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.

June: 2012 goals

I should have posted this days ago, but we were traveling and then I had to go away for a job this weekend. I probably could have blogged this from my phone, but I was lazy.

Speaking of which, lazy was the name of the game in May. I don’t think I got anything accomplished goal-wise. We were gone for two weeks on a road trip to Texas, and – as I always am when I travel – I was optimistic that I’d be writing during the whole trip. That’s because I like to ignore a very basic fact about myself: I can’t write when I’m traveling.

First of all, I get car sick, so typing a novel from the passenger seat of a moving vehicle is out. Secondly, I’m usually too busy taking in the trip to dream up any fiction. Usually the writing really gets into high gear when I come home. I have big hopes for this week.

Let’s look at my lack of progress, goal by goal.

Finish the second draft of my novel by April (September.) Revision went swimmingly in April. Then May happened. I had a lot of final-grading to do and then there was vacation. So not much progress there. None, actually.

Get it sent to agents before summer. Let’s try to get it sent in before fall, shall we?

Send out at least three short stories. I sent out one last month and was rejected. I sent out none this month, so I wasn’t rejected at all and that’s sort of a plus, right?

Read one two novels a month in 2012. I don’t think rereading my favorite bits of Dune counts. I did begin reading Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, but due to the aforementioned carsickness, didn’t make much progress.

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. Done in March.

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. Although traveling the U.S. tends to make one feel a little more spiritual, I don’t think I worked out any real faith-related issues. I did some work this past weekend that requires both faith and an ability to be spiritual – more on that in another blog post – but I wouldn’t say I reached any personal resolutions. As for anxiety, I did a lot of relaxing in May. Does that count?

May: Goals for 2012

Tomorrow’s May 1. Time for another round-up of my new year’s writing goals. I did pretty well on some of them (I actually submitted something) and completely ignored my big goals. Scroll on to join me for a quiet, writerly moment of accountability. Or, if you couldn’t care less, click below to watch badgers dance. Your choice.

Finish the second draft of my novel by April (September.) Revisions are actually trundling along, after months at a standstill. I heard back from my readers, got myself organized and I’ve been working on the novel daily, putting in 500-1000 words a day. I’m retyping the whole thing because I’m out of my mind. See below tweet for confirmation of this.

But seriously, retyping is slow going, but it’s forcing me to re-read everything once again, and I’m revising as I go. Hopefully things will speed up for me in the coming month.

Get it sent to agents before summer. Let’s jump off one bridge at a time, shall we?

Send out at least three short stories. I sent out one and was rejected. In fact I woke from a Blood Meridian-inspired nightmare this morning (see next goal for clarification) to an email from a prominent literary magazine which essentially said “Thanks but no thanks, we’re zombied out.” Psssssh. As if the literary merits of zombies have been exhausted. Girl, please.

Read one two novels a month in 2012. I read one novel this month, toiling through Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. That brings me to 11 books for 2012. I will try to read more books in the coming month. Hopefully those books won’t involve scalping, flaying, Judge Holden, or a lack of quotation marks/apostrophes.

Cormac McCarthy isn't afraid of violence, depravity, or the darkness in men's hearts. He is afraid of these.

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. Done in March. I also started keeping a spreadsheet about my earnings/spending as an author. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pretty small spreadsheet at the moment, but it makes me feel like a responsible grown-up.

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. You know what I did about those in April?

Nothing. Unless you count feeling anxiety about the plight of nuns in the U.S. as progress on both of those. Which it’s not. I did sign a petition in favor of the nuns. And then I worried, because what if the Inquisition sees?

April: Goals for 2012.

It’s the first of April and I’ve completed all my 2012 goals!

Okay, fine.  April Fools. In fact, I have bombed on a few of my goals, and must modify a few if I am to continue with this experiment.

Here they are. If you’re bored by New Years resolutions posts, leave now. Here, have a video about the honey badger.

Finish the second draft of my novel by April. I have started revisions. I read the whole first draft over spring recess, began work on the second draft and will meet with my readers to discuss the draft on Wednesday evening, but am I even close to being done with draft two? No. So I’m going to push the deadline for this back. I’m loathe to give myself an actual deadline, but I’m going to say that I want to have this draft finished by September. If possible before.

Get it sent to agents before summer. I guess the previous goal renders this one moot.

Send out at least three short stories. I still haven’t sent out any short stories.

Read one two novels a month in 2012. Hey, here’s one I’ve done well on! I’ve read 10 books since January 1, so I’m upping my goal to 24 books. During the month of March I read five. Granted, I decided to read five of the shortest classics ever written (Hello, Heart of Darkness), but they’re still books and I’ve finished them. At the moment, I am beginning Blood Meridian, which is not short at all. In other news, tracking my reading through GoodReads has made this goal a lot easier than it otherwise would have been.

Make at least $20 off a piece of fiction. Done in March.

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’ve been doing a lot of work on the anxiety issue. I’m practicing mindfulness and getting back into yoga and meditation.

I’ve also been doing some work on the faith issue. I’ve been listening to an audiobook by the Dalai Lama, reading up on Catholicism, looking at the website for a major atheist organization and I even looked at the pamphlet the Jehovah’s Witnesses dropped off at our front door. I understand that none of this adds up to real scholarly work, but the important thing for me is that I’m not shying away from issues of religion, faith and spirituality. Last month I wrote that everyone seems to be interested in their own spiritual development, but that listening to someone’s experience of religion and faith can be pretty boring, so I’ve been testing that theory and trying to listen, when others talk, write or post about their faith. I’ve not done so well with this, but I’m going to keep an open mind and keep trying it out. Even if I come out of this year as an atheist, it’s important for me to a) understand why people feel the way they do about religion and spirituality, and b) be tolerant.

It’s crazy; when I was younger, I would get all militant and righteous about certain things. Now tolerance is increasingly important to me.

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.

Writerly goals and personal battles for the new year.

On New Year’s Eve, I posted about a minor resolution dilemma. I was torn between posting a list of New Year’s resolutions and checking in monthly on this blog to report progress or using 2012 to work on some major inner conflicts.

Since I’m the sort of person who likes to have her cake and eat it too, I’ve decided to do a little of both. My resolutions are mostly writing-related. I’ll check in on the first of each month with my progress on these.

My conflict resolutions are personal, but I plan to treat them as if they were a project for grad school. I’m going to do more than search my soul for the answers to my questions, because I need a little more assistance than my soul is capable of providing. So I will pair navel-gazing with research and examine as many sides of each issue as I can. By year’s end, I plan to have written a long essay about at least one of the conflicts I worked on, and I will try to publish it. (I’m going to try to submit the essay to a magazine or journal, but if all else fails, I will publish it here.)

The ground rules are set. Here are my resolutions and conflicts: Continue reading

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.

For 2011: A little more hot chocolate, a lot less stress.

Today, one of my plans fell through.

I can’t identify the plan on this blog, but it doesn’t matter. It was something I wanted and it’s not going to happen. End of story.

Normally when something like this happens, I have a pretty scripted response. I freak out. In order to circumvent the cycle of disappointment and self-blame that my brain is about to initiate, I turn off my brain and turn on my mouth. I talk non-stop about went wrong. I follow my husband from room to room, babbling at him. As soon my husband appears to have reached the breaking point, I call my mother and talk to her for hours. I “casually” mention the thing that’s been bothering me to friends, thereby hijacking all conversation with my worries.

All of this is a desperate attempt to convince myself that I:

a) did the right thing

b) didn’t do the wrong thing

c) am not a bad person/irresponsible/ failure at life

d) should not blame myself

Usually all of this frenzied talking does nothing to make me feel any better. Usually it means I spend far too much time dwelling on the problem. I fret, I lose sleep, I don’t write, and despite all the reassuring evidence I’ve marshaled  to prove to myself that I am not a failure, I end up feeling like one.

It’s really about the worst coping strategy a girl could want.

So I am not doing it anymore.

One of my resolutions this year is to be a calmer person. This evening, to cope with my disappointment, I’m trying something different.

As soon as I got the bad news, I went downstairs and found my husband. We talked about our goals for this year and for the next ten years. After looking at our goals for the next several years, it turns out that one setback in 2011 is just a blip on the radar screen. It’s not worth worrying about, because we have bigger fish to fry.

I have huge goals for this year alone: I plan to finish my novel. I plan to publish at least one story in a literary magazine. I’m applying for fellowships. I’m going to try to publish a novelette this year. By the end of 2011, I hope to have at least made a dollar off my creative writing. I’m building a list of agents to query when the first draft of my novel is complete. I plan to get my website set up. And most importantly,  I will graduate this summer with my Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing.

Those are just the writing-related goals. I think they’re all feasible, and the fact that I can reasonably achieve all that makes any setback seem minuscule.

Now I’m kicking back with some hot chocolate and writing this blog post. I haven’t even called my mother.*

*To be completely accurate (and because I know she does read this blog sometimes) I did spend an hour and a half talking to her this afternoon. But not about this.