Today is my birthday, and if you’ve been following this intermittent, rarely-updated blog of mine, then you know that I like to use my birthday as a day of reflection. I look at the year behind me and the years I have left ahead of me and I adjust how I spend my time. It helps that my birthday is so close to New Year’s Eve. It allows me to make New Year’s Eve resolutions without actually admitting to doing so.
This year was a year of reckoning for me in many ways. I had a serious Come to Jesus meeting with myself and I gave myself a good talking to about priorities when all was said and done. You see, in my other life, my job revolves around politics. And, as you can imagine, this was a big year for politics. To put it simply — politics ate my life in 2012. Days, nights, weekends, holidays… politics ate them all. After finishing my latest book in February, just in time for the primaries, there was precious little time left for writing, friends or exercise. Life pretty much consisted of work, more work and, happily, my amazing teenage daughter. It was fine while it was happening, it was just my life, but now that it is all over I find myself out of balance, out of energy and in need of some serious reallocation of how I spend my time and energy. The truth is: I miss my writing. It keeps me sane.
I’m not built for doing one thing and one thing only with my life. I get bored and distracted and, yes, I admit it — there may be more than a touch of ADHD going on. This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I want to be at the party. I want to be alone. I want Rocket Man to move over and let me drive. My Yin and my Yang have always battled over which will control my life. They probably always will. People, can’t we all just get along?
A case in point: I have a ferocious ability to concentrate on the task at hand. And I do mean ferocious. Just ask my (still wonderful) ex-husband, Andy, who used to play cow punk rock with his musician friends in our one-room New York City apartment while I wrote my books less than 10 feet away. If you don’t think this is impressive, then clearly you have never heard Warner Hodges of Jason and the Scorchers play guitar.
But, unfortunately for me, my ability to concentrate is accompanied by a need to juggle a whole lot of balls in the air at one time. I like having lots of interests and I like learning new things. The mountainous stack of nonfiction books on my bedroom side table proves it. Do I ever actually finish reading these books? No. But I do read enough to know that I’m not missing out on anything exceptionally interesting, entertaining or terrifying (go ahead, ask me anything about pandemics — seriously, I dare you). The more projects/topics/passions, the merrier. Isn’t life an all-you-can-eat buffet? I like all the choices life gives you. And I admit it: they’re a great distraction from the everyday problems of life.
Now that I’m older, with the wisdom that comes with it, I try to accommodate these quirks and coping mechanisms in myself. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam. Writing helps soothe the conflicting urges within me. Every time I dive into a new novel, I get the opportunity to live in a whole new world. It’s a necessary drug for me.
That’s why, this year, my birthday resolutions all have to do with writing. Yes, this year, I publicly resolve to:
- Finally release that series of Casey Jones short stories I’ve been working on,
- Finish the Casey Jones novel I’ve had in progress for several years, and
- Release a stand-alone novel that, at this point, has been polished more times than a 1972 Lincoln Continental.
I have other writing projects in mind, including a serial novel with my fellow authors at the Thalia Press Authors Co-op, but I dare not fall into the trap of making a long To Do List. I can get lost in my To Do lists. It can take me months to find my way back from them. This is a habit I inherited from my mother. To Do Lists made her feel more in control of an essentially uncontrollable process: life. But this year I resolve to plan less and do more. Because, this year, I learned something about myself that has opened the door to many other realizations.
It happened at a most unlikely time, as these things in life tend to, when I was deep into my political work and little else in the world seemed to exist. I bumped into an older, distinguished member of our board at a political meeting and he asked me what I was up to. When I delivered the answer — an insanely long list of pending projects with immediate deadlines — he made what was, to him, an offhand remark, but to me had the potential to change my life.
“I think you’re a lot like me,” he said. “If I’m given a thimble of work, I will make a cup of it.”
Wow. If that’s not me to a T, I don’t know what is. I hate doing things the same old way. I love trying out new approaches, trying to do things better, trying to kill a dozen birds with one stone. My friend Risa Foster would argue — indeed, did argue — that this is what makes me so effective. Well, maybe. Sometimes it just makes me crazy. So this year, I also resolve to get some things done without approaching each task like the search for the Holy Grail — and to be a better judge of which thimbles of work deserve to be made into cups.
I hope you’ll help me. I had a lovely birthday present this year. Somehow, after years of floating around, the second book in my Casey Jones series ended up trending on some of the Amazon bestseller lists starting the night before my birthday. A lot of new readers were brought into the fold within the space of 24 hours. If you happen to be one of them, or you are one of my long-time readers who wants to help me stick to my resolutions about writing, I hope you will post about my books on reader blogs or anywhere else where readers gather. That will help me stick to my guns about my writing. Nothing motivates me more than knowing that there are people out there waiting for me to write more books.
So, Happy Birthday to me. And Happy New Year to you. May we all resolve to read just a little bit more in 2013. May we all resolve to know ourselves just a little bit better in 2013. And may we all find the time for friends, family and joyous pursuits in the coming year.
Otherwise, I ask you: what’s the point?