“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.” ―Maya Angelou
Every New Year’s Eve, I fashion the same resolution. No, not to lose ten pounds. I vow to be a better version of my present self. If that includes losing two pounds and lifting weights, I abide, but as a Type A, anxiety-ridden ex-grad student, resolutions are a tricky thing for me. I take them heart-attack seriously. But a resolution of continual self-improvement seems to keep things yoga-positive.
As 2014 progressed, I adjusted the bullies and huddled new goals under my umbrella intention. Last fall, after packing and unpacking seven waist-high boxes of literature, I resolved not to buy new books until I finished all of the unread ones I own. (Of course there are ways around this. Loaners and gifts from friends and Waylon.) I resolved to support indie bookstores, so I bought albums, bookmarks, and postcards as I dog-eared my way across my collection. I resolved to participate in NaNoWriMo, to bring the hibiscus bush in the front yard back to life.
What you love says a lot about you. Last year, I fell in love with Diane Cook, Joan Didion, and Celeste Ng. (Before October, I was a Didion virgin; I like to make myself feel better by insisting every writer has a writer―or three―that they’re embarrassed to admit they haven’t read.) I also fell in love with podcasts: Make/Work, A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, and Between the Covers. In 2014, I searched for inspiration in women―wild women, unique women―who are unabashedly themselves, beautiful, smart, courageous, ferocious women. I yearned to witness other creative lives and how those artists made/make art happen and, semi-importantly, how they subsist. Because I’m a literary-nobody, I wanted to know all these things from the experienced. How can I create while paying my cell phone bill and credit card minimums? After the corporate world, I was thirsty, thirsty for everything I had missed, craved, needed.
Of course, I want to keep my life, relationships, and spaces positive and nurture them through being true, present, and generous. Without this, I cannot be a good writer. With that bedrock in place, I have organized my resolutions into three categories: writer work, money work, and extracurricular literary things.
- Finish things – Because of my former job and over-commitment problem with perfectionist tendencies, I am sitting on a lot of abandoned projects circa grad school. I have sent out stories in haste, and most of them have returned to me swaddled in a form letter. I resolve to quit comparing myself to peers, who seem to publish at Nascar and shooting-star speeds, and work at my own pace. My stories aren’t going anywhere because they live in me―only I can tell my stories. I must finish them with honesty, patience, and tenacity.
- Always write – Even in the depths of revision and editing, I resolve to write new words. While working full-time, my novel was my first priority, and, in over a year, I completed virtually no new writing. My writer chops froze up, and it became so easy to say nothing.
- Use my freshest, caffeinated, and inspired brain cells for creative work – Too often I jump straight on Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram because as Caitlin Horrocks insists (and I agree), “Everything else feels easier than the blank page.” I resolve to disable the internet more.
- Allow large spaces for creativity (to be mold on the couch, reading) and living (to drink in moments by abandoning everything) – I resolve to only work part-time, which means making the most amount of skrilla in the littlest amount of time to free-up more creative writing minutes, hours, and days. Last year, I volunteered once a week. Even though the experience was valuable and rewarding, I realized how much one lost day steals from my creativity. Almost every week all week, I would resent that one day I had to spend away from home. I dreaded it how some people dread church. Part-time employment sounds luxurious, but, being a writer, I have AP homework for the rest of my life and I am pinching-nickels, returning-bottles, no-401k poor, but a happy and healthy heart makes it worthwhile.
Extracurricular Literary Things
- Wander – Since September, I’ve been visiting the library, but in my current self-absorbed writerly state, I venture to the library like a spoiled American. I have books driven in via the Request a Book Online tool. My TBR list tells me exactly what’s next. I resolve to spend more time in my library, browsing the aisles until I happen upon something that interests me (an out-turned cover, a mysterious spine) and open it only to fall for the epigraph, the first line then sentence then paragraph then page until I take it home with me to devour.
- Start a writing group – I resolve to get eyeballs on my work: colleagues, friends, beta readers, agents―in whatever order they’ll have me.
With that said, after five-ish months of full-time creative writing, I return to work next week. I didn’t come countries within finishing my novel or finding an agent. (It took Junot Diaz 16 years to write This Is How You Lose Her, so I rather just do like Junot and get it right). But I accomplished more than I could ever imagine, and the hibiscus bush is making a comeback.
Essentially, this year has taught me that I cannot live without writing. Kim Addonizio states in Ordinary Genius that being a writer is a commitment to writing, whether that consists of 30 minutes three times a week, or one hour five times a week. Even if I’m working on deadlines and ordering take-out every night, this ass must meet my chair because writing really does choose you, and, as Zora Neale Hurston says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Please check back to see how the office/creative-life balance is happening!