I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I could go on about how the day we celebrate as a new year is arbitrary, and, given the true length of time it takes to go around the sun (365.25 days), the whole “year changing at the stroke of midnight” business is laughable. I could ponder a better starting point (if we really need one), like a solstice or equinox, which at least shifts with the rhythm of the earth. I could blabber on about the human creation that time is, from seconds to minutes to hours to months (don’t get me started on that disaster) to years.
Or, I could argue my unwillingness to make a bunch of promises to change on each January 1st reflects my desire to continually adjust to life’s whims, making one day a year of changes a bit underwhelming. I could even admit (honestly) that the prospect of making a list of changes to make within a trip around the sun is daunting. What to pick? Where to place priorities? What if I (gasp!) fail?
Somewhere in all that blather and bother is quite a bit of truth. I’ve never really understood the excitement of New Year’s Eve and Day (or Valentine’s Day, the Superbowl, movie stars, really low-waisted jeans, or People magazine, but I digress. Again.) . I’ve never felt drawn to making the list, either mentally or physically. And I’m frustratingly failure-phobic.
But yet, for the past two years, somewhere in the first month of the year, I’ve set some writing goals for myself. I’ve not thought of them as resolutions but rather as intentions. Splitting hairs? Perhaps, but I like to think the timing is more accidental than that.
Last year, I committed to blogging here on Finding My Ground and on Quarks and Quirks (my homeschooling blog) four times a month. For the most part, I’ve met that committment, at least when averaged over the year. I’ve been a bit slow from the start of December 2011 to the present, but I’d like to continue that pace this year. It’s helped establish at least some semblance of a writing habit and coaxed me to the computer even when my mind was blank, if for nothing else than to produce a post. I like to think that habit improved my writing at least a bit. I know I cringe a bit when I look back at posts from two years ago and take comfort in the progress I see.
I also committed to submitting a piece for paid compensation. Midway through that year, that goal was hanging over my head. Writer’s block reached epic proportions as I tried to settle on what to write for whom. And I wonder where my kids get their tendency to stall when they’re concerned about failure. Those apples sure didn’t fall far.
And then an offer fell into my lap. After responding to a blog about one father’s struggles finding an appropriate education for his gifted child, I received an invite to write a piece about my experiences about the same for a newly forming online publication for a large philanthropic organization. The editor needed the piece in five days. Could I deliver? Sure.
So I wrote the piece on spec, meaning that I wasn’t guaranteed they’d take it. While many writers will advise writers not to this, I figured I had nothing to lose. It’s not like I was published anywhere aside from my own blog, and I certainly wasn’t making headway with my committment to submit an essay for publication. So I wrote and rewrote, submitting the essay after the Fourth of July weekend and settling in to wait.
And wait. And wait. After a few back-and-forths with the editor, I received the news. He really liked my piece and wanted to use it, but the online magazine was taking a very different direction, and the piece no longer fit. He’d tried many ways to make a case for it and find a place, but to no avail. He apologized profusely and encouraged me to look for another home for the piece.
I was ecstatic. Okay, I was also disappointed, but I’d done it. I met my goal of submitting an essay for publication. And, according to the editor, I’d produced something quite good. Not usable for its original purpose, but well-written.
Six months later, I’ve just submitted one other piece for publication (and I’m still waiting to here back). At this pace, I’m hardly likely to be able to make my living writing anytime soon, but I’m satisfied with the forward motion, despite the glacial pace. After all, I’m a world away from where I was one year ago. I’ve maintained a second blog, joined (briefly) a writer’s group, submitted a two pieces for publication, started a memoir, and been picked up several times by Interdependent Web, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) weekly round-up of blog posts by UUs and about UU matters.
But the greatest yield from my not-resolutions last January is a change of my sense of self. Somewhere over the last year, I began to consider myself a writer. And that’s not something I could have successfully resolved to do. It had to happen through effort and habit. So here’s to another trip around the sun, a year filled with writing. Because that’s what I do.
Thanks to all of you who make it to the end of my rather lengthy and often self-involved posts. Your feedback over the years encourages me and feeds me. Thanks especially to Keith Yancy, who maintains an often hilarious and always thought-provoking blog, Counterpoint. His dedication to his blog, fine writing, and enjoyment of his craft inspire and encourage me. Thanks, Keith.