Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Few 2014 Resolutions...and Confessions

I had a lot of time to think about New Year's Resolutions this week. After a visit with my son, his wife, and my granddaughters in their New England home, I was stuck in an airport hotel Thursday through Saturday thanks to a big snowstorm that arrived right before my schedule flight home. Propped on the hotel bed as a blizzard swirled against the window, I did crosswords in the new Simon & Schuster crossword puzzle book I received for Christmas. I read some books on my Kindle. I watched movies and old shows on the TV Land channel. I gave myself a manicure. I soaked in the tub. I watched the snow accumulate and cloak the world in an ermine mantle. I drank cup after cup of coffee and tea. I raided the vending machine. I played Sudoku on my Kindle, and Mahjong, and Spider Solitaire, and Word Twist....

On the practical side, I tried making lists of chores to do when I arrived home. I categorized them and rank-ordered them. I came up with some new projects to do around my house and then remembered all the old ones I hadn't completed. There was a lot of crossing out of items and revising others. There was doodling and designing and planning. There was a nap here and there and an occasional visit to the hotel restaurant and, afterwards, a walk through the airport and hotel.

Finally, I scribbled a few career goals for 2014. Call them a freelance writer's New Year's Resolutions--those ambitious promises we make to ourselves every January. I make them every year, but they're not always as formalized as they are this year, thanks to that persistent snowstorm and bitter cold that kept me confined. Cabin fever begets good ideas.

Here are some of the grand plans!

  • Become more disciplined about my writing time, as in: "I will write two to four hours a day every weekday." Yeah, I'm all over the place with writing commitment. My adjunct teaching schedule is one of the reasons, as is the freelancity of my work, but I tend to use these as excuses. Some days I work an hour. Other days it's a respectable four to six hours. Still other days, I work all day, lose track of time and space, forget the basics like getting dressed and brushing my teeth, eating, and going to bed. Occasionally, days go by without a single finger tapping the keyboard. I do need to get more consistent.
  • Finish one article before starting another! Actually, I don't want this to happen, at least not totally. Having several articles in the works at once is a good thing. It keeps me excited and revitalized; it's brain fitness. Those handy yellow folders on Windows make organizing the articles pretty easy. I learn a lot. I diversify. One topics sometimes breaks into many. But, the chase is often more fun than the capture. At some point, I need to quit the chase and finish an article, not continue to file notes and images and ideas about it. I need to get better about the capture...and the sale.
  • Learn to use voice recognition software. I've been putting off this chore. It's the "learning" part that I'm avoiding. I dislike mastering new technology. I know once I get the hang of it, it'll be a really useful tool and I'll wonder how I lived without it. It's just getting to that point that's the chore. I have scads of old articles in print that need to be converted to electronic copies. I could hand type them, but voice recognition would make the chore so much easier. And writing an article might turn out to be easier with voice rather than pen. Who knows?
  • Do a better job marketing myself and my work. I took an eBook course last year (about this time of year, in fact) and learned that I was woefully poor at self-marketing. I went home with a pile of homework. This blog, book trailers for You Tube, and my author Facebook page were among the assignments. One of my publishers kindly branded my name a few years back, so I should run with that. "Invent oneself!" was my eBook instructor's mantra.
  • Post an article on this blog at least twice a week. A blog survives on new material. Like a car, it needs fresh fuel to keep running. I know that. I've been working on that of late. The holidays and travel derailed my effort a bit, but here I am writing a blog entry today. I'm doing it! (I even read a how-to book about blogging on the plane heading to New England last week.)
  • Keep up with receipts for my writing business, and especially keep up with my mileage logbook and daily activity journal. It's homework, and I dislike it. But it has to be done. It's a good snapshot of my work days and how efficiently I run my freelance writing business. I so often forget to log mileage when I'm traveling to a speaking engagement or going to a library or museum for research, or even heading to Staples to buy supplies. Some days, I neglect to take time to list the chores for the day and cross them off as they're completed. (It's more fun to sit down and just write!) It all counts; it's important. Uncle Sam isn't much interested in what I write, but he absolutely wants me to account for my time and money! (So does Linda, my tax preparer.)
  • Read more for pleasure. I love to read. I read a lot, and I read a variety o fprint and electronic media and topics. But seldom do I read strictly for fun. Even a novel ends up being a note-taking activity. I find words I like, historical info, imagery, fun literary devices, and ideas...always lots of ideas. I'm not sure I can read anything anymore without a note pad and pencil. I'm so accustomed to interacting with print in a very physical way. Before the holidays, I downloaded a lesser-known Willa Cather novel on my Kindle. I'm determined to read it just for fun, without a scribe's tools!
  • Finally, once again, I resolve to not eat in my office at my desk. I MUST force myself to take a break for meals and snacks. I'd do this if I worked in an office somewhere else, not in my home. Here, I find it so easy to dine at my desk. My resolution: Get up and walk away from the work and the office, give it a break, let ideas rest and rhythms be broken. It's healthier. Will I do it? (Hmmm. Eating crackers as I write this....)

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