December: 2012 goals.

Well. This is it. The final check-in with my 2012 goals, which is delayed because I’ve been kinda lax these past few months.  But still this is a big deal for me, because this is one of the few years in which I’ve held myself accountable for the resolutions I made at the start of the year, and actually, I’ve made progress. Care to see how I’ve done? Read on. Can’t be bothered?* Below is my favorite Epic Rap Battle of History. Enjoy.

Now. Of the five concrete goals I set for myself in 2012, I accomplished three:

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. My book came out in January. By March I had accomplished this. I am not rich. I doubt if I’ve broken even on my expenses with this book, but I have made more than $20 and that’s a record for me.

Send out at least three short stories. Done. I’ve sent out three short stories and some chapters from my novel. I have more rejection letters for my office door because of this,  but I also have more finished work to send out.

Read one two novels a month in 2012. I set out to read 12 novels this year, because although I love to read, I tend not to do the things I enjoy and instead fret about things I don’t enjoy at all. The only time I read anything is when I had to, and then I did it in a state of stress. That’s counter-productive for someone whose job is to read and write. So I thought 12 novels would be a good way to make reading a habit again. I started out by re-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a sort of holiday gift to myself last year and then I began to pick other books to read, starting with the shortest in my bookcase: The House on Mango Street, Heart of Darkness, Turn of the Screw and The Stranger.  By the time I finished those, l was binge-reading, like I used to read when I was a kid. The 12-novel goal turned into a 24-novel goal, and I am currently on novels 30 and 31.

So it’s been a great reading year. I’ve moved from very short novels and novellas to very long ones: Anna Karenina and The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve read work that I’ve been wanting to read for years, and authors I know who published their first books recently. It’s been a great year, and I have to give some of the credit for this goal to Goodreads’s reading challenge, which helped me keep track of all my books.

Nest year’s reading goal will be however many books I’ve read in 2012, including one piece by Charles Dickens that’s neither A Christmas Carol or Oliver Twist. Any suggestions?

I did not accomplish two goals: I didn’t finish the second draft of my novel or send it to agents, mostly because I was working on another manuscript for half of 2012. That manuscript I did finish and send out.  I didn’t know at the time I set my goals that the manuscript was in my future, so I don’t feel too badly about not finishing my novel. That said, it’s time to get back to work on it.

I also chose to work on two conflicts that have been giving me difficulties for a long time: My feelings about faith and my issues with anxiety. I worked on both, on and off, throughout the year and although neither is by any means resolved (and may never be) I do feel like I have a much clearer idea about faith now.

The idea was that I was going to write an essay about whichever issue I came closest to resolving, and I still might try to do that. But the problem I face, ironically, has to do with the other issue: anxiety. I’m not sure I want people to know how I feel about faith and religion. I have people in my life who are both very religious and who aren’t religious at all, and I enjoy not coming down on one side or the other. For now, it might just be enough for me to know how I feel and what I believe.

And that’s it. I will be putting together a new list of goals for next year. I’m wondering if I should include more personal goals and not just writing goals this time. I don’t want to have a huge list of goals, but I also have some things I’d like to do that are not writing-related. Thoughts?

*Dear people who can’t be bothered and for whom I am posting distractions,  if you are truly out there, why have you been clicking on these posts all year?

July: 2012 goals

It’s half-past the first of July already. I should probably post an update on my resolutions for 2012. For those who are just tuning in, feel free to tune right back out again. I post progress (or lack thereof) on my New Years goals every month. It’s something I do to hold myself accountable, but I don’t expect anyone to actually read this.

If you don’t want to read on, I understand. In fact, here’s an awesome Beauty and the Beast parody to distract you. You’re welcome.

And now for the sad, sad facts:

Although I made significant progress on several projects this month (and last month) none of those projects were part of my New Years Resolutions. The big project that I’m working on wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye back in January. I say this so that folks will realize that I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I’ve just been diverted from my January goals.

Finish the second draft of my novel by April (September.) This may get pushed back even further than September. I am currently in the middle of another project that needs to be finished posthaste, so until that’s done, my novel will have to sit by and look on.

Get it sent to agents before summer. How ’bout before Christmas? Next summer? Before I turn 40?

Send out at least three short stories. I’ve been looking at markets for a few items, but I haven’t sent anything yet.

Read one two novels a month in 2012. I’ve been reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. Slowly. I should have stuck to my original goal here, but I got cocky back in March when I was cruising through four books a month.

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. Done in March. I get my first royalties this month, so I’ll see how much I really have made. Maybe I didn’t actually make more than $20.

Other goals: I also set to work on two of my big conflicts this year: My feelings about my faith and my issues with anxiety.

I am happy to announce that I made some real progress on the faith issue. I had to be really honest with myself, and that wasn’t easy, but I think I finally have a handle on my beliefs. I’m not going to write about that now. First I’m going to wait to see if my self-discovery is the real deal, then I will write an essay. I will say this: though I may have resolved my feelings about faith and God, I have not resolved my feelings about the church itself. I think that’s a separate issue.

As for anxiety, I’m still practicing the techniques I learned in the beginning of the year: mindfulness and taking action. I’ve also been thinking about the nature of fear. I haven’t made any other progress, but I have averted panic attacks so far, and that’s something.

March: Goals for 2012

It’s the first of March. I am happy to report that one of my 2012 goals has been checked off. Granted it was the goal that I had the least control over, but it’s always nice to see anything crossed off a list. Here we go.

As an aside, if you’d like to read something more interesting than an update on my new years’ resolutions, you can stop reading now. Here’s an interesting site. Or you could just watch this:

Finish the second draft of my novel by April. Oh… I don’t think I’m going to make this deadline. I have copies of my first draft out to one of my writing groups. I just need the courage to start work. Also, I need to pick a day and read the manuscript in one swoop. And on that day? I should not check my email, plan a class or be anywhere near my phone. I should probably not even be in the house. That might take some doing.

Get it sent to agents before summer. I’m not even thinking about this. I’m not.

Send out at least three short stories. I have sent out two essays and lots of guest posts for other people’s blogs. I’ve sent out three news articles. But I’ve sent out exactly no short stories, which means I fail this one.

Beware The Hawk novella

Thanks to this book, one goal is off the list.

Read one novel a month in 2012. I’ve read five since January 1: The Lord of the Rings trilogy,  Jack the Theorist, and Carry-On, a novel by MFA colleague Chris Belden. At the moment, I’m bookless, but that will change soon. I’m trying to find a fun read and then I’m moving on to Blood Meridian, since that’s the book that my writing group is tackling next.

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. Done! I just got the sale numbers for January  from my publisher, Vagabondage Press, for my book Beware the Hawk. I don’t have exact numbers, but based on my usual fuzzy way of doing math,  seemed to have crossed the $20 line.

Other goals: I also set to work on two of my big conflicts: My feelings about my faith and my issues with anxiety. I haven’t done a thing about the anxiety, which is probably pretty evident to anyone who’s been reading my posts lately.

I have, however been thinking a lot about the faith issue. That’s been unexpectedly freeing; it’s really the first time since childhood that I’ve given myself permission to explore my own beliefs without a person, a church or a dogma peeking over my shoulder.

As interesting as this exercise has been for me personally, I now wonder if I should write an essay about it at all. I’m beginning to understand the religious zeal of the people who have confronted and accepted their beliefs, and who show up on my doorstep bearing pamphlets. I now notice that they are very interested in their own beliefs, but they can be big damn bores. It’s not exactly the stuff that thrilling literature is made of.

In fact, I’ve seen just one religious pamphlet that could be considered thrilling. It featured an illustration of a figure I can only describe as Super Satan. He had no clothes, no face, and the number of the beast tattooed across his bare, muscled chest. Nothing I produce can ever compete with that.

I digress. My point is that personal epiphanies are just that – personal.  What’s more personal than belief? Who would want to read about my own spiritual journey?

Also there’s this: people get criz-azy about religion. No matter what you think about religion, there’s always some nut ready to vehemently jump down your throat for not agreeing with him or her. Or for having a sense of humor about something they take very, very seriously. I’m not sure if I want to deal with that.

If you’ve made it down to the bottom of this post, thank you. I promise that my next post will have something of added value – all the comments about revisions from yesterday’s cry for help blog post. Many of those tips are in the comments and you can read them there, but I did get at least one via social networking and I have a few of my own to share. No, really, I do.

New Years resolutions or New Years conflict resolutions?

For a while now, I’ve been feeling that it’s time to embrace New Year’s resolutions. I’ve also been thinking that this blog might be a good place to do this.

I know. New Years resolutions are boring. I can practically feel all of you unsubscribing.

But I have a model for this plan and an entertaining one: for as long as I have been following his exploits, author Matthew Dicks (a fellow Trinity grad) has posted his New Years resolutions on his blog at the beginning of each year. He then checks in monthly, reporting his progress on each goal, even if there has been no progress. This strikes me as a good way of laying out my goals and of holding my own feet to the fire.

When I mentioned this plan to my husband yesterday, he offered another idea: Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, use 2012 to work on some of my conflicts. Not external conflicts (although I have some fun ideas for resolving my conflict with the guy who keeps visiting our neighbors and parking in my spot) but the internal ones that seem to cause daily havoc. My husband knows all about these conflicts, since he has to listen to me talk them out for hours on end, so perhaps his suggestion is a little on the self-serving side.

I’m intrigued by the conflict resolution idea, but I see a couple of problems with it. For one thing, it’s a tall order. Let me give you an example. Here’s a resolution I was thinking of making: Go back to church at least once a month. Here’s the underlying conflict that needs to be resolved: I made a promise to the Catholic church, but my beliefs have wandered far, far away from church doctrine and I’m not sure I can keep my promise without being a hypocrite.

You can see the difference between the two. Going back to church once a month is easy and measurable and doesn’t lay the troubles of my soul bare for all the Internet to see. On the other hand, working on the conflict will probably create lasting change. And then there’s another problem. If I’m just making resolutions, I can make a long list of goals, but if I’m going to devote time to my inner conflicts, I can only choose one or two and then I have to figure out how to measure them, because if I am actually going to do this, I need to hold myself accountable in some way. Right now, long essays – which I will try to publish – seem the best way of doing this.

I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet. There is a lot of merit to a list of achievable New Year’s resolutions. There’s value in goals like Get an agent by July or Get thee to a dentist. I will have to come to a decision in the next 24 hours. 2012 ought to be a productive year, even if it the Mayans are right and it is the very last year.