Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Resolving to write

I’m pretty big on resolutions. Every year, I make several goals for myself, and I try to cover many of the aspects of a healthy life—physical, spiritual, financial, spatial (will this be the year I conquer clutter?). And creative aspirations always make the list. A new year is a new chance to be the person I want to be, no matter what day that “new year” starts on. I have New Year’s resolutions every birthday, every equinox, every semester. I’m always starting over, and that’s the way I like it.

But Jan. 1 is the biggie. It’s sort of the resolver’s mother ship, the day I go big with my dreams and plans and really start to internalize a picture of a new me.

While I like to keep things trackable—I use a spreadsheet most years!—I also like to include a vision of myself in a different place. Chief among my creative goals this year is to “Win a literary prize.” I revised this a few times. I originally said “Win a big literary prize,” and then I realized how vague that was. It would be nice to win a contest run by a litmag, but that may not fulfill my vision. It would be great to win the Pulitzer, but that seems a little lofty for a small-press poet like me. It would be nice to win an NEA grant, and that’s in prose this year, so I’ll get some essays together and go for it—free money, so why not? But I’m going to let the universe figure out the specifics. I’m not sure what podium I’m standing on or who crowned me with the laurel wreath, but my job is twofold: I have to picture myself there, waving, and I have to throw my hat in the ring—you can’t win a prize if you don’t enter the contest.

I’m embarrassed, a little, to admit the prize goal. I’ve been nursing a sense that sometimes I aim somewhat low, though, and that I need to up my game: write poems with more depth, submit to top magazines, try for maximum exposure for my work. But I have another resolution: “Feel and honor each emotion.” And I want to keep striving. Is that an emotion? Or maybe this one falls under another resolution: “Hope more.” I can’t exactly track this on a spreadsheet, but I’m sticking to my resolution to try hope, and it feels marvelous.

Another writing goal for 2017 is to write every day. I find that writing every day makes every area of my life work better, and so my goal is to prioritize writing time so that the rest of each day’s plans must fall in line behind it. This is the opposite of my usual approach. I’m already feeling better as I do this.

So here’s my whole list, which represents a whole life. There’s no diet; I didn’t join a gym. Resolutions for me are about a new picture of who I can be, and I’m more interested in being kind and to writing the best I can than I am in the measure of Earth’s gravitational pull on my body mass. Next year, maybe that will be my thing. It would certainly be easier to put on a spreadsheet than hope.

Resolutions for 2017:

Eat more whole foods.
Fill the home with sacred spaces.
Express gratitude more.
Win a literary prize.
Don’t get discouraged.
Remember that sugar makes me feel bad.
Fix broken things.
Write every day to make life work.
Handle stuff as it happens.
Remember, not everyone deserves my time.
Say no.
Read everything by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Write one essay or story per week.
Let individual poems be the result of deep reflection.
Blog every day.
Call out racism and misogyny.
Love better.
Serve better.
Find a way to feed people who need it.
Spend one-on-one time with kiddos each day.
Make time for Mike to write.
Keep in touch better with family.
Be more contemplative.
Hope more.
Walk every day.
Feed the birds.
Be more sincere.
Feel and honor each emotion.
Don’t get so distracted.
Experiment with soup.

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