“White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.” —Roald Dahl
I wouldn’t call 2015 a draw between me and my resolutions. I won, narrowly, thanks to high scores in the Always-write and Start-a-writing-group categories. I made a lot of progress, but the lofty list of goals frazzled me by October.
On NYE, I resolved to focus my energies. It has taken me sixish weeks to decide on the key day-to-day elements I must improve to inspire notable positive change, momentum, results.
Find a Way to Sustain a Creative Life
If you follow my blog, you know that balancing work and writing is a constant struggle in my life. A perfectionist and hard worker, it’s difficult for me to do anything half-heartedly. Either I need to find a job that gifts me room to be creative, or I need to find a job that nurtures my creativity. Because I have done the full-time thing and didn’t write, and I have done the part-time thing, which became a full-time thing, and wrote, and when I finished both, I was standing in an eerily similar place; even though I made progress, the matter of a couple drafts, I was another year older and still working on the same things.
Actually Finish Things
When you’re creating, it’s hard to gauge success. Even though the novel manuscript is fully drafted, I’m revising a lot: adding scenes and the much-needed lick or two here and there, deleting darlings here and there, while cringing at—and editing—the remnants of the first draft I wrote in the last 15 months of grad school, which almost murdered me. I have moved so many damn commas that many pages look like they are hemorrhaging or someone’s triplets took Crayolas to them, but I am getting closer.
I am closer than I have ever been, but I curse my honey-slow pace. And time constraints. Money. The general state of things. During one of those life-sucking Twitter holes, I found an essay on the incubation stage of creativity, and it reminded me that books take time. Junot Díaz’s third novel, This is How You Lose Her, took 16 years. Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night took 14 years. Right now I am at 8 years, and that’s okay. It has to be. Because I’m not ready to let go of it yet. But I am ready to let go of parts of it. Of the 290 pages, I feel confident in 38 of them. Then I think, Moving that chapter-six paragraph to the opening might solve all of my problems….
Last year, I finished 32 books, a personal high, which naturally makes me want more, more, more. Usually I read organically, one book leading to another, so I thought the Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 reading challenge would force me out of my lazy river, give me some structure, force me to consider the uncracked or favs already on my shelves. At the same time, the list (below) only consists of 12 books, so if I read 33 books this year, I will have 21 opportunities to float.
- A book published this year – Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan
- A book you can finish in a day – The Lover by Marguerite Duras
- A book you’ve been meaning to read – The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller – How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak
- A book you should have read in school – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- A book chosen for you by a spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF – Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
- A book published before the year you were born – Sula by Toni Morrison
- A book that was banned at some point – The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
- A book you previously abandoned – Tales of Burning Love by Louise Erdrich
- A book you own but have never read – Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet
- A book that intimidates you – Bluets by Maggie Nelson
- A book that you’ve already read at least once – Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
To the readers and writers who are vowing and working towards bettering themselves, please share your resolutions and reading lists with me.