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2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Editor’s Note: Yes, I know this is ridiculously late.  But I finished writing the wretched thing so I’m posting it, cool?  Cool.

People are infamously flaky about New Year’s Resolutions.  If your gym membership card is already gathering dust, then you know what I mean.  Here’s to a fat and ice cream-filled year, eh?

But because I’m apparently a masochist who anticipates disappointment with bated breath, I made New Year’s Resolutions anyway.  I have based my instruments of torture off of the “SMART” goals formula, which I hear was penned by the angel Gabriel before his promotion:

S pecific
M easurable
A chievable
R ealistic
T imely

At first, I thought it might be best to give my characters resolutions, and then celebrate when they met their goals in imagined scenarios.  But Eli has a nasty stink-eye, so here are my real-life authorly resolutions for 2018:

1. Read 50 Books

This one always eludes me.  2018 is the third consecutive year I have set this goal, and I’ve yet to get closer than 36.  But because I’m not insane, I’m slightly changing my approach, and aiming for a book a week, which allows me to plan out how many pages I need to get through each day.  This has already made a big difference – I read five books in January.  And already, the habit of reading so much more is teaching me a lot about story – which will hopefully produce a slew of blog material.

2. Spend No More than 30 Minutes/Day on Social Media

Aside from the fact that I don’t want a cyborg Arnie to hunt down everyone named “John” in my friends list, there are many reasons to cut down on social media time.  For one, some of that time (like, theoretically speaking, when one is on the John) can be spent reading ebooks.  But also, there’s a point of diminishing returns with social media, where instead of engaging with friends and groups in meaningful ways, I’m mindlessly scrolling.  Kind of like that five-year-old addicted to the iPad on the poster of every media alarmist documentary ever.

3. Finish Two Novel First Drafts

Before you ask, yes, one of these will be the third book in the Rogue series.  The second project I have planned is an epic fantasy novel about Draconians (sometimes called “dragonborn,” not in the Skyrim sense, but in the Dungeons & Dragons sense).  I’ve written enough books to know that my first drafts tend to be around 50k – 60k words, so this allows me to plan ahead what I need to get done each month.

4. From a Twice Weekly Exercise Habit (by March)

Speaking of flaky and torturous resolutions, here’s our obligatory exercise goal!  But in all seriousness, writing is a sedimentary lifestyle.  Even though I’m not yet a full-time author, my day job has me strapped to a desk as well.  And as a bonus, exercise allows me to get more reading time in via audiobooks, and the happy hormones it releases helps motivate me to get things done.  Things like writing.

5. Watch 10 Foreign Films & 10 Silent Films

I can just image in the foamy-mouthed “MOVIES ARE EVIL BOOKS ARE ANGELIC” responses being lobbed at saliva-splattered screens.  But film, like literature, is a story-telling medium.  It has something to teachw riters about the mechanics of story, especially foreign and silent films, which will force me out of my 21st century blockbuster box.  This is the same reason writers should read classics, but different artforms can spread a storyteller’s wingspan as well.

And just like that, I have been sentenced.  What say you?  Do you have story- or writing-related resolutions?

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Slaying Dragons and Other 2015 Resolutions

Drawing my sword, I looked upon the monster, feeling the raging heat from his nostrils burning my face.  I stood my ground, digging my heels into the earth beneath my feet even as the smoldering ruins of the once great castle crumbled around me.  I looked the fearsome red beast in the eye, trying in vain to hide my quivering spirit.

But even as I looked it in the eye and twirled my sword, ready to meet my demise with bravery and virtue, I recognized that writing two thousand words on a Saturday morning was much more difficult than I had imagined it to be.

2014 was an interesting year.  I published my first book, did my first book signing, won NaNoWriMo, met a couple of really cool authors in my area, and, of course, read some absolutely incredible books.  It’s been a crazy year outside of writing as well.  I had an internship in the state government.  I got married.  My sister-in-law broke her leg.  I was run off the Interstate by a semi and totaled my car.  I went from one niece to nine nieces and nephews (seven of those by marrying into my wife’s family), and my wife and I discovered a couple months ago that we’re expecting a little munchkin of our own in July.

I expect 2015 to be an equally eventful year.  I’ll be graduating from college in May, and will be continuing to write while presumably working a full-time job.  Also, since we live in a little Podunk town you’ve never heard of in northwest Indiana, we will likely be moving to go to said job.  With such an eventful year, the prospect of being a more productive writer in the midst of all of that seems quite comparable to slaying a dragon, without the ring of power, even.  But as the tumultuous month of November reminded me, setting concrete goals can help push you, even in a busy life, to goals you thought far too lofty to possibly still be within Earth’s atmosphere.

New Year’s Resolution #1: Write and publish three books.  I wanted to publish four last year and only published one.  That was partially because of extenuating circumstances, but it was also partially due to a lack of self-motivation and discipline.  That’s where I want to improve this year.  Four is a bit too lofty of a goal with a full-time job and baby coming around the same time, but three, I believe, is realistic.  I already have two of those at least partially done (one is the sequel to Finding Sage, currently around 40k words, and the other my NaNoWriMo project, which is slightly above 50k words), and have a couple ideas for a third.  I have the ideas, it’s just a matter of “butt in chair.”

New Year’s Resolution #2: Read fiction and non-fiction every day.  Clearly in the 365 days that will encompass 2015 there will be a time when I won’t be able to do this, but I would like it to be a regular habit.  Any writer who doesn’t read is doing it wrong, and really any literate person with the appropriate resources (read: a local library) who isn’t reading regularly is doing it wrong.  Science backs up the claim that it makes you smarter, but that’s not really my point.  I’ve always been a reader at heart and I really enjoy it, I just haven’t always made time for it.  And if I’m going to be creating and asking people to read my writing, I should be willing to read other people’s writings as well.

New Year’s Resolution #3: Separate work and leisure time.  As I’m currently writing this, writing is a hobby for me.  I do make some money off of my writing, but for the most part it goes right back into my writing as a fund for editing or formatting my next book or paying for an ad or something similar.  It’s something of a self-supporting hobby; I don’t really make a supplemental income with it yet, although it that fund has occasionally been used to temporarily pay for unforeseen expenses (read: when a semi runs you off the Interstate and you have to pay for a tow truck).  But even though it’s something of a hobby, it is hard work to write books.  And it takes serious dedication.  So it’s kind of like a job I enjoy that doesn’t exactly pay me yet.  But because of that, I want to do a better job of separating work time from time doing other things.  No more drafting while watching a movie with my wife.  No more bringing the computer with me on the holidays “just in case” I get a story idea.  I want to spend the time writing, and then be free to spend time with family completely dedicated to family.

There are other “soft” resolutions that I haven’t included simply because they’re more personal in nature and not really related to my writing.  I want to read my Bible and pray more, as well as improving in my patience and some other character traits generally.  But hopefully this list will inspire you to do what you do even better.  While this list applies to me in some specific ways, we could all use a little more discipline.