2008 Plan of Attack

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2008 feels like the future. But also a little like the present has whomped me on the head with a stick.

On the one hand, it seems impossible that we could have arrived here, at this year. 2008?! It sounds so very sci-fi. On the other, here I am in 2008, and there are many writing-related accomplishments I’d like to have achieved by now. But I haven’t, and the passage of time is a reminder and, to some extent, pressure to get to it.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions — most resolutions I hear about are too vague (“I resolve to get organized”) and people tend to make too many to keep track of (“I want to lose weight, get organized, shore up the finances, and spend more time with family and friends”). The resolutions always leave out the details of how and by when. How much weight? Will you join a gym? What is it that needs to be organized? Will you throw away that box of junk in the closet that you’ve been holding on to for years?

Maybe I’m cynical but my theory is that in most cases, resolutions are a set-up for further failure. If you resolve to do something, and then lose sight of the goal or never lay out a plan for how to get there, you feel a double disappointment — not only did you not succeed at the task you’d resolved to do, but you didn’t stick to your resolutions either and you can beat yourself up over that too.

Most years I don’t even think about making resolutions, though it’s hard not to use that flip of a calendar page as a way of making a new start on certain things. This year, though, I feel the pressure of time. Perhaps it’s because it’s the second New Year’s in a row where I’ve found myself working from home and only partially employed. For the most part, my time is my own, and yet I’ve written less and published less than I might have hoped when I finished my MFA program. But wanting to write and publish more are just like those other vague resolutions — “I want to get organized” — there is no how, no plan of attack. And so, this New Year’s, I am making one. (If you think about it, “Plan of Attack” is a much more rousing phrase than “resolution.”)

• First, for sanity purposes, I’m going to try to keep myself from thinking vague things like “I need to publish” or “I should write more” because really, such thoughts just cause stress and anxiety and accomplish little.

• Second, this year is all about small victories. I’ve got a list of mini-goals, most of which involve me revising and sending out existing pieces of writing that have been growing a nice layer of dust on my hard drive. I’m going to plug away at submissions to lit mags. Each month, the focus will be on revising a particular piece of writing and sending it out. I’ve got a calendar for this. Thank you, iCal. It’s mapped out. Small victories! is my mantra.

• I’m rethinking the book I wrote for my graduate thesis. The truth is, it was a fantastic and irreplaceable experience to write that book as part of my MFA program. But the book is … I don’t know. It’s hard to know what to do with it. There are two options, and I think I’m going to go for both. (Why not?) One: I’m going to send it out. What the heck? Two: I’m planning take two chapters of the book that work well as stand-alone essays. These I’m hoping to repurpose …

• into a collection of essays. This is my writing goal for this year. I have a number of essays in various states that I believe could be joined into a collection. I know collections don’t sell as well as say, a full-length memoir, but I want to focus on the writing that makes me feel good about writing.

• I’d like to finish, polish and send out two short stories that have been rattling around in my brain (and my hard drive) for the better part of 2007.

• I’m going to read more. It’s not a competition, of course, but after reading this, and this, I felt a little ashamed of my own meager list. I want to read more — this plan is a bit vague because I refuse to assign a number to myself on books. Suffice it to say, I can read more than I have been, and I plan to.

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