fine line between dedication and compulsion.
Finishing/fixing the sequel to If Souls Can Sleep will remain a top priority. The myriad of other tasks will filter in as time allows. I fully expect to write fewer blog posts in 2014.
Once the ball drops on 2015, I can’t promise I’ll be any farther along in terms of finding a publisher for my novels and short stories or in terms of Pajamazon Amazon sales, but if all goes according to plan, writing will still be fun.
And without that, there can be no happy ending.