Oh no, a new year’s post

I have a love/hate relationship with resolutions because I’ve made a lot of foolish ones, and seen other people make them, and then we all fail together and commiserate and learn little from the process. I’ll say, this year is the year I’m going to exercise three times a week, and I’ll buy new sneakers that are like walking on puffy clouds. I’ll run for a few weeks before waking up one day and thinking, oh no, it’s raining, can’t run in the rain, maybe tomorrow, but then the rain stops while my excuses keep pouring out.

Excuses are easy. Giving up is easy. Making unreasonable resolutions and then missing a day and feeling like a loser and never getting back on the proverbial llama: easy. Llamas are large and temperamental things, all spitty and bitey and kicky. Best viewed from afar. Do not engage.

Last year, I tried to set some manageable goals for myself. Write 12 short stories. Finish my novel in progress. Revise a previous novel and start looking for beta readers.

I did write the 12 stories, plus a poem and a play, but I didn’t finish or revise any novels. I abandoned the novel I was working on because I didn’t love it. I started to revise another novel and abandoned that one, too. I submitted stories and I revised stories and I got 39 rejections. I felt like a failure. If you’re wondering, failure feels like a sick tummy and a hot neck. And llama spit.

But the writing life is a game, and as any child can tell you, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you put away the board and sulk for a while, but eventually you pull it back out and pick your color and play again. Snakes and ladders. Sometimes you climb, and sometimes you land in the mouth of the beast and it craps you back out where you started.

The thing about being at the bottom in this analogy is, trite as it may be, you have nowhere to go but up. You can’t do worse than lose. There is no double-losing.

I took three classes: one with Nick Mamatas, one with Jillian Burcar, and one with Jeff VanderMeer. All were excellent in very different ways, and in all I found new friends who I hope will one day be counted among my old friends. I wrote a story, and people enjoyed reading it, and it turned into a novel project that still gives me a kind of giddy glee.

If there is a single vital thing I learned this year, that’s it: write what you love. What excites you. What entices you. I wrote a lot of stuff that was trying to be thoughtful and important, and so little of it was really what I wanted to write, as much as what I thought people wanted to read. Backwards of me, I think. And now, that’s behind me.

So, resolutions. Read more. Write more. Write better. Keep helping other people do the same. Snakes and ladders this may be, but you’re only really playing against yourself, and there’s no penalty for reaching down that ladder and giving someone else a hand up. And if you see someone sliding into a snake–if you’re that someone–cut the creepy crawler wide open and use its guts for a rope.

Get back on the llama. It’s actually kind of soft and warm once you get to know it better.

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