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.
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 —
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 —
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.