Monday, December 30, 2013

Is 2014 the Year of the Reasonable Resolution?

Let's be honest: 2013 was a terrible year! We should have known it would be since there was a 13 staring us in the face every single day. How could that possibly be a good thing for anyone?

I won't go into details about all the obstacles and challenges of my year. You have your own. And if you don't, then you probably know someone who does. Around me were divorces, job losses, deaths, and health problems. Friends, neighbors, and students all went through many trials of the spirit and body. It was hard to be sympathetic when you had your own problems to deal with.

Which is not to say there weren't a few bright spots and this is where I'm going to start with my "reasonable" resolutions:

 - in 2013 I got a dog whom the shelter named Peaches. She's a chihuahua-terrier-something mix, perhaps 8 years old, with an utterly unknown history. I love her so much and am so happy she's in my life, even if she does hate other dogs. In 2014, we'll work on that, one pup at a time.

 - in 2013, I got a new literary agent and finished a couple of books. In 2014, I'll have product and a means to get it out there into the world (that's far more reasonable than resolving to sell a book!).

 - in 2013, I discovered kale, my new favorite vegetable, and I rediscovered my love of Brussels sprouts. In 2014, I want to try quinoa.

For 2014, I've got plans - big ones like moving and shooting a short film and starting a new business - but those are hardly "reasonable" and nothing that can be "resolved" to be done. Taking steps to accomplish them will be my next challenge.

Happy 2014~

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Must, Want To, and Should

As the holiday season approaches and I receive requests for more and more things (shopping, parties, extra work, and so on), I begin to get overwhelmed by it all. At first I toss another ball into the air, fill up another blank spot on the calendar, and make a note to myself.  But very soon, the air is thick with balls, the calendar has no more empty squares, and I've run out of note paper.

You have to say no sometimes. But when? And what to say no to?  Well, it occurred to me that there are really 3 categories of things: those we MUST do, those we WANT TO do, and those we SHOULD do.

The MUST do's: attending work parties, buying gifts for Mom and Dad, making a visit to the grandparents.

The WANT TO do's: attending a new movie, buying gifts for friends, arranging a trip to Disneyland.

The SHOULD do's: attending a relative's party way out in the Valley, buying a gift for the boss, visiting a friend's new baby.

Sometimes they overlap - you may want to do the same thing you should do, like visiting that friend's new baby, for example - and sometimes they are at utter odds with each other, like when that relative's party is at the exact same time as the only day the museum is holding its free exhibits that you really want to go to.

So where do you begin? Do you start with the MUST's? Or the WANT TO's? Are you a SHOULD do person?  I know plenty of people who start and end with what they WANT TO do and have no care for anything society or family/friends may tell them they SHOULD or MUST do.  That takes courage to disregard others' opinions as well as a healthy ego that says "My WANTS come first."

Me? I start with the MUST do items and then go to the WANT TO. I am independent enough to ignore what I SHOULD do but let's be honest, I often run out of time and money just completing the MUST items on my calendar/list/inbox. I rarely get to the WANT TO's!

This is the way I plan to approach my gift-giving, party-attending, subbing requests, and so on this month. If it's not a MUST, then it ain't getting done.

But what about writing? Well, I think you can apply these categories to writing as well.  As writers, we all feel we MUST write, that is not in doubt, but whenever I feel like I SHOULD write - whether it's on a particular day or at a particular time or about a specific subject or theme - then my writing ends up terrible. That's happened when I tried following a trend I wasn't crazy about or chasing an editor who kind of liked a book I submitted but wanted to go in a different direction, or even when I wasn't finding anything to write about at all. Each time I did the SHOULD rather than the WANT TO, my work suffered.

I have to find the WANT TO in every SHOULD in order to do it. Otherwise I will resent every ounce of energy I am spending on it.  Life is too short for SHOULD.