Thoughts on the New Year


I’m sitting in the Starbucks in Liverpool with my son, who is filling out internship applications, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is playing. It’s one of my favorite pieces of music, and it’s good for a writing background. For whatever reason, it’s inspiring me to jot down my hopes for 2015, now approaching the end of its second day.

I’ve been on vacation for over a week, a much-needed mental health break from my day job. It’s given me time to think about what I want to accomplish this year – professionally, personally, for my writing work, for my health, for a whole lot of things.

In some ways, I feel like the last two years were a time of running in place for me. I would not call them wasted – I produced some work in my day job that I’m very proud of, including a couple of continuing education courses that I conceived, developed and taught on my own. I now have steady freelance writing work, something I’ve wanted to achieve for a long time. My work on the two library boards is important to me. I’ve assumed the title of president of one of the boards, the first time in my life I’ve held a top leadership position in any organization. I take satisfaction in having stepped up to that challenge.

However, the novel I’ve been picking away at since 2013 is nowhere near completion. I’ve written myself into a few corners from which I’m not sure how to escape. My self-promotion efforts have lagged. I weigh too much. I need to do my day job better, to learn more, to blog more (both at work and at home), to podcast more. I need to grow more as a person.

So, in no particular order, here are the things I’d like to accomplish in the next 363 days:

– Improve my health. According to the BMI charts, I need to drop around 45 pounds. That’s a lot, and it won’t melt away in the first month. However, I can cut back on sugar, hit the gym six days a week instead of three, and get more sleep. I’ll be honest – the death of P.G. Holyfield last summer has really shaken me up. Now, he could have lifted weights every day and that might not have kept bile duct cancer from racing through him like a laser beam. There’s no exercise you can do to prevent something like that. But I can control what I put in my mouth and my activity levels, and the statistics say that heart disease and diabetes, two of the leading causes of death in this country, await those who don’t take care of themselves. I owe it to myself and those who care about me to do better.

– Get back in the podcasting game. I love to listen to podcasts, and I enjoy creating them, though anyone who tells you it’s easy is full of it. I’ve blogged before about the lousy job I’ve done promoting myself and my writing. Turning that ship around means doing things like getting in front of the microphone more often and talking to people. I’ve just made a list of around 30 potential interview subjects. Even if I only land half of those interviews, that’s 15 shows, enough to get me through July (at one episode every other week,) and it doesn’t include people I may meet throughout the year. It’s doable, and I want to do it.

– Blog twice a week. I’m a writer, for crying out loud. I should be able to jot down a few hundred words on this site a couple of times a week. Another piece of the promotional puzzle.

– Finish the novel or start something else. I’ve been brainstorming an outline for where the plot can go from here. I may need to go back and rewrite some parts, or even cut some characters. I loaded up on main characters (hell, it worked for J.C. Hutchins), and that may be a mistake. That’s a determination I need to make. I want to finish this novel; I still like the story concept. But at some point, if it’s not working, and if I dread working on it, I may have to shelve it and find a new project that I will love.

– Get serious critiques of And Ghosts Return and make another major run at finding a publisher for it. I’m not exactly objective, but I think it’s a good book. A workshop or a conference or a retreat or something can help me make it better, and the improvements may be what it takes to get agents and editors interested.

– Self-publish Acts of Desperation. I’ve been meaning to do it since I published Purgatory in May 2012, and it’s time to get that off the “round-to-it” list.

Not included in this list are projects at my day job that I want to complete, including a couple of ebooks; a project I want to do for the P.G. Holyfield memorial fund; continued improvement as a trustee on my two library boards; and some personal changes I need to make in my life that I’m not prepared to discuss publicly. All told, it’s a large list, and possibly an overly ambitious one. That’s okay. Maybe next December 31 I won’t have all of this done. I’ll be disappointed only if I haven’t made significant progress on all fronts.

As the song goes:

“It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
For me
And I’m feeling good.”

Happy New Year, all of you. May 2015 be everything that you hope it will be.

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