Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Lev Butts' New Year's Resolutions


So it's a new year. A time to reflect on your failures of the past and to look forward to your new failures ahead. It's a time to think about the poor decisions that led you to whatever sorry state you found yourself in at 11:59 PM December 31, as you knelt on hands and knees releasing all the alcohol you had earlier ingested into a cold and frozen street gutter as you anxiously await the dropping of whatever shamanic object your local civic administrators have deemed symbolic of your community.

Yes, my local little hamlet has decided the possum is our most perfect metaphor 
It is a time to consider what different actions you may take in the following year to prevent these same mistakes and usher in all new and interesting ones.

It is, in short, time for the litany of new year's resolutions.

I'm not generally one to make new year's resolutions. I know myself well-enough to know that trouble and disappointment will find me regardless of whatever ill-conceived plans I make to avoid it. I also know that any high-minded noble resolution I make will inevitably fall by the wayside once the weight of professional responsibility and the natural inertia of everyday life settles down and firmly upon my shoulders.

But I also have a blog to write and a dearth of ideas, so here goes.

Given my track record with new year's resolutions, I know better than to make grand, sweeping resolutions no one could possibly achieve. Or ones that are so completely impractical no one would want to achieve them. Or resolutions that are just plain stupid. Or ones that are all of the above.

Like that time I was going to form a boy band in high school
and absolutely destroy The New Kids on the Block
No, this year, if I'm going to do this, I'm doing it right. I'm going for the lowest common denominator of resolutions. I share them with you this month because I believe in you. I believe you, too, will utterly fail at your resolutions and so I give you this, my fallback position, so you can hang your head proudly and know, you did the least amount of work to achieve the easiest resolutions of all. If you do better than this, you will feel like a god.

If you can't even do these things, well...I guess you can take comfort in the fact that you are now the most least driven person alive.

Well and poorly done, Old Sport!
So here they are:

My Absurdly Achievable Writing Resolutions for 2018

1. Write more often.

Many people say if you want to improve any activity, you need specific, measurable goals. If you want to run more, for example, you need to express precisely how many miles you want to run so you can measure your progress.

Me? I don't write enough, I want to write more. At present I write about twice a week. The rest of the time is spent with work and family obligations. I want to write more than that. I'm not worried about wanting to write at least one hour a day five times a week. I will count it a win If I write three times a week, even if it's only fifteen minutes. So, yeah it's a kind of specific goal, but it's insanely doable.


2. Read more often.

Like my writing, I need to read more. I need to try to step away a bit from the mindless iPhone games I play if I find myself with an extra few minutes. Obviously, if I'm at my desk, this time is better taken up with writing, but if I'm not, I have ebooks on my phone I could be reading instead of trying crushing candy or flicking angry birds or whatever the mindless game du jour is at that time.

This dumb game here? At least ten hours I will be begging for on my death bed.
As I've said many many times, the best skill to use to develop your writing is your reading. You let that stagnate, and your writing will surely follow.

3. Try new things.

We tend to get stuck in ruts. We have a way of doing things that works for us, so we quit pushing ourselves. Even if we do both of the previous things on this list, we will improve only a tiny bit if we don't step outside our comfort zone. Read things you wouldn't ordinarily read. Write in a genre you wouldn't ordinarily try. Write in a method you haven't tried before. The point is to stretch yourself.

I was thinking something more metaphorical.
Currently, I am doing most of these things. I am reading more creative nonfiction, something I thought would bore me to tears, but is becoming increasingly more intriguing to me. I recently finished Melissa Fay Greene's Praying for Sheetrock, about a civil rights lawsuit in a coastal Georgia town, and I have begun reading John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, about a murder in Savannah during the mid-1980's.

I am writing in a genre I would not normally feel skilled enough to try.  I am writing my first mystery story: It is set in Arthur Conan Doyle's Victorian London narrated by a Scotland Yard inspector. The story blends the hard-boiled detective with the amateur detective genres and also acts as a deconstruction of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Turns out, I am more competent at it than I thought I'd be.

I am also writing in a different way. I have always been comfortable writing one thing at a time, but now I find myself working on two pieces simultaneously: the aforementioned mystery and a werewolf novel, The Bloody Georgia Moon, based on a couple of my family legends. This second novel is also a creative stretch for me as I am co-writing it with Brad Strickland, and I have never co-written a piece before. All of these things are making me a better writer, I think.

So those are my new years resolutions. Hopefully I can keep them relatively easily and without too much hassle. You are welcome to them as well if, like me, you are lazy and lack ambition, but want to feel like you are accomplishing something.


2 comments:

Dipika Mukherjee said...

I love the simplicity of your resolutions!

Reb MacRath said...

Way to go, Lev. The most enjoyable writing, for me, comes from those who do actually have lives. How did Byron put it? One hates a poet who's all poet? There's a certain charge that comes when you sit at a desk because that's what you please to do and when you choose to do it. Or: when you have that magic feeling that 'Hey, this is what i get to do", not 'What I gotta do."