I Resolve...Not To Resolve...But To Change
During these few days of the year, many people are focused on making resolutions and goals for 2005. They plan to lose weight or exercise more. As writers, we tend to focus our plans around publishing and the amount of material we want to see in print. Through the years, I've tried to make these types of resolutions and I've discovered they rarely work. Oh, they might work for a few days or a few weeks, then I begin to lose my resolve and the goal slips away into oblivion and is never accomplished.
This year, I've decided to take a different stance on resolutions. I'm resolving not to resolve. I will not take any evalution time to make a list of promises or plans for myself. Instead, I'm going to handle it in a general attitude check manner. I'm going to resolve to continue to change and grow.
For many years, I've been in the writing and publishing business. My serious take on it began in high school or about thirty years ago. If you want to read about one of the most dramatic moments in my career, then check out Two Words That Changed My Life. Suffice it to say I've seen many changes in publishing. After many words in print and many books in print, it's easy to lure yourself into thinking that you have it all figured out and you've arrived. Not true. If I believed it, I would fool myself into complacency and not need to grow or learn anything.
I'm renewing my plans to continue changing and growing as a writer and editor during the year ahead. It's better than any resolution. Here's a sample of the areas where I'm going to continue learning and growing as a writer.
Reading: If I don't take into my brain and heart through reading, then I will not have much to give out in words to others. I've had a lifetime pattern of reading the daily newspaper cover to cover. Currently we live in the Phoenix area and each day I read the Arizona Republic. During the last few years, I've been reading many more magazines. I'm reading in preparation to write for different publications but also to be absorbing information about my world. Also I'm reading books -- in a variety of genres. I read a great deal of nonfiction but I also read a number of novels in different genres. The information keeps me up on my world. The most important book that I will faithfully read throughout the year is the One Year Bible. This type of tool keeps me in the Book each day. I plan to continue growing in this area of my life.
Craft: While I've learned a great deal in the past years about publishing, I continue to discover new aspects of craft that I can improve. I'm constantly working to be a better storyteller in my nonfiction writing--whether a long book or a short magazine article. Also I continue to learn about publishing law and contracts. In some cases, I represent the publisher with a contract offer to an author or a literary agent. Other times, I need to review my own contract from a publisher. Because I've been on both sides of the negotiations, I understand that when I sign my contracts, only my name is at the bottom of the page (not my agent or editor). There are many more things for me to learn in the days ahead about the craft of writing and the craft of publishing.
Trends: One of the ways I continually change is to keep up on some of the trends in the publishing world. A good place to begin is with Publisher's Lunch--a free publication with articles and information about who is doing what. Also I subscribe to Publisher's Weekly and try to read most of each issue. Other great resources in this area are CBA E-News or Christian Etailing Newsletter. I look at each of these resources on a regular basis to keep learning and growing. It's part of my on-going growth process.
Books About Writing: Also during the coming year, I will continue to read books about writing to improve my skills. For example, currently I'm reading Page After Page by Heather Sellers. Here you can read a short excerpt. Also I'm almost finished with a great new book on some fiction fundamentals from James Scott Bell called Plot and Structure. Here's a short excerpt from this book. These types of books help me grow and continue to change as a writer and editor. For many years, I've been averaging to read one how-to book about writing each month.
Watch Less TV: As a general rule, I plan to watch less TV in the days ahead and do more reading. I understand this type of action goes against the norms for our world but there are many important ideas contained in books and it's the world where I'm working day in and day out.
Exercise/ Diet: Have you ever noticed when they release the bulk of the diet books? It's in January when most people make those resolutions. Several years ago I wrote one of those books on a crash schedule called First Place. It's still in print and doing well for the publisher. I fell into long work habits and poor eating habits and bulked up in terms of my weight. Over a year ago, my wife purchased a South Beach Diet book at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'll be the first to admit I've not been perfect at the diet--but I have given up most of my carb foods and my weight is considerably lower. An editor who I worked with at another publisher saw me for the first time in months and said I looked ten years younger. I've also been working out on our treadmill regularly for the past year. I'm committed to regular exercise and working on my diet. It's a part of my lifestyle change and keeping my health--and my stamina for writing and editing.
First Things First: Above the other aspects that I've listed. Also I'm going to spent time with my wife and love my family in the year ahead to the best of my ability. Yes, writing is important but I'm going to keep growing as a writer and editor in the fuller context of my life.
I'm realistic in that I will not handle everything right in these areas of my life. But I'm determined to continue growing and changing and learning as a writer and editor. It's the best stance I can take for the year(s) ahead.