In recent months, I've ascribed to the theory that building habits is more effective for me than setting goal deadlines. (Thanks, Zen Habits.) Solid habits are critical for ADHD-ers like me. Routines get things done. So, Bengal and I were working on our Lego projects the other day, and were chatting about what we want to do this year. He wants to set up a college savings account, clever boy. Totally unprompted, I might add. I think he understands that MIT is pretty pricey.
Here's my 2012 list, in no particular order:*
1) Stop obsessing about about crime and murder. My professional crime obsession has greatly increased my already substantial paranoia. Every car that turns around in our driveway is full of home invaders. Every panel van is a serial-killer van. Every time one of my kids leaves the house I'm certain they're not coming back. Every dry cleaning bag suffocates. Every one of my fiction plots has death in it. I'm coming to realize that the world is oddly full of non-murder. I think it's called life. I'm not sure, but I think I might like it.
2) More and better writing. I want more life in my work. I want more honesty, and less restraint in it. I want to put a gag on my internal editor until I'm ready to let her loose on my messy drafts. I've never had a really messy draft. It's time, I think. No more prissy writing. I want messy and delicious. I want writing that hums with emotional torque.
3) More publishing. So much want, here. At some point, I'll tell you how traditional publishing broke my heart. It's an old, sad story that, these days, is oft-told by many good writers. I'm ready to get past my broken heart. I dithered for almost two years, feeling sorry for myself b/c my glorious, glorious contract ended with a pathetic whimper that didn't even include a paperback of novel #2. All I can say is that I'm grateful that I got the cash up front. That sounds cold, yes? Well, whatever. I busted my ass to promote my work. Seriously. No one worked harder than I did. And sales were respectable, but not good enough to sell the next novels. I can't say that I won't go panting after another contract when I get finished with the first novel of the series I've begun (thisclose, I tell you), but I'm going rogue for book #3. It's kick-ass, and it will be out in January, God-willing. I have amazing, amazing people helping me with the editing, cover, format, etc. I want to give it the chance it deserves. Am also putting out every short story I've written worth publishing. Plus audio. I have secret plans and clever tricks to come that even include a logo. Count on it.
I'm also going to stop fretting about what the hell genre I write in. I don't write a genre. I write stories. Generally speaking, they're intense and scary. Sometimes they're not so scary. I spent a lot of years worrying about where people would find my work in a bookstore. Now there are electronic tags for fiction. I can cross genres easily. I won't say it wasn't a thrill to go into BN and find my books on the Mystery Table. But it was a real bummer to get tons of emails from people whose Aunt Fanny swooned when she got to the part where someone's head got half-sawed off of his neck. It's funny to me now to go into a big box bookstore and see who is filed in the ginormous Fiction/Literature section, and who is squeezed into Horror, Fantasy, and Mystery. These tags have plagued writers for way too long. When did that happen, anyway? The idea of some bright boy MBA in the '70s I bet.
4) More reading. I don't read enough. Time to set some reading goals. My attention span is about 30 seconds long these days. (I remember that in the years running up to the Big M, my mother complained about the same thing, and rarely read books. Now she's again a fiend for them.) I have to remind myself to read sometimes, which is weird because I've spent most of my life as a book junkie. I think that a small part of it is being too able to see the bones of books. I'm stupidly particular. That said, there are some astonishingly good writers on the block, now. Fortunately, I've managed to stop measuring every writer against Cormac McCarthy and Joyce Carol Oates standards. That was a big problem for me as a younger writer. My tastes have broadened considerably, and I'm so grateful for the change. Louise Penney, a cozy writer, is one of my current favorites. But I also like John Hart, and edgy guys like Anthony Neil Smith. Jim Thompson is still a favorite. Then there's non-fiction. I love books on art history, and, uh, disturbed people (like serial killers).
5) Review and promote others' work. (This really should be 4a). I miss reviewing books. I made a (very tiny) living from it once upon a time. Belonged to the NBCC and everything. I want to start reviewing here on the blog and reposting on bookseller sites. I've been watching, and it's pretty evident that people read those reviews before they purchase. I want to help make sure that books I like get read. And sell. Here's my problem: I take reviewing very seriously. Unlike some professional reviewers I've known, I feel compelled to read the entire book before I review it. Crazy, huh? Then I want to be fair. Again, the perfectionist thing. Again, the internal editor just needs to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP. If I read a book, I'm going to review it somewhere, in some small way. Or large if I find it deserving. (Told you I was particular.)
6) I want to get the whole, stupid menopause thing over with. Approaching it is like being on a jerky, uncontrolled, hormone-fueled sleigh ride in and out of hell and back again. And I haven't even had a hot flash, yet. Ridiculous. I may want this in 2012, but it's not going to happen this year, is it? I'm only 49. Damn. Just slap me if I suddenly take up wearing purple caftans, and start maundering on about improving herbs. That is so not hot.
7) I want to have more fun. This includes playing golf and playing the piano. I suck at both. I'm terribly shy about performing around people. I would just as soon play the piano with headphones on so no one else could hear me. I took lessons for 7 years, but was too embarrassed to practice as much as I needed to. My last recital was a humiliating disaster. But I love playing classical music, even if I can't get my fingers to move fast enough. My daughter plays Chopin in a way I can only dream of, and I love to listen to her. I yearn to play again, myself. Lessons are probably in order.
Golf? I have a very complicated relationship with any kind of sport. Again, the performance anxiety. Golf isn't meant to be played alone. Given that I'm 49 years old, you would think I could get over it. I want to stop hounding myself to only get better and better. That just keeps me from trying at all. I just want to be comfortable going out with friends (or like-minded strangers) and hitting the ball with a stick as few times as possible in order to get it into the hole. Also, I like to walk the golf course. Carts annoy me. Everyone drives carts. Bleh.
8) Legoland. Bengal and I both want to go to Legoland near San Diego. I want us to go as a family before he turns 13. Poor Opera Poodle and I didn't get to American Girl Place in Chicago until she was sixteen or so. We had a lot of fun, but felt a tad goofy sitting at lunch with our selected dolls beside us while we ate our chicken salad in the pink and white dining room. Wish I could've taken her there when she was 8. So, Legoland is a must. Also, Virginia. We need to go home this summer. This is on Bengal's list, too.
9) Scotland. Given the big jaunt to Legoland, I'm going to start planning a trip to Scotland in 2012, and go in 2013. I want to look at castles and Edinburgh and walk in the countryside. I also want to go to the Orkneys where our friends Duncan McClean and Ingrid Tait live. Duncan told us once that they have a day in July that quite resembles summer. I'll aim for that.
10) Do some small stop-motion films. The form intrigues me. I made one years ago with Barbie climbing on and off of the back of a giant bird. Surreal opportunities abound. Though I think some will definitely involve Legos. And headless dolls.
11) Get my mojo back. I've been in a slump, mentally and physically. I take a very small amount of regular medication for my raging anxiety, and doubt that I'll ever be able to be off of it, or something similar. It helps. But exercise and sufficient sleep are equally helpful. Sleep, especially. I have a rotten habit of staying up way too late and getting up early. That's hard on the mind, and the skin. (Wrinkles suck, and I come from a long line of wrinkly, wise women. I apply lots of unguents.) Exercise. Who doesn't need it? (Well, I know one slender, popular writer who avoids it like the plague, but she's going to look pretty saggy here in about 5 minutes. Heh.) So, a new sleeping habit of 7.5 hours/night. I've joined Fitocracy and am posting on FB to shame myself into keeping up the workouts. Shame. There's just not enough shame in the world these days. So effective.
That all sounds very virtuous, doesn't it? My true goal is to look fabulous for my husband's 30th prep school reunion. I know there will be lots of cool, Manhattan blondes there, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be the matronly frump in the room. Honesty feels so good.
12) Grow a spine. You would think I'd have one by now. But I'm a freaking pushover. I overpay people. Workmen show up late if they show up at all. It's weird, because I've heard that many people are afraid of me when they meet me. I think it's because I look kind of stuck-up. I've heard that all my life. Really, I'm just kind of shy. I may look tough, but I'm too nice to yell. I'm working to find a middle ground.
13) Promote my work. It's hard to think about doing this on my own. When my first two books came out, I enjoyed at least the illusion of corporate support behind me--and there was indeed a small amount. But for the next novel and a few projects, it's just me and my DH, Pinckney. And he's very busy getting our bills paid and teaching the mysteries of writing, the saint. I find the notion of pimping myself slightly terrifying. But, in truth, I adore a big, fat challenge. I can do this.
14) Spend less time online. Seems a contradiction given #13, doesn't it? Life happens online, just as it does offline. It's fun. It's freeing. It can even be anonymous. I love, love, love having mini-relationships with people I've never met in the offline world. It's a kick to fall into the twitter stream and ease into casual conversation. People support one another in small ways that mean a lot. I always learn something new through links and even 140 character stories. I used to think of it as a cyber cocktail party, but it's more than that. It's a fluid community. But sometimes I find myself drawn to the computer instead of my nuclear family. That disturbs me. My kids won't be kids forever. And as much as I enjoy my online friends, cuddling with my DH is always a better time. Also, I get overwhelmed by all the writing/publishing stories. They're occasionally motivating, but I get distracted from my writing way, way too easily. I also start comparing myself and my career. At that point it's time to turn off the data tap.
15) Cook dinner more often and entertain more. Two of my loves. Healthy for the body, and soul.
16) Pare down my clothes. I have too many. Too many fat clothes. Too many skinny clothes. Both sets piss me off too often.
17) Treasure the people I love and honor the divine in everyone I meet. (Unless they're a murderer, of course, or drive a psycho van.) I do the best I can in this area, but there's always room for more. Don't you agree?
It's an ambitious list, and yet it's not. I think it's doable.
Do you have a list? A spreadsheet? Please do tell. I'm very curious...
*I didn't lay all this on poor Bengal. Just the trips and the cooking more goal. Being 12 is hard enough.