The day everyone gives up

Are your resolutions deader than my soul?

I recently wrote about making New Year’s resolutions and why I’ve made them for the past few years. I was going to say I’m superstitious about making them and I suppose that’s true. But the bigger reason I make them is I finally learned how to make them work for me. I make a bunch of them. Some of them stick. Most of them don’t. I feel happy about the ones that stick. I don’t worry too much about the ones that didn’t (I can always try again next year or even next week or next month.)

In that post I had stated, incorrectly as it turned out, that I had made only one resolution that year. I remembered later that I had actually made several but they had all fallen apart except for my writing-related ones and maybe one or two others. I thought of that recently as I watched some of my resolutions just—*poof*—exit my consciousness as if I had never made them at all.

One of my big resolutions, one I started putting into action even before January 1st, was going to Bikram every day. YAWN I KNOW YOGA TALK BLERGH. I knew I wouldn’t realistically go every day but I finally know myself well enough to know that if I plan on doing something every day, I will still do it a lot. It will be easier to count on, I’ll have less time to make excuses in between, and it will become an actual habit.

In almost every class I went to in early January, no matter the instructor, they would each mention that by January 12th most people have given up on their resolutions. I heard this in class on January 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 10th, and 11th (see? not every day! but a lot!) Those classes were P-A-C-K-E-D. And everyone in that room was probably thinking the same thing, “Shah right, not gonna be me giving up on the 12th.” Well, in every class I’ve been to since, there has been more room. I haven’t had nearly as many feet in my face, I haven’t worried about sweating on someone else’s water bottle (eww I know, I DON’T MAKE THE RULES.) This isn’t to pat myself on the back. Although I have made this one resolution work for me and I still feel completely committed to it, I absolutely felt that January 12th shift on other resolutions. Right around then, I gave up on the NYT 30-Day Wellness Challenge. I dropped Headspace—AGAIN—like a hot brain potato, fuck. I’ve made exactly zero progress in figuring out how to feed myself (this is like the 4th year I’ve tried to figure out how to feed myself and not hate food, whoops.)

There doesn’t need to be a whole dissertation on why I failed. Sometimes I just … cannot with this. I didn’t beat myself up over any of the resolutions I bailed on. I felt like, yeah well, I don’t think I want to do those things as it turns out. Or at least not right now. January 1st is as arbitrary as it gets, I can fold in resolutions throughout the year. No one is telling me not to. And when I say “me” I also mean “you,” P.S.

I’ve stuck with one resolution that just uuuuggghhhhhh. I vowed to tackle a 14-year digital photo backlog and I’m not gonna lie, I want to wing myself in front of a train every time I sit down in front of our truly ancient, slow-as-shit desktop to work on it. I can actually feel myself aging as I sit there, my hair growing longer and more coarse like a witch in a hollow tree. But if not now, when? So I’m sticking to it, for now, extremely begrudgingly. I hate doing it. Capital H hyphen capital A hyphen capital T hyphen capital E, what does it spell? HATE MACHINE. But I’ve learned one key thing as I’ve dragged my carcass over to the desktop every weekend—I absolutely have to be doing something else at the same time. One weekend I wrote this newsletter while I was editing photos and it wasn’t … horrible. Another weekend I didn’t and almost started crying from how much I hated that task without something else to distract me.

You don’t have to love everything. You don’t have to do everything. But you will learn something in the process. I guarantee it. (I will not give you anything if this guarantee turns out to be wrong. SEE, YOU ALREADY LEARNED SOMETHING JUST NOW.)

One thing I have been doing and not hating—and I am just going to say right now I’m as proud of myself as a 5 year old—is sticking to my writing resolutions like a goddamn champ. I am simultaneously trying to write short humor, a non-fiction book proposal, a novel, and a TV pilot. I was also trying to do this last year (sort of.) But I constantly felt overwhelmed by the scope of these projects, my varying levels of ignorance or experience, how to even find the time to do these cockamamie things, and of course actually keep working my real job and seeing my children occasionally.

This time I did something very simple. I picked a day in my calendar and named it NOVEL then had it repeat every 4 days. Same with PILOT and BOOK PROPOSAL and SHORT HUMOR. Every day I have to do something on each of these projects. And you guys, this stupid simple system is working. It’s working! I am slowly but surely building word counts and pages, getting humor pieces accepted that I’m taking time to craft, and I’ve passed the first gate of shaping the premise for the pilot. What I’m saying is:

So if you’re a resolutions nerd, hi, I see you. If you’re just a resolutions dabbler, hi, I also see you. You look nice in that sweater. If you have given up on a resolution or a bunch of them, it’s not the end of the world. There is no rule that says you can’t just start over. Or say buh-bye to the resolutions that sucked anyway and start with ones that matter more to you. You can’t care equally about all of the things you want to change or do differently or learn for the first time. You just cannot. It’s impossible. But don’t wait a year to try again. Just give them all a go and see what sticks. What’s the worst that could happen?

• I have new pieces forthcoming in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and The Boston Globe Magazine over the next few weeks. Keep yer eyes peeled! That is a gross saying!
• I AM GOING OUT IN PUBLIC AGAIN: I will be teaching a workshop at the very first Satire and Humor Festival in NYC in March! Enrollment is extremely limited so if you’re interested in getting specific, weird, and tight with me (dirty!) then sign up right here right now. The festival panels, events, and workshops are all very reasonably priced so be sure to check them all out!

• BURNOUT: If you just emerged from your house located under a giant rock, then maybe you somehow missed this excellent piece (don’t let the title put you off, especially if you’re a non-Millennial-aged mother or freelancer or both, ahem) and one of the many responses to it: “I wonder if this zeitgeisty phenomenon — this attempt to define ourselves as the spent, frazzled generation — has become popular because white, upper-middle-class millennials aren’t accustomed to being tired all the time?” excerpted from “This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like” from Buzzfeed.
• PUBLISHING: I’ve had pieces go viral but not, like, Cat Person Viral® which is now a registered trademark I just made up and now own, please pay me. Although I want to hate her and her stupid 7-figure book deal, I really loved this piece and can’t wait to read her dumb book which will probably be excellent also SHUT UP I AM NOT JEALOUS I AM NOT YOU ARE “What It Felt Like When ‘Cat Person’ Went Viral” by Kristen Roupenian in The New Yorker.
• HUMOR: Highly relevant to allllll my interests “Some Notes On Stephen King’s First Attempt at Writing Copy for L.L. Bean” by Rebecca Turkewitz in The New Yorker.
• BEING A BOY: “On the precipice of manhood, Jayden is still sensitive and affectionate. This year for Mother’s Day, he wrote 50 reasons he loved his mom and gave the notes to Norma in a Mason jar. Yet at school, in the workout room, with friends — especially guy friends — he doesn’t exhibit that kind of sweetness. He’s learned to hide his feelings.” An excellent series from The Washington Post. “Age 8: Eliot’s father wants him to be the 8-year-old he is, not what society expects”, “Ages 11 and 12: Navigating a social ecosystem that prizes alpha males over quirky kids”, and “Age 17: As teens grapple with Me Too, Jayden Castillo just wants to be a ‘good guy’”.
• DOCUMENTARY: I stumbled across California Typewriter completely by chance and I am thrilled that I did. I expected it to be interesting but I would’ve never guessed how emotional it would make me. It made me think about technology and what is lost; the creative process and the historical record of editing and revising; obsession and its lesser cousin, “interests”, and how they bind us to unlikely friends; what it means to make an honest living, what it means to have a community, what it means to be beholden to one another; when is tenacity foolishness and when is it honorable; and what are we all trying to hold onto or get back to in our work, in our collections, in our lives. *whew.* I mean, I woke up this morning thinking about it again! And I keep thinking, “Do I need to write my books on a typewriter now and stop fucking around with all this ‘write on a laptop disconnected from the internet’ bullshit?’” I wish it hadn’t leaned quite so hard and so exclusively into the White Male Genius thing but regardless, absolutely worth your time. California Typewriter.
• IDEA CATNIP: If a novelist or screenwriter isn’t already turning this piece into a tour-de-force of a contemporary family/political drama then I don’t understand what we’re all even doing here.

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