Monday, December 29, 2008

Promises, promises...that we make to ourselves

So, it's that time again for New Year's resolutions.
[Imagine picture of list and gorgeous woman writing...picture upload ain't working again today.]

The US Government, bless it, has a place on its web site for "popular New Year's resolutions" -- where these come from I have no idea, since as far as I know Uncle Sam hasn't been snooping in my desk drawer where I keep my resolutions from year's past (which, like Scrooge's ghost, returns to haunt me.)

They're about what you'd expect, taking aim at excess weight, debt, and lousy eating habits, and promising to be a kinder and gentler and more generous soul. All to the good.

But writers have their own set of promises to make or break... Mine are:
- To write 500 words a day
- To check the NY Times, CNN, and Huffington Post no more than three times a day
- To only look at the stock market ticker after 4:30 PM
- To slay adverbs and purple prose
- To finish the book
- To celebrate every triumph, and squelch complaints about the publishing business
- To support my fellow writers

And if I could pick JUST ONE:
- To check email only after I've written at least 100 new words and no more than five times a day

Which dragons are you slaying this year, and what's #1?

Hallie, you've already taken my number#1 resolution: To not check email until I've made my page count: five a day. I'm convinced that I've given myself Attenion Deficit Disorder by checking my email instead of staying with whatever writing problem I'm trying to solve.

My other goals?
- To finish the screenplay by the end of February and the book proposal by March. (writing)
- To stop Googling for reviews.
- To finish my Rosetta Stone program
- To practice the guitar more
- To improve my slice and lob (tennis)
- To purge every last grievance

And even before New Year's, I'm trying to make a critical change. I'm in Day 3 of recovery of my Freecell addiction. It's one day at a time....

My resolutions this year? To take time to smell the roses. I find my life is taken over by work. I have worked my tail off for several years on publicity and promotion, as well as writing, of course, and in the end has it really done that much for me? Okay, so it's moved me a few steps up the ladder in the book world but it has meant that my life has been put on hold. I haven't had time to paint, which I love doing, or to play my Celtic harp or just to go and be by myself in the middle of nature. So this year my goal is to prioritize and learn to say no. I was born wanting to be the good child and to please. This year I will learn that I don't always have to be perfect--that trying to be perfect comes with a physical price. So I will laugh a lot, hang out with people who make me laugh, and not waste time checking my Amazon stats daily.

Things. I think this year maybe about "things." Not getting a lot of new ones, and getting rid of the old ones. In the past few days, I've tossed bags and bags and bags and bags of things (and sent bags and bags and bags of things to charity.) I've cleaned out drawers and discovered stuff that--I'm not kidding--I've never seen. Which means it was put there before Jonathan and I got married. Which was 12 years ago.

I threw away blank stationery from Rolling Stone magazine, circa 1974 and also blank stationery from my days as a US Senate Staffer. Circa 1971. Baskets of old shells, "memories" from beaches but I don't remember where. Bags of--bags. Weird ceramic bowls. Magazines I'm not mentioned in, that I can find. in. Old software. Tape cassettes. What was it all? I can't even remember.

Why did I save this many things? Sometimes I think it was to prove good things happened to me, that I had wonderful experiences or good luck.

Some mementoes, of course, are sweet and nostalgic. The ones I remembered what they were? I saved. The script of my very first news story. Like that.

But I think I'm going to
1. Try harder to live in the moment. And not try to hold onto too much junk that means the past. The future is so exciting.
2. Write--better. (Next year, when this will also be my resolution, it'll be so clever and insightful.) (And to get my new proposals in by March.)
3. I already know I'm lucky. I'm already grateful for that every day. So, I resolve to stay that way. Happy new year, my dear Jungle Reds.

Roberta: Have more fun with folks I love, quit wasting time on stuff I can't control (Amazon stats just one dumb example,) write something different that stretches my mystery-writing muscles. Try to shrug the evil tendrils of envy that spring up unbidden when I'm not looking:)

RO: As usual my far more experienced, and quicker with their send buttons, JR sisters, have already said most of what I would have said although my Rosetta Stone fantasy is Swahili and I'm considering driving to Hank's to poke through her bags of discards since I love everything she wears or carries..
I just want to use my time well, whatever that means, every single day. Some days it may mean writing until four in the morning, others days it's sharing a pizza and a bottle of wine with a friend I haven't seen in ages.
This year(2008)for some reason, we have an extra second. I hope I don't waste it.

Okay, folks. Spill. What are your resolutions for 2009 and what's your #1? Are you looking to get more done, to disencumber yourself from objects or grudges, or just slow down and laissez les bontemps roule?


  1. Okay... it's 12:31 am - technically New Year's Eve...

    This year I will do things more consciously than I ever have. For me it's not a question of being too busy, but a question of choosing. What do I choose to do each moment. So, if I'm writing I choose to write and nothing else is important because I haven't chosen anything else. I'm choosing to write.

    I WILL set goals. I've tried doing a year without specific goals and well... it leaves me goal-less. Like what have I achieved that I said I was going to achieve. So, my goal for 2008 was to find out that goals are important. At least a guide for my life. Should I be ready to abandon my goals based on priorities - absolutely, but then that is just living a conscious life - which is where I started. Being conscious of what I choose to do in each moment, including unchoosing that which I may have just chosen. The real point is to be aware of my actions at all times. Meaning, if I unchose something - I need to unchose it in the context of it's choice - i.e. - I won't get done what I said I was going to get done.

    And, yes... clean, clean, clean and renew. Hank, you hit the nail on the head for me. I've been cleaning my office out - and throwing things out by the handfuls - for 2 days yet! And, in taking a break - I have CHOSEN to check Jungle Red and lo... I have chosen to give my 2 cents. It does seem we are all on the same wave length this year... so... I can assume everyone got the Jan 2009 memo then and is acting on it, right? It was a memo written in the heavens long ago and it seems we have all read it.

    I will say, it is funny that we seem to be focusing on similar items. My sense is that we are all up for big things in 2009 and this is just the preparation for it. At some level we are all preparing oursleves both physically and etherically for the New Year.

    As Rhys said about taking time to smell the roses... that is about filling the spirit and that too, is a choice. I choose to let my spirit every moment and let consciousness move the breath of my spirit.

    Probably the best way to put it, is to balance my life.

    Again - Jungle Red sisters - you have my thanks and appreciation.

    Happy New Year to all - and to all a good night!


  2. I saw a t-shirt on a guy in an airport recently: "I'm out of my mind--leave me a message." That sums up my mental state half the time. So I want to find focus, order, discipline (I think I left them somewhere under the piles of paper here).

    Hank, if we pooled our shell collections, I think we'd have our own beach.

  3. Yippee! I guess this means we're live again. Will I shock anyone if I ask WTF was that all about?

    Anyway..yes, stocktaking time. I'd like to add one thing to my rather short list - I want to try to be kinder to my husband this year. I've been so self-absorbed since the book came out and he's been just, driving, letting me be anti-social when I needed to write or work something out. Our thing, Cosa Nostra, takes almost as much out of the people around us (as it does out of us)and I hope that this year I'm more mindful of that.

  4. Okay...the shell thing. I have them TOO! One year I brought home a suitcase full of broken coral from BVI. What is that? Why do we do it? I also have bowls of rocks...but they're nice ones...

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  6. ANd Ro--you're so right about our "caregivers." Let's defintely do a whole post about that.
    For Valentine's Day, maybe?

    Yes--plannning it now.

    Faithful readers, prepare to send photos.

  7. Yay! I'm so happy we're back. I was so sad about it the no-post week caused by evil Blogger, for some reason. I guess I was missing you all.

    So. Cleaning out. MTV, I kind of have the same feeling. Out with the old. Because who knows what'll be "new."

    And shells. Yeah. SHould we just do a separate blog about it? Although now I can't take photos of the ones I tossed because they have gone..back to nature. Which is where I should have left them.

    I always say--I'm just going to take ONE. Ha.

    I do have some rocks, though.

    And for anyone who missed the Blogger posting debacle--do go back one post and read Paula's song about the trauma. It truly made the whole thing worth it! Thanks,Paula!! (I wish there were a little "Heart" thing on my keyboard...)

  8. Hank, you're a doll! As are the rest of you JRWs.

    Rosemary, I'm not shocked by your use of WTF.

    Actually, even though it's obvious I had done no revisions on my little song, I did have to change one line that ended with "luck."

    Happy New Year to you all!

    Paula (who has narrowed her resolutions down to one word: Improve. That covers a lot.)

  9. So glad you all are back!

    My big resolution is not to put so much pressure on myself--and, in turn--my family. I need to learn to set reasonable goals.

    I have gotten back into the habit of peeking at Amazon numbers and looking for reviews. It just always makes me feel bad. Why do we always remember the bad lines? The one stuck in my head right now is from an Amazon reviewer: "Benedict is no wordsmith." Blech. So I think I'll join Roberta, Jan, and Rhys in staying out of the online quagmire.

    Hugs and New Year's blessings to all the lovely JRs!

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  11. My first goals are non-writing goals:

    I'd like to get my health back after what was a catastrophic 2008, following an ongoing bacterial infection we think I picked up in contaminated floodwaters in March that resulted in very serious hospitalization in November. This has been a frail and mortal year, and at the same time a year when I had a manuscript pending delivery so it's been ... interesting.

    But the manuscript is delivered and I'm vertical and typing, so how bad can things be really?
    So resolve: health, which may mean resolve: reframe everything.

    I hope to be conversant in Spanish by the end of the summer because ...
    I want to do a good job on a sabbatical project (Fall '09) and need to be something of a Spanish speaker to do it well and because ...
    it's unconscionable (for me) to do search and rescue in Texas and not speak Spanish. Too much of our work involves a community with limited command of English. Not speaking Spanish could have serious consequences. There's no requirement I speak Spanish, but I've made my own, I guess!

    As with many of you, this is the Year of the Book for me, but I hope not to become too consumed by it. Due diligence, of course, and then some, but trust the agent, trust the editor, run the dog and get on with the day.

    A Happy and Blessed New Year to you all, writers and respondents alike.

  12. I want to feel less frazzled. I don't know how to accomplish that. Drink more? Drink less? Excercise more? Exercise less...oops, do less?--I'm already doing nothing. (But that's supposed to change. Now have a treadmill.)

  13. Susannah,
    I'm so sorry to hear you had such a bad health year. I admire your goal in Spanish. I'm constantly studying French (highly recommend Pimsleur, less effusive about Rosetta Stone) and wish I'd spent all those years on Spanish and could actually practice it without traveling.
    I wish you, and Mike and Laura, and Lorraine and Sheila a HEALTHY, Prosperous New Year,


  14. I know what you mean about FreeCell. First I deleted Spider Solataire from my computer, then Solitaire, and now I turn to FreeCell when I should be revising my manuscript. It's a good thing I don't live near a casino.

  15. Okay, I'll bite. What is freecell?
    (I'm going to regret this, I bet..)

  16. Free Cell? Don't ask, Hank. It's bad, very bad. I'm not big on games or gambling or any of that, but even I became addicted. I'm over it now, but dh had to actually remove it from his computer.

    I know what you mean about feeling like you've given yourself ADD by constantly flipping back and forth between a wip and email. I resolve to get over that even if it means taking my Alpha Smart to a coffee shop or bookstore to write.

  17. I found the best way to self-limit email was to put my editor and agent on one email address that goes to no one else, the search team call-out on its own ringtone on the cell phone, an emergency ringtone for my nearest-and-dearest on the same cell, an agent/editor specific-ring tone on the phone, and then ignore EVERYTHING else.

    When I'm writing, I never check email on the computer. If agent or editor email me, it'll pip through on the iPhone in 15 minutes or less (I leave all other email addresses off the iPhone when I'm writing); the search page or the emergency call from those who know to use it only in an emergency will ring through immediately.

    Those are the only calls or emails I need to take when I'm working, and it's lovely -- emergencies are relatively rare; agent or editor certainly aren't communicating hourly -- and I can go anywhere, get on a roll and stay on a roll knowing that all other communication can safely wait until the end of the writing period.

    I bless the day I got that iPhone. It's made things so much faster and more efficient.