New Year’s being a traditional time to make resolutions about one’s life, and my general penchant for fresh starts and improved routines being an ever-present concern, I feel optimistically compelled to participate.
Yet I’ve had some real trouble crafting this blog post. All of last week, it was so hard to do it. It’s not just that we’ve been back at school this week, though we have, and that I’ve been busy with that work, though I have, and that there is an unending list of tasks to do around the house, though there is. None of that is really new. Those circumstances are the fabric on which the tapestry of my life is woven.
I’ve come to accept that making resolutions isn’t really a good idea for me. At least, not in the traditional sense. It’s too easy to set myself up for failure with my overactive ambition. Unlike the NaNoWriMo, which has a defined footprint in time, New Year’s resolutions feel more open-ended, like Very Good Habits I’m Supposed To Cultivate And Then Never Turn My Back On. As with many things, parenting and teaching included, such inflexibility isn’t really healthy or productive; such pronouncements generally lead to greater difficulties down the road.
I had several grand, specific goals which I carefully wrote down at the start of this week. And so far I have neglected to even begin achieving most of them…and continued to resist writing this blog post, which would have enshrined those resolutions and made me accountable to you, dear readers. And I understand what the problem is, of course: it’s too much artificial pressure. Ultimately, I assume, you are not going to mind if I don’t meet those resolutions. If I had to guess, you probably just want the content on this blog, and also my books, to keep coming.
I cannot fault you for that. That’s what I want too.
So I revised my resolutions: I just want to take better care of myself. And how do I do that? Through reading, writing, fitness, and positive political action. Seriously.
During the NaNoWriMo, I just tried to write 350 words a day. I took a few days off during the month when my grandfather died and over the Thanksgiving holiday, but otherwise I managed my goal. There were many days when I exceeded my goal, and when I looked at the end of the month at what I had accomplished, it felt so good! I’m going to keep trying for 350 words a day and see where it gets me. I’m over 20K words into a new novel and would love to see its first draft done by this time next year. I write slowly — but at least my first drafts aren’t usually sloppy messes — so we’ll have to see.
What other writing projects do I hope to further in 2018? A new collection of poems; more progress toward publication of my previous novel, a literary fantasy which is the start of a planned trilogy; a novella set in the same world as Finis.; more posts on this blog.
I’ve also reached an age where I need to be proactive about fitness. I cannot eat a pint of Häagen-Dazs Deep Chocolate for lunch every day and expect to stay trim. (Yes, that was my plan the summer I was eighteen, and yes, the results were marvelous: I finally acquired some curves. But who wants to be eighteen again? My curves and I are quite content in this decade.)
I’m also not interested in dieting. I have a mostly healthy nutritional repertoire these days which includes foods I love and which does not include ascetic denial. Our culture’s obsession with thinness and dieting is no more than a way to oppress half the population by occupying their capable minds with something that will drive them quietly insane. So I eat cookies as a form of civil disobedience.
The problem is that I don’t enjoy most forms of exercise. I used to be a dancer, which I loved and which kept me fit, but the lack of available classes and time has really put a damper on that. Cardio, frankly, bores me. I do love walking, though, so I spend as much time as I can going for brisk walks. This helps keep me active and on an even keel, and it gives me valuable time for thinking — usually about whatever manuscript I’m writing — so that’s doubly good for me.
I want to guard against heart disease and adult-onset diabetes, both of which run in my extended family. I want to have a body that can do fun, active things. I want to get better sleep and have less stress — which mean less cortisol, which means less belly. Exercise is the key to all of that. So, my intention is to be more physically active this year. Yesterday I went skating at the roller rink with my kids, so that’s a good start.
In January, the school where I teach has a three-week elective term separate from the rest of the school year in which I teach different classes and have mostly different students. It’s a unique thing and a wonderful thing, and it’s one of the reasons our school is pretty excellent. This year I’m teaching two courses: the first is Historical Fashion and Costume Design, and the second is Reading for Fun and Profit. The unofficial subtitle of that second class is “Making Peace with Reading, Writing, and Thinking.”
One thing many of our students say they wish they had more time for is reading for pleasure. That desire is one reason why many of my colleagues (and I) have started incorporating free choice reading into our English curricula, and it’s a big part of why so many students sign up for my RFP class. Last year, my first year to teach it, I was thrilled also to be diving into a book I didn’t have to read for any other reason than I wanted to. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it’s easy to fall behind on that when you’re teaching and reading a lot of books that you have to teach or have to discuss in faculty meetings. But I did it, and it was so enjoyable that it got my year off on the right foot: I maintained that glorious habit all year.
Here is a list of the books I read just for fun in 2017. (I’ve linked ones I’ve written about either on this blog or elsewhere.)
* The Thousandth Floor (Katharine McGee)
* Uprooted (Naomi Novik)
* Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
* Shadow’s Seduction (Kresley Cole)
* Midwinterblood (Marcus Sedgwick)
* The Iron Duke (Meljean Brooks)
* The Clockwork Angels (Kevin J. Anderson)
* Betraying Season (Marissa Doyle)
* Wicked Abyss (Kresley Cole)
* Soulless (Gail Carriger)
* The Fate of the Tearling (Erika Johansen)
* The Groom Wore Plaid (Gayle Callen)
* Poisoned Apples (Christine Heppermann)
* The League of Extraordindary Gentlemen, vol. 1 (Alan Moore)
* Syllabus (Lynda Barry)
* Crazy Busy (Edward Hallowell)
* A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness)
This list is in addition to all the books I had to read for my teaching job. I haven’t read that many books just for fun in one year since I started my career in education.
Nearly all of the books on that list were enjoyable to read and well written. Some of them were magnificent. I admit one of them was a romance novel I read while I was on vacation at a resort that had a library shelf, and I had nothing else to do that afternoon but sit by the pool and read something whose sequel I have no interest in pursuing. But like I said, most of the books on that list were good.
This year I want to read a lot of books just for fun, too, because I’ve found that in addition to its being important for me as a writer — and several of the books on my 2017 list were genre research for my new novel — it just really makes me happy. It makes me feel like I’m claiming my time, like I have more agency in my own life.
So, Happy New Year! And 2018, please, for the love of Häagen-Dazs, be on your best behavior.