Writing Resolutions: 2014 And Beyond

Last year, I did 25 writer resolutions for 2013 —

This year, I thought I’d add some more thought-midden to the steaming ordure heap that is this blog and toss out another ten resolutions for 2014.

Check ’em out, and if you feel so inclined: add your own to the comments below.

I Will Understand The Value Of Writing Advice

Writing advice as it exists, unregarded, is entirely neutral. It’s no different from me telling you how to make great chocolate chip cookies, or my favorite way to groom one’s pubic shrubbery, or the “best” way to get to Big Dan-Don’s Dildo Barn and Enchilada Factory. It’s either a pocket full of gold of a fist full of hot garbage — meaning, it either works for you or it damn well doesn’t. None of this — including anything I say here at this blog — is gospel. If a piece of advice sounds interesting or presents a solution to a problem of yours, then fuck yeah. Pick it up, try it out, see what happens. If it doesn’t inspire a change or challenge you to do differently? Then drop it like an angry squirrel. Also worth noting you should firmly get your order of operations straight: the writing comes first. The talking-and-reading-about-writing comes second. Writing advice is here to support your art, not support the illusion of your art.

I Will Try New Shit

It’s a weird new world out there for writers, and fortune favors the bold and occasionally batshit. Everything is changing. New tech. New ways to reach an audience. New ways to allow your audience to support you. And these changes in publishing can allow for changes in storytelling, too — the traditional system will remain in place and will continue to do the job it’s doing, but it will never be able to (or be willing to) accommodate riskier forms or formats. And that’s where you come in. Don’t you hate eating out with those people who get the same thing every time? “I’ll have the koala quesadillas with the deep-friend chimichurri hamster-bombs on the side. I’ll have these again and again until I die.” Nobody wants to see a storyteller do the same thing again and again, either. Be brave. Get weird. None of this is guaranteed. Safe art is boring art. Try stuff.

I Will Think More About Writing Than I Will About Publishing

You need to think about publishing. You do! It’s important. Publishing is how your work gets into the world. It’s how your story reaches its audience. You should be aware of your options and play those options. But at the end of the day, you’re more interesting as a writer. You will succeed in the long run based on how you write and on the stories you tell, not on what method of publishing you choose. Publishing is a container, and while choice of container is certainly important, it’s not the reason you’re here. If the only thing that makes you interesting is how you publish, your time in this creative place has a very short clock.

I Will Stop Thinking Of Myself As A Brand

Coca-Cola is a brand. Burger King is a brand. Big Dan-Don’s is a brand (“American Dildos made by American* Hands!”). A brand is a corporate identity. It is the standard-bearer of comfort and consistency: same burger every time, same bowl of cereal, same firm-but-squishy dongs. You are not a brand. You are a human being. Writing is your craft. Story is your art. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: who wants to read a story by a brand? (“Ah, the erotic culinary autobiography of the Burger King. Finally, it is mine.”) Your voice is what matters. Your ideas are what mark you. Your milkshake is what brings all the boys to the yard. You know what a brand is? A brand is the thing they use to mark a cow so that it gets identified with the rest of the mooing herd.

* translation: South American hands

I Will Protect Myself From Malefaction

Lotta sneaky fuckers out there who want to separate you from your money, your work, your good will toward man. Protect yourself. Check Writer Beware. Get a lawyer or a reputable agent to look over any deals. Eschew One-True-Wayism lest it drive you into a lake like some old-ass GPS that doesn’t have its maps updated. Stay frosty, word-nerds.

I Will Give My Work The Time It Needs

Sometimes a story comes out fast. Sometimes it comes out slow. And this isn’t just about a single story: learning to do this thing and do it well may not take the arbitrary 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell suggests, but it’s not learning to play beer pong, either. Overnight successes never are; what you see is just the iceberg’s peak poking out of the slush. This takes time. From ideation to action. From writing one junk novel to a worse novel to a better one to the ninth one that’s actually worth a good goddamn. From writing to rewriting to editing to copyediting. Don’t “just click publish.” Don’t just send it off half-baked to some editor or agent — they get hundreds of stories a day that are the narrative equivalent to a sloppy equine miscarriage or half-eaten ham salad sandwich. Don’t punish your potential readers by squatting over the Amazon toilet and voiding your creative bowels into the digital porcelain. Take pride in what you do. Go the distance and get shit done. Not just a little bit done, but all-the-way-to-the-awesome-end done.

I Will Earn My Audience

You don’t build an audience like it’s a fucking chair. And you don’t beat your potential audience about the head and neck with that goddamn chair, either. You earn them by being the best version of you. You earn them by being passionate and awesome and not-an-asshole. You don’t earn them by bickering. You don’t earn them through intrusive marketing missives. You don’t earn them through blathering yelly-screamy auto-DMs or through giant Hulk fists made of quivering spam. You earn them by being a person. A person who happens to have many amazing stories to share.

I Will Respect The Role Of Storyteller

Not everybody gets how awesome stories are. Not everyone understands how important they are. Stories are how we communicate. They’re how we talk to one another after a long day of work. They’re how we relate details of our world to our children. It’s how we impart lessons. It’s how we inform and update. Storytelling is news, entertainment, myth, religion, memory. As humans, we’re biologically a turbid broth of genetics — but intellectually, we’re stitched of a complex quilt of storytelling memetics. Other people won’t respect your role. They think what you’re doing is a half-a-jar of horseshit. But being a storyteller? Choosing to do this thing? It matters. Stories make the world go around. Respect the role, and your choice of it. Storytellers matter.

I Will Get Excited About What I’m Writing

Ten years of freelance writing taught me one thing: you have to find a way to get excited about a day’s worth of writing, or it’ll juice your mind like an orange in the hand of Andre the Giant. It’ll kill you and your love of it, because writing stuff every day that isn’t precisely yours is — well, it’s many times better than doing the hard work of being a retail countermonkey (been there), but it still becomes a kind of drudgery. And so what you do is you find a way to be excited about the work. You still make it yours. You own it. You claim it with the flag of your voice thrust into the earth of the work. And this is true with any writing you’ve got going on, whether it’s a personal project or freelance or a story you’re forced to continue at the hands of a rabid fan who has kidnapped you and hobbled you by chopping off your foot (YOU DIRTY BIRDIE, YOU). Discover your own door into the material. Find the You-shaped hole in every story. Getting excited during a day of writing makes it go easier. It makes it fun and insane and is one of the many things that can elevate the raw ore of craft to the glittery baubles of art. Get geeked about your story. Write what thrills you. Every day of writing, sit down and ask: what am I going to write that excites me today?

I Will Write

The simplest commandment of them all: write. Write a little or a lot every day but goddamnit, write. Whether it’s 350 words or 3500 — the only way out is through. Put words down. Smash them together and force them to tell stories. Boot distractions into the trash bin. Kick haters into the wood chipper. Get shut of fear — what are you afraid of? Not being good enough? You don’t get to good enough by sitting on your ass and staring into your hands. Drown your doubt in a washtub. We all have doubt. We’re all plagued by the bitey monkeys of uncertainty — the difference is, some folks let the monkeys weigh them down, and other folks just keep on staggering forward, flinging those chattering doubt-gibbons and fear-baboons into the brush. Write! Write. Write. Write your way through 2014 — a year in words, a year in stories, a year in getting shit done.

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Out now: