The new year is off to a pretty good start, at least in terms of my productivity and this site.
Well, what you can see of this site right now.
I know, I know. It’s a little sparse. And ugly. And it doesn’t tie to my domain yet (that still tracks to the old blog). Those changes are coming as soon as I can figure them out, and/or as soon as I switch modes from yelling at the screen to actually thinking about troubleshooting and site design and fascinating shit like that.
But the biggest thing, really, is to go ahead and fire up this new iteration of the blog and get down to the business of
making 2016 my best writing year actively forcing myself back into the creative routine.
2015 wrapped up in a mostly good place for me, writing-wise. Oath of Blood, the novel I have
beat like a dead horse diligently worked on for the last three and a half years or so, is finally back with my wonderful and supernaturally patient editor.
This time three years ago, I’d just finished the first draft, which I imagined was, more or less, the next-to-the-last draft because of course I would never write a steaming pile of shit.
Well, three years later, and I know I did. And I of course have my concerns that the draft currently sitting in her hard drive is just as bad, but in a different way.
But that’s out of my hands for the time being, and even if it were in my hands, I doubt I’d be able to see the truth of it. A very long time staring at something has a tendency to blind me to its realities, be they good or bad. So I’ll trust to my editor’s sharp eye and act upon the guidance she gives me, and I’ll leave off hyperventilating about it here.
In the meantime, like most people around me, I’m preprogrammed to spout grand plans for the year (and probably drop them like hot rocks by February 1st). Every year I swear I’m not going do this. I’m not going to fall victim to the resolutions trap. I’m one of the smart people, by the gods, and I can outsmart this!
Or, you know, not.
So despite my best efforts, behold my list of Shit I’m Going to Do Better This Year (Hopefully):
I will write every day.
I will do the thing, even if it’s just to smear a couple of sentences across the screen. A thousand words a day would be a great minimum, but honestly any amount of writing will do.
See, I have this…thing where I thrash and whine and complain to myself like a thwarted teenager when it’s time to apply hands to keys and do the thing. It’s not that I hate writing; it’s that I’m really, really shitty at disciplining myself to start. Once I start, things get going just fine.
So in the new year, something’s getting written every day. I honestly don’t care if it’s a grocery list written in dactylic hexameter or an outline or two sentences of dialogue.
Every. Fucking. Day.
Eventually tantrum-mind will quit throwing itself around the room and sighing about how it “isn’t feeling inspired” or whatever the fuck and will accept its fate—or so I’m hoping, anyhow.
I will always have something in progress.
You remember what I said about surly-teenager brain? Yeah, it’s a lazy little fucker. Somebody else has the story right now? Okay, time to vegetate and play Skyrim till our eyes bleed.
Which, c’mon. That’s hard to argue against. Skyrim is awesome. And spool-down time and sanity breaks are good for the soul or whatever. They quiet the madness a little bit and give me a reason to emerge from my lair from time to time.
But the point is that breaks are short for a reason. We take them to rest and recuperate so we can get back to doing the thing. Not, you know, so we can practice for the Olympic Netflix team.
So to stave off this tendency and to force myself to both stay engaged and move forward, I will always have a work in progress in front of me, even when the top-priority work is out of the house.
I will submit something to a paying market at least once a quarter.
This can be something I’m shopping around and, if it comes back, resubmitting, or it can be a new thing, but regardless—something has to go out the door to the slush pile once a quarter.
Once a month would be nice, sure, but I’m going for positive reinforcement here, and that means lowered expectations.
I realize this probably sounds completely obvious, but I’ll be honest: slush-pile submissions are not something I do very often. I typically dig in my heels on a long project (see above regarding Oath) and keep my head down for long stretches of time. But I need the active exercise of writing and submitting—and, yes, getting rejected.
Plus, hey, there’s possibly money involved, and I’ve got a stack of bills that would love to get paid on time. So.
I will limit the scope of the freelance projects I accept.
The most salient point here is that I’m getting out of the tutoring and academic writing guidance business. I’ve done it in one form or another for almost a decade, and in that time I’ve helped a lot of people polish their academic writing game and/or knock the dents out of graduate theses and dissertations. It’s been a good run, and it’s kept bills paid in tight times, but I’m ready to be done with it.
My current academic clients will be my last clients in that regard. Once we’ve put their theses to bed, I’m not taking on anymore.
Simple as that.
I will stop giving away work for free.
Again, probably an obvious one, but I have this…problem where if somebody asks me very nicely to do something for them, or to just take a real quick look at this one thing they wrote, I find it very hard to say no. We can, if we want, maybe blame this on the years I spent teaching or tutoring in one form or another, but now that I’m out in the big bad mercenary world of freelancing, free work is a no-go.
I simply can’t take on any more of it, because it invariably cuts into both writing time and paying freelancing time. I had whole months in 2015 when I didn’t touch Oath because of this.
So no more free work. Either you’re already part of my writing group, and we have a mutually beneficial arrangement, or you’re paying me. Otherwise, I’m very sorry, but my schedule simply does not permit that I give my time away anymore, if it ever actually did.
I will reduce the amount of crap in the office by at least fifty percent.
I have this frustrating tendency to hang onto things long after they’ve ceased being useful. Notes, outdated tech, tchotchkes—you name it, I probably have a stash of it around here somewhere. You know, just in case.
But what this means is that the office has a nasty tendency to accrete into a magnificent shitpile, and no amount of organizing or straightening things will fix it.
So basically I’m ringing in the new year by hauling off and pitching out all kinds of crap. If it’s not useful to me and it isn’t actively improving my life in some way, it goes away. Simple as that.
I will give myself some time to relax every day.
This probably sounds counterintuitive, given my lazy-ass brain’s addiction to downtime, but as with Skyrim and Netflix, it’s a question of degrees.
Yes, relaxing is good. But not all the time. Yes, working is good. But, again, not all the damn time. That’s how you burn out—and I know this because I’ve burned myself out a couple of times over the last three and a half years. There have been days when I’ve been in the chair for 12-15 hours straight, staring at the page, refusing to walk away from it even if I was making no progress.
Not even for a walk around the block to clear my head. Not even to shake the words out of my fingers and simply let my brain vent some heat on a game or a bit of mindless entertainment. The end result, as I imagine you can guess, was not pleasant.
So if I’m going to write every day, there also has to be a period of downtime every day.
I don’t care if it’s fifteen minutes watching cat videos, or going for a walk in the morning, or taking that hour before bed to read, or whatever. I will make myself take time for myself—and hopefully keep my internal batteries better charged.
So that’s the general idea.
These are the things I’ll be actively working on in the new year (in addition to, you know, making this site a little less of a trainwreck).
How about you, my magnificent internet horde?
Have any big plans for the new year?