- Polish my 1st novel: The manuscript is finished but I have yet to resolve two plot holes and line-edit. Oh, and cut about 20,000 words.
- Finish my 2nd novel: It’s crawling along at a glacial pace.
- Get an agent: Cause maybe I need professional eyes on my first manuscript and I’m not getting any younger.
- Apply to low-residency MFA programs: I just can’t help but accumulate as many degrees as I possibly can.
- Read at 6 shows: My desire for immediate acceptance and validation borders on the neurotic.
- Get 100 rejections: Finally! A resolution for the perpetually pessimistic!
- Launch my Podcast: Jay did it. That’s not what the podcast will be about.
This list is insanity. I’m well-aware of that. I’m also very conscious of the fact that it might all be damn near impossible, especially when my energy levels will also be divided into other plans and objectives that have nothing to do with writing. (Ukulele! Trapeze! Portuguese! Travel to two new places, one in the US and the other abroad! Succumb to my vanity and go back to my New York City weight!) The person that created that list did so with my most ideal self in mind. The person who has to execute the list is the watered-down, messy, imperfect, TV-addicted, Facebook-stalking, web-surfing lazy butt. How, I pray, can we get these two opposite sides of me to work together? No, really internet strangers, how? You weren’t expecting an answer, were you? Over the years, I have created a strategic blueprint that is in no way fail-proof and is only moderately successful. If it were a food, it would not be FDA approved. If it were machinery, it would only be sold to struggling nations with lax regulations. If it were a dude, it’s the guy you settle for because he seems NOT crazy and can hold a steady job. It has, however, been better than anything I’ve imagined over the years. So until I can download infinite amounts of will power, here is what I do to finish a solid 17% of what I set out to do.
1. Know My Energy Levels I’m the person who gets fired up at new beginnings, transitions, the first day of the month, the early hours of the day, the dawn of time. You catch my drift. There was a wind chill warning for Chicago yesterday and I actually went to the gym for the hour-long torture session that is yoga. Why? Because I’m riding the delusion that comes with the New Year, the totally false notion that I’m a much better person than in 2014. This will fizzle out in a month. Therefore, I must seize the day now, Newsies-style, and run myself to the ground.
2. Forgive Myself Once I fall from grace and collapse back into my lazy-self, I can’t wallow in self-pity. No teenage-like tantrums about how it’s all or nothing. I didn’t write for a week? Too bad. Give yourself a pat on the back and commit to changing. Today. Take it one-step at a time, like a recovering alcoholic.
3. Divide Large Projects into Smaller Chunks I’ve been doing this since college and it’s what got me through those years without ever pulling an all-nighter. Writing a novel can throw anyone into the largest, darkest, existential abyss. Writing one page? Not so much.
4. Embrace Mediocrity If all you can muster is 5 minutes of writing time, then give yourself a high-five. That’s more than zero minutes. In fact, it’s more than 95% of people who claim to be working on The Great American Novel do in any given year. (You can identify them by their ironic tees, their penchant for divey bars in gentrifying areas, and the way they like to school others on how their reading preferences are so not mainstream. Extra points if they reference a foreign author but completely botch the pronunciation of their name.)
5. Make It Interesting A lot of people feel comfort in the ritual of their craft, whether by making sure their coffee is just so before starting or doing it only when the blood of an innocent virgin is spilled onto a pink crystal under the full moon. If that works, you do you. I think those structures can sometimes be incredibly stifling and a perfect excuse to not get your butt on the chair. Every time you feel like you’re incapable of writing in a particular environment, I dare you to try it anyway. Chances are you’ll do just fine.
6. Reward Yourself I’m the kind of dork that is still chasing the totally meaningless A+ whenever I write. No one is going to pat my head and give me a gold star anymore. Therefore, I do it myself. Brag, boast, drink champagne, indulge in a Netflix marathon. Realize that worrying about writing is a huge privilege that only a select few can afford. Cause most people are trying to survive wars and famines and whatnot. Perspective.
What are your writing goals? Tips? Suggestions? Comment below!