Writer Resolution, 2017: Write Despite

Every year I try to offer up some kind of writerly resolution, some goal, some quest, some authorial charge to lead you into and through the New Year. It’s half-bullshit, as everything here ultimately is — because I’m not you and you’re not me and a single resolution is just a brick in the wall. And writing advice is mostly bullshit, anyway.

I offered up a metric fuckload of resolutions in 2013.

I had a lesser gaggle of resolutions in 2014.

In 2015, I said that as a writer you should be big — and you should be small.

I don’t think I said squat in 2016, because I was just getting over pneumonia? And pneumonia, as it turns out, feels like someone has defecated inside your lung sacks. (EDIT: nope, wait, I did write one: be the writer that you are, not the writer other people want you to be.)

This year –

*whistles*

Listen, 2016 was a nasty beast who nested in a cradle of our heroes’ bones. The year was good for me personally and professionally but, outside that, also felt like a year where we were slowly watching the Death Star being built in front of our eyes and we couldn’t do shitsquat to stop it. And though I hope 2017 has dull teeth and bad eyesight, there’s also a very good chance it is a far greater monster than we can imagine. Best case scenario, the next 2-4 years are gonna get weird.

As such, it feels both necessary and also unmercifully glib to offer up writerly resolutions in any form. I want to say, WRITE YOUR REBELLION, and that’s not a bad idea, to put to paper all your fears and your ideas — give voice to your own idea of resistance. I want to say, BURN IT ALL DOWN TO MAKE GREAT ART — some snarl-mouthed snaggle-toothed middle-finger assertion to leap into the mouth of the monster and cut its throat from the inside with a sword made from your own wordsmithy. I want you to be bad-ass. I want to be bad-ass, too. I don’t want resolutions. I want revolutions. I want fire and steel and anger, I want politics and rage and poison, I want Hunter S. Thompson and Spider Jerusalem and Nine Inch Nails. I want brimstone and batshit. I want heartsblood spattered on the walls that dries in the form of your stories.

At the same time, that’s not going to be all of us.

I don’t even know that it’s me. I don’t know how brave I am or how good I am. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know who I’m going to be as a writer by the end of this year, or next, or in five years. I don’t know who you are or who you will become, either.

What I know is this:

We’re writers, and writers write.

And so, this year’s authorial resolution is far humbler, far smaller –

Write, despite.

What I mean is, no matter what happens, keep writing. No matter how exciting or terrifying the news becomes, write anyway. Force the time. Look away. Focus up. Eyes on your paper. Demand of yourself the creation of stories. Carve out the mental and emotional territory, and the temporal and physical landscape, in order to keep doing what you’re doing. In times like this, the distractions are endless. It’s easy to stop. It’s all too simple to feel overwhelmed by what’s going on and to stare at the Eye of Mordor as it fixes its gaze upon you. And yet, no matter what, you gotta do the thing. You gotta tell the stories. You gotta write it all down.

Write, despite. Or if you’re so inclined, write in spite of everything.

Your art does not need to be rebellious for you to rebel against everything. Just making art is an act outside the natural order. It is already a contravention of the status quo. And it’ll only get moreso in the coming year(s). Write despite. You needn’t aim any higher than that. You can. But the best thing you can do is to give yourself that mandate:

Write no matter what, write anyway, write always.

Have a great 2017. Carve your words into its hide. Tell the monster your tales.

(penmonkey logo above by Amy Houser)

51 comments

  • Indeed. Despite, in spite. And also, out of spite for certain things, people, ideas, and events. Also, out of love, of course. And out of all those other squiggly reasons we have when we sit down to write. Thank you for this post. I loved it.

  • Happy New Year 2017. May 2016 disappear into the rear view mirror to be ignored forever more. I bought three copies of your books for Christmas presents. That said, may the reading be with us as well. My first book is going to be presented to an agent in February. I keep editing and editing and it’s become almost easy to find faults, and just as easy to rewrite them. The second book is begun. Good writing to you and yours and enjoy that monster of small but significant stature. They only go through that stage once.

  • Thank you for this. I needed someone to give me a Braveheart-style battle pep talk. I pictured you with blue paint drying on your face pacing back and forth of the front line of writers. I’m ready.

  • Ah, yes, the battle scene speech. I’ve called it the Henry V talk. Inciting us to do many brave and crazy things. There comes a time when we need to ACT; in my case that means WRITE.

  • Thank you so much for this! 2016 was harsh, but I’m looking for ways to soften the blow in 2017. Words of truth, and much appreciated. Happy New Year to you and yours!

  • The worst part is that the distractions aren’t even that good. It’s made both worlds half-assed. I’m not crazy about what I’m writing, and I don’t really love the distractions when I go there. (I recently received free, early entry to Harry Potter World, which is just 12 minutes up the freeway. I moped around drinking butterbeer and not caring.) What saves me is that, for now, writing is still winning. I write every day, irrespective of whether I love the results.

    Shelley Winters once said about actors that it was like fairies flew over bassinets around the world, chose certain children, sprinkled dust over them, and said, “You will act.” She was talking about the compulsion to act, even when it was wholesale horrible, for whatever reason. She almost hated that she had been chosen, and yet she had to act.

    The same could be said about all artists and, really, anyone passionate about their work. Still, I think it applies in spades to writers. Even when it’s torturous, we write.

    So, I’m gonna accept The Law of the Fairy Dust and write. I just wish the crazy world out there weren’t always hovering behind my head with a sledgehammer. I’d enjoy it more.

    • January 3, 2017 at 12:59 PM // Reply

      Hey, at least there was butterbeer! And you live 12 minutes away from Harry Potter World? Dude, that’s awesome! I hate airplanes so I can’t say that I would spend as much time as I could in Harry Potter World just ’cause I hate the travel part of traveling, but if I lived 12 min away and got free entry? I’d be so stoked! I’d probably either write 2,000 words on the spot or be so distracted that the words would be all jumbled up in my head like a swarm of excited bees buzzing around.

  • Thanks so much for this…as I am unpacking after the 7th move since 2007…. I needed this … write in spite/despite…For the last four months, I got lost in the mire of a forced move…. Happy New Year to you. Love that I found your site.

  • Happy New Year. This was in my email and has been for a little while, when you piqued my interest over something. And, this morning your words were wholesome for me, like good food. I am so tired of getting yelled at by artists and peers. I feel like I was brutalized twice, the second time by a lot of people I love and admire, who in panic and human obligation began to thrash like unmanned chain saws, tearing me to threads from the knees down, disconnecting my feet from the ground and dropping me like chunk wood. So the ink drawing and the column was helpful to me. Thanks I appreciate the balm of conversation over the screeching sleepless rants. With regard, gsr.

  • It was a real struggle to write in 2016, especially toward the end. And I do mean The End. You know, after a certain day in November. But I am striving toward just this–to write, and live my life well, despite it all.

  • My personal writing goal this year is to turn inward with my writing. More journaling. More poetry. More self-exploration.
    I wanted to take a complete break from fiction but I’m beginning to wonder if that’s even possible for me!

  • “Your art does not need to be rebellious for you to rebel against everything” Men i have to fight against the writers block in 2017. 2016 was so bad for me personally and professionally and i think this article has motivated my soul

  • January 1, 2017 at 4:42 PM // Reply

    Sweet Chuck, you worry too much. Be of good cheer. Embrace the positive in your real world, not in the boob tube imaginosphere. Think about putting the tv in the basement for a year. What’s real…oh Chuck, it is laughter in your home, birds flying, the wind in the summer trees, the funny clerk at your local grocery store….things you can touch and smell, near to your skin.

    As for the Shadow, it will be defeated, and after a respite it will rise again, because that’s the Shadow’s work. Your work is elsewhere., your path under your own 2 feet. Look there. Be at peace.

  • My goal for this year is to do absolutely zero writing in the social media space. I’ve deleted my personal Twitter account and pinned a post on Facebook letting people know they can’t reach me there. For all of the positive potential of social media, I have come to conclusion it is only providing a megaphone to ignorance and hate. The amount of negative energy created on social media is staggering. I’m done with it.

  • I’m re-noodling the unwritten history of the USC in my story’s universe to fit the current, and potentially, near future events. It meant rewriting just a single paragraph in the short story that I’m writing. Which I will publish this year. Yes, I’ve said that to people for the past two years, but I mean it this time.

  • Thanks for this, Chuck! While 2016 gave me much appreciated recognition for my first novel, it also kicked my ass health-wise…a couple of times…which derailed further writing progress for a while. Finally, when I started to get back on track, election news sucked the creative juice right out of me. I’ve appreciated your blogs of late (and before that too, but especially of late). Thanks for expressing so frankly what so many of us feel.

    In 2017, I’m determined to write despite the distractions and hope to make it a year of growth and new adventures…and better health. Wishing you and yours all the best in 2017 as well.

  • Sometimes what I really need is a reminder to write despite myself. When I started writing, I never thought the hard part would be overcoming all the BS inside my own skull. Thanks for another kick in the pants.

  • Great resolution, one I’m including in mine. I want to push myself and my writing this year and submit more work for publication. Love the image of calving my words into its hide.

  • Simple advice is often the most useful. I had a lean spell towards the end of 2016 but I picked it up again yesterday.
    I will keep writing.
    Good luck to all in 2017!

  • Thank you for this well timed post, just what I needed today! Along with a kick up the backside too. I think 2017 will be a totally different year, as I can feel it happening already!

  • “Write, despite” has been my motto since before the beginning of the election cycle. I pulled myself from social media and un-subbed from all news outlets because it was making me nervous and irritable. Since then I have done nothing but keep writing. I don’t pay attention to what’s going on the larger world. My wife gives me the information that I need to know and I live without the rest.

    OK, that’s sounds pretty extreme, and it is, but understand that I’m a Desert Storm vet and my life dictates that I have to take extreme measures. Maybe the average person can get by with a few filters in their social outlets. If that’s you, then go for it; but I can’t be around the stuff at all, it’s like acid that eats through the bars of my mind-cage and releases my inner rage monster.

  • Good pep talk, Coach Chuck. I think I might like ” I don’t want resolutions. I want revolutions.” on a t-shirt to be worn every New Year’s Eve.

  • He says it so memorably now and he said it so memorably back then.
    One from the 2013 Chuck archives..

    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.

  • This. Thank you for putting this into words.

    This is exactly why I wanted to kick myself in the butt and write this year. This election was almost like the call to action in stories. I can’t do anything about the world, but if something grabs me by the FEELS and won’t let go, well, I can write. If circumstances drag me down, I can get back up and write.

    Besides, if words have power, why NOT use them?

  • I cannot currently find the words to tell you how fucking kick-arse this post is, Chuck. I have to rate this the best New Years post, and among the best writing posts I’ve ever read.

  • Thank you for articulating the rage, the despair–and the solution. I’ve questioned the validity and the usefulness of my work in light of current events, but as you said, art in itself is an act of rebellion. We can turn up the light with or words and our art.

  • I’ve already been doing this to a degree (writing despite work sucking up a great deal of my time and trying to drive me insane). I’ll just have to take things to the next level. This is, essentially, my goal for the year–this and guilt-free writing, because feeling guilty over missing a day or two just causes me to miss more because I feel bad.

  • I have assigned myself a multi-part writing goal which boils down to “take this seriously.”

    That said, I also think I may need to make a REVOLUTION NOT RESOLUTIONS tee shirt.

  • Whenever 2017 gets to me, I will stare into the eyes of this Penmonkey GIF. I have a suspicion it’s actually one of those Magic Eye pictures, and if I stare at it for long enough I will see you, Chuck, holding a pen aloft and looking stern but resolute. Thanks for the much-needed butt-kick, sir!

    And here’s wishing a transformative New Year to everyone. In the much-needed good way, not the bad way!

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