Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Resolute, 2018 Edition

Every year, I post last year's New Year's resolutions with a short analysis of how well I think I succeeded at them, and then I post this year's. So, here are last year's (in greater detail here):

1. Hustle. Success, possibly too much. I got really damn busy as a writer, and I'm proud of it. I wouldn't have traded my overwhelm for being underworked, but I wish I could have figured out how to feel less stressed about all the work I took on. I did get it all done, and almost all of it was on time, so the stress...did me no good? Or was it the prod at my back? I don't know. The hustle worked, is the point; I think it's the main reason I am where I am as a writer at the beginning of 2019.

2. Keep to my own rhythms. Success. I slept more in the past eight months than I think I did in the prior three years. I'm still trying to sort out acceptance of this, feeling no shame about napping most days. It took years to accept that I need eight to nine hours of sleep per night instead of less, so I'm not expecting that acceptance of my own rhythms will be easy.

3. Fight fear. This resolution was a mistake. I don't need to fight fear; I need to let fear in, feel it, and move on. At that I did pretty well, but no better or worse than last year. I'm calling it a no-foul draw.

4. Plan better on a small scale. Success. I worked out a daily schedule for myself, and it kept me afloat when the looseness of freelancing threatened to drown me with excess time.

5. Give myself credit for hard work. Success. Matt helped me with this, telling me over and over how much I deserved credit for hard work. But something else that helped me was making to-do lists, but not throwing them away, and instead reviewing the finished items later. This had the effect of showing me, with hard evidence, the plentiful work that I'd done, instead of my mean ol' memory saying I didn't really do much.

6. Let go, let go, let go. Success, on balance, although I failed a lot. A very difficult, very necessary resolution for this year, much more so than I had imagined. I let go of my day job painfully, over a long period of time, but at present I have some peace about it - even if I still have bad dreams sometimes. I let go of expectations a bunch, and it made certain disappointments much easier. This resolution came to pass in exactly the right year, but it's a lesson I'll carry with me.

7. Take better care of my body and my home. Fail. I did better with flossing, but I am still the poorest housekeeper on this earth, and I exercised way less than in prior years.

8. Avoid travel. A draw. I didn't travel much, but a couple of trips were necessary, and I didn't die. This was sort of a dumb resolution, because I always want to avoid travel if possible. I think it came out of the unfortunate travels I had in the fall of '16 rather than anything real I needed to shift in my life.

This year I had a hard time thinking of resolutions. Not because I didn't feel there was anything about me that needed changing (we all need tune-ups), but because I'm deeply content. In such a state of mind, it's hard to think of what I want to change. Also, a lot of the stuff that ties me up in knots internally has been resolved by prior resolutions. Which is the point of resolutions, so it's nice that they're working, but it also leaves me with less to do in the future.

Anyway, I did come up with a few.

1. Rethink productive. There's always a little voice in my head that nags at me to be productive in a given day. Do laundry. Clear the coffee table. Organize your calendar. Marinate that pork roast. Read a book. Write something. It's hard to ignore this voice even if I've spent days on end being productive and want/need to spend a day resting. And it's part of how I failed to take a day off for multiple weeks at a clip this fall and winter. High productivity is nice, but burnout is not, and I'm quite nearsighted about the latter so I need to build in rest time.

I think there's got to be a way to redefine "be productive" for myself so that the voice stays quiet but I don't descend into sloth. I don't know what it is, but that's why it's a "rethink" resolution.

2. Lean into a hobby or two. When I did finally find the time to take a day off, I didn't know what to do with myself. Many of the things I would normally have done (hiking, museums) were not practicable, but some of the other things I might have done on past days off (reading, writing) had evolved into the stuff I needed time off from doing. An unexpected consequence of making avocation into vocation. That means I need to work out at least one hobby that I can do on my days off. Right now that hobby is phone games, which is a trashy hobby. I'd prefer to cross-stitch or do a puzzle.

3. Bring collage and horses into my life. Maybe collage is one of the hobbies I should pursue. I need to do it! I need to make it a regular part of my creative life. I've been thinking about it since September, and still haven't done it. I also need to bring horses more distinctly into my life in 2019. Being around them during Labor Day showed me how much happier and calmer I am when I spend time with them. I don't know how I'm going to do this, because incorporating horses into one's life is not necessarily an easy thing, but I must not keep putting it off.

4. Be smart about yes and no. I said yes to too many reviews in the spring and summer, but I didn't think I was in a position to say no to any of them. Now I'm starting to worry I said no too much in the winter, because my workload beyond March is so light I might have time to get back to writing my book (GASP). The timing of yes and no when it comes to reviewing is complicated because of lead times and editorial ghosting, but I can still try to be savvy about yes and no, rather than blundering into too much or too little work.

This is a hard thing to get right. Only trial and error will get me there, so I have to practice self-forgiveness if I mess it up. Which is also a good thing to work on in 2019.

5. Be aware of the networking vs. friendship, promotion vs. information percentage. Particularly in a year when I'm going to AWP, I'd like to be more cognizant about how loudly I'm self-promoting, and how much that sounds like annoying kazoo sounds as opposed to useful information offered to people who want to know how my writing is faring out in the world.

Similarly, I've made a lot of wonderful connections in the writing world this year. I'd like to call some of these people friends, but I'd be happy to slot others in the category of "networking contacts," meaning I don't have to comment on all their tweets. Some of these connections are about half and half, I think, friendship vs. networking (like, I'd probably hug them at AWP, but wouldn't be offended if I didn't get a birthday note from them). I think it's best not to be naive about these connections, though, and comprehend that even if I do like X Publicist as a human being, she probably likes me as a reviewer.

This resolution is advising general awareness, rather than naivete, of what I'm up to as a networker and self-promoter. I don't want to be slide into the mode of hustling all the time, but I also don't want to invest the softest parts of myself into what turn out to be professional relationships.

6. Teach. This might be more of a goal than a resolution, but I'd really like this to be the year I get a classroom full of minds to play with. It might come as a surprise to those of you I've told that I don't plan to teach, but I still don't plan to make teaching my primary job. One class per semester is about all I want.

7. Travel. Ha! Surprise reversal! I'm making this a resolution so that I will ENJOY the travel I do this year. Portland, Iceland, and possibly New York and Australia (!) are all on my list for next year. Plus a family trip with no destination in mind yet. So I damn well better change my attitude about hating travel, even if just for one year.

I don't know how we got to 2019, but here we are. Happy New Year, friends. I hope you stay here with me; I'd miss you if you decided to find another year to inhabit. 

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