Thursday, January 25, 2018

Resolution


Keith Davenport

I like this resolution
             ... though it's similar to one I had three years ago.

For 2018, instead of focusing on who I am, 
                    I'd like to find out what I'm capable of.

New Year's resolutions are a prickly subject. For lots of folks, the only acceptable resolution is not to make resolutions! Does that describe you? It's easy to understand why, when only 8% of New Year's resolutions are successful. Why set yourself up for failure?

According to one poll, the three most common resolutions for 2018 were eating healthier, getting more exercise, and saving more money. In another poll the top spot was shared by weight loss and being a better person. "Being a better person"...? What does that even mean? While most resolutions are well-meant, they're not typically well-planned. Commitment to change requires preparation, not just a fresh start and good intentions. I'm proud of the fact that I've lost 30 pounds over the last several months by eating healthier and getting more exercise, but did it come about because of a New Year's resolution? Heck no.

I happen to like resolutions, but only after I've taken stock of my life and put significant thought and effort into what my priorities are, and how I'm going to carry them out. Generalities like "being a better person" just don't cut it. I need my resolutions to be specific, reasonable, and achievable. That doesn't mean they can't or shouldn't be challenging, but with all the disappointments this world has been doling out lately, the last thing I need is to break a promise I've made to myself.





















Back in November, a friend of mine—author, professor, and Huffington Post columnist Stephanie Vanderslice—asked me if I had a writing resolution for 2018. After some thought, here's what I came up with:
While I've been blessed with an active and loyal blog following, I've also become a bit too comfortable. The time has come to be more proactive with my writing career. As a resolution, I've taken my cue from "2018"—complete 2 poetry collections (zero excuses!) and submit my work at least 18 times during the year.

I think that's doable. Though I'm not going to lie, I've been more than a bit nervous about returning to blogging because it tends to soak up my writing time like a sponge. This is not the first time I've tried to make changes to the blog to allow for more personal writing and submitting. Establishing new habits is a fragile undertaking at the best of times, but this year I've also got the aforementioned new exercise routine to consider, a son heading off to college, parents who are planning to move down here, plus all the usual everyday "grown-up blah-blah" as my son used to call it. This time things feel different, though, like the stars are aligned and I'm ready for whatever comes my way. Already well into drafting my first 2018 poetry manuscript, I sure hope so. This would not be a good time to lose my mojo or momentum!

Available at Amazon.com.
My writing resolution was published Wednesday as part of a social media campaign to promote Stephanie's new book The Geek's Guide to the Writing Life: An Instructional Memoir for Prose Writers (Bloomsbury Academic, December 2017). I highly recommend it—especially for beginning writers, but also for folks like me who suffer from recurring bouts of insecurity. Am I a prose writer? No, not really, but poets can also benefit from the strategies discussed.

In Stephanie's own words:

...writing life books are kind of like pep talks; we all need them once in a while to remind us of the difficulty and the importance of what we're trying to do.


This particular "pep talk" covers the nuts and bolts of what it takes to have a writing career. It includes everything from making the commitment and doing the work, to connecting with readers and finding your tribe, continuing education and making a living, and even platform building and finding an agent. Plus it has an appendix chock full of valuable resources. What I especially like is that the book is written in a way that's as warm, compassionate, and funny as it is practical, well-organized, and informative. Stephanie comes across as a friend... which she is. But even if she wasn't, she would be after reading this book! Her guidance comes from a place of honesty, integrity, nurturing, and experience, drawing from years as a Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Arkansas Writer's MFA Workshop at the University of Central Arkansas, and from publishing fiction, nonfiction, and her regular column for the Huffington Post called "The Geek's Guide to the Writing Life."

To give you a taste, here's the opening paragraph of Chapter 1—Making the commitment:
You don't always choose writing. Sometimes writing chooses you. Sometimes it grabs you by the lapels, gets in your face, and keeps you awake at night, assuring you won't rest until you get your thoughts down, somehow. Sometimes it just feels like a constant malaise, a low-grade depression, like you're forgetting something, leaving something behind, by not writing. Sometimes it feels like a slow building up of thoughts and words until it feels as if your head, or your heart, might burst. You know you have to do something. You just don't know how or what.

Which brings me to my "one little word" for 2018—RESOLVE—as in, I resolve to find out what I am capable of.

What are you capable of?

Let's make it happen together.


The Ditty of the Month Club returns next week! Sharpen your pencils and get ready to write!









It's great to be back and making the Poetry Friday rounds again. Join Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink for this week's roundup.





58 comments:

  1. Great poem and post today, Michelle. I like your approach to resolutions and goals. I personally like resolutions that account for the fact that I'm just not going to be perfect, but that I can adjust and get back on track. Good luck this year!

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    1. That's so important, Rebecca. I find that I'm constantly having to "forgive" myself for not meeting my own high expectations. Perfect is definitely overrated.

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  2. Good food for the soul here Michelle! Sounds like you have your work cut out for you and your trajectory has taken flight. I'm also glad "time no longer swallows" you "whole," and boy that's a lot of chewing–a resolution with some humor sprinkled in, thanks!

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    1. Food for the soul, huh? (I see what you did there!) I must have been hungry when I wrote this poem. ;)

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  3. Great Resoution, Michelle! I like how specific you are. I am finding it makes me a little anxious to think of specifics in my own writing life (time and energy problems!)--so bravo to you. You got this!

    Also,congrats on the weight loss--it's hard work. I bet the discipline and motivation that requires and inspires will carry over to the other parts of your life.

    So appreciative of the time you put into inspiring others at TLD and the space you provide for writers to practice being brave in a supportive environment.

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    1. Thanks, Bekah. :) I agree with your thought about how the discipline and motivation probably carry over into other areas. But definitely, being kind to yourself comes first! The last thing you want to do is have your goals feel like chores. I'm just grateful that you like hanging out at TLD to have some fun and try new things.

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  4. Michelle, I'm so happy you are putting 2 poetry mss front and center of your resolutions... you can do this! I think we get in our own way so often, allowing other things to distract us from our primary purpose... accountability helps, as does learning to say "No" and putting one foot forward every day. You're doing it. Yay! xo

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    1. Thanks Irene, for the kind words and for showing me how it's done. You're a wonderful role model. xo

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  5. I LOVE your resolution, Michelle. Everyone who visits your site today needs to share it.

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    1. Thanks so much, Matt. I actually wrote the poem a few years ago, but it still applies. :)

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  6. I agree that specific goals make more sense than general "resolutions." Good luck with your manuscripts and submissions this year. And thanks for the heads up about Stephanie's book -- as you said, we can all use a good pep talk now and again.

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    1. Thanks, Jama! Pep is definitely something that's lacking these days.

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  7. It's great to see you here again, Michelle! Good luck with your ambitious resolutions. For many years, I've told myself that *this* is the year I'll work on a book-length poetry manuscript. You've inspired me -- maybe I'll follow through in 2018!

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    1. That would be terrific, Jesse! I'm sure there's a poetry book out there just waiting for you to write it.

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  8. Your resolution poem is wonderful! I like your resolve about your poetry collections and submission, inspired by the year. Best of luck on those.

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    1. Thanks, Brenda. I'm wondering how your novel is coming along...?

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  9. Welcome back. I went looking for TLD challenge last week forgetting you were on break. I like the goal of 18 poetry submissions. I may resolve to join you. My OLW is SEEK since I am having a total change of carree. I need to find that book

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    1. Excellent, Jone! I'll be glad for the submissions company. (Submissions are probably where I fall short the most.) I've only managed one so far this year, so I have quite a few to go! Hope you find what you seek this year.

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  10. I am friends with Stephanie on Facebook as a friend of a friend kind of thing through the writing project. I am thinking of getting this book for everyone in my writing group. Would it be that kind of book? Your post resonated with me as I think many of us struggle with how to really be the writer we want to be. I'm glad you will stick around here for a while.

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    1. Small world! I met Stephanie in undergrad— Connecticut College. It's hard for me to answer whether it would be good as a group study since I don't know what your writing group is like. What I would suggest is find the book on Amazon and click on the Look Inside feature. The Table of Contents is there plus most, if not all, of the lengthy introduction. The introduction will not only give you a flavor of the book, but it summarizes what is discussed in each chapter. I think that will probably help you to make your decision.

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  11. Great post Michelle. I'm not one to make my resolutions until I've lived in the new year for at least a few weeks. That way I'm more in a mindset of "how can I make this year great" instead of making resolutions based on the perceived failures of the previous year. I'm hoping for a great year for all of us!

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    1. Sounds like a great strategy, David! And yes, cheers to all of us.

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  12. I've been invigorated by your post, Michelle. And your recommendation to find your tribe is right on the money. The best thing that ever happened to my writing was to find my writers group. The best of luck in all your 2018 endeavors!

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    1. Thank you, Diane. I hope 2018 is a great year for you, too!

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  13. Michelle, belated congratulations on publication of your haiku. Great news!

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  14. Such an inspiring post. I've added Geek's Guide to my list of books I want to read. I'm starting off well with my writing resolutions. I'm writing every day. Next is the part that requires me to be brave--to polish and submit writing. I'm not ambitious enough for 18, but maybe 12--one for each month.

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    1. I'm actually more confident about getting two manuscripts drafted than I am about those submissions. 12 is entirely respectable, Kay. I say go for it!

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  15. I can so very much relate to that blogging anxiety thing. It requires so much time - and whilst it is certainly valuable - so are other things. Like writing. And submissions! (And not to mention, family!!) Good on you for putting a number to your submission target. I'll be cheering you on!

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    1. Thanks, Kat. I'll need all the cheerleading I can get!

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  16. I have resolved (not related to the new year) to finish a manuscript that I started a while back, and submit more. Best of luck on achieving your well thought out goals for the year!

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  17. Michelle, resolve is a strong word with a long journey. It is the gentle proddings and the continual spurts of let's keep trying. Your resolution poem showcases the strength of spirit within your heart. I look forward to hear how your one word guides your journey.

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    1. Your description of resolve is spot on, Carol, and so eloquent. How does the saying go? "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Fortunately, I've got myself a good pair of walking shoes. :)

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  18. I always make resolutions, even though I rarely manage to keep them. I can't help it - I'm a hopeless optimist, and I keep thinking that this year will be the one! I think having specific goals really helps - like setting a number of submissions, it really helps you assess how successful you were, and watch yourself grow and progress over the year. And every improvement is an improvement, no matter how small!

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    1. I don't think I've ever specified a number of submissions before, but I do like the fact that I can check them off as I go! It makes the rejections easier to swallow too.

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  19. That poem is just so absolutely wise. For some reason, I really don't do 'resolutions' - I just do what needs changing, and like your poem says .. just live and savor the moment, and simply be present, fully present wherever I am in whatever I do. :)

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    1. I love your positive and mindful attitude, Myra. I hope to get there myself one day. :)

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  20. Change is hard, but I don't think there's a single blog reader who would weep and wail and ask you to never stop doing the things we've loved most here. We are your cheerleaders and we can't wait to see what ELSE you will become...what ELSE you are capable of!

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    1. Would you like to be my guardian angel, Mary Lee? xo

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  21. Your poem, your resolution, your OLW - they all resonate with me, Michelle. I'd like to get to a place in my life where "time no longer swallows me whole". Thanks for sharing your pearls of wisdom. Sending you creative vibes to last the year through... =)

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    1. Sometimes one day at a time is all we can handle, Bridget. Sending you creative vibes, too... also a big hug.

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  22. This post is jam packed with so many nuggets of gold for our writing lives. Your resolution poem is so thought-provoking, and the excerpt from the first chapter of the book you shared has got my wheels turning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and inspiring us to ponder such things as well!

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    1. Wishing you a wonderful and creative 2018, Kiesha!

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  23. Your resolution is admirable and I love your poem. I'm looking forward to reading your posts this year!

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    1. Thank you, Ruth. I look forward to reading yours, as well!

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  24. I love hearing your own personal thoughts and "resolve" Michelle, to explore even more what can be. The book sounds like one that will give me a 'push' too, so I thank you for that. What a special year it's going to be!

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    1. I'm so glad Stephanie's book spoke to you, Linda! Most definitely, let's make this a really great year. :)

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  25. Really enjoyed your poem, M. I look forward to cheering you on!

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    1. I imagine the poem may have sounded familiar, no? All I did was change the background, otherwise it was the same one I sent you back in 2013!

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  26. Love your poem, Michelle, and good for you for getting all fit and healthy-like! Especially over the holidays; you get extra bonus points. "Resolve" is a great word, and you are an inspiration. [And if I see you TOO much on here I might give you a gentle tap on the shoulder and an eyebrow raise, K? K.] XO

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    1. A gentle tap is always welcome from you, Robyn. I appreciate you, my friend. xo

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  27. I'm cheering you on, Michelle! I can relate to the feeling that blogging soaks up writing time; it's why I gave up on my long time homesteading blog. I can't wait to see what you accomplish this year! <3

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    1. Spoken from one who *knows* what it means to be busy and still grow a career! :) I'm so impressed with what you've been able to accomplish, Teresa. I'll be watching you too. xo

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  28. Glad you are back, am firmly in your boat -- I'm the one with the pom poms "WOOT"-ing a lot. You are capable of so very much, which is both a blessing and a curse. Here's to acceptance letters! HUZZAH!

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    1. Thank you, Keri! Your Rah! Rah! Huzzah! is coming though loud and clear. :)

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