Well, it’s December 31st, and all over my social media I’m seeing a shit ton of resolutions and optimistic, positive thoughts about all the things people are going to change or do in 2014. It’s nice and it’s good that it makes everyone feel good to wipe the slate clean for a new year, and to make goals to improve this or that, but until last year, I never did the resolution thing. And I’m not making goals this year either. Why? I don’t think changing any one thing will make your year better or worse. However, I do plan to make a promise to myself that is sort of like a resolution. I’ll explain.
2013 sucked ass for me in so many ways. I lost my dad at the end of 2012, after months of uncertainty, fear and sadness. I guess you could say 2012 sucked ass too. Yes. Yes it did. It’s been a ridiculously long period of ass sucking around here. But 2013 has also been awesome in many ways, and most of the good has been because of the suckishness. I published two books myself, and they’ve done well, although I’m not exactly raking in the sales. However, they helped me prove to myself that I can write something worth reading and I’m not wasting my time. I know I work hard at writing, and I know I can “technically” write a good story, but I was never sure whether I “really” had it. (It makes total sense in my head.) Self-publishing gave my ego the validation it needed to persevere in this writing thing. I’m telling you, if I hadn’t done it, I might have quite the publishing-go-round. I was dangling on the edge of giving up at this time last year and I wasn’t holding on as tightly as I had up to that point. Making the decision to ignore the fear and the many ways in which it might go horribly wrong, I published those books and surprised myself.
On top of that, a book I’d pulled out of my ass for NaNoWriMo was picked up by a small press. Before I finished the first draft of this book, a paranormal romance (something I avoided because I feared no one would take me seriously if I wrote paranormal romance) I’d already plotted that single book into a large series. Who knew just blowing off creative steam could generate success? I didn’t. I think the confidence I gained through publishing IN THE BONES & THE LEGEND OF JACKSON MURPHY, played a huge part in LUCKY’s success so far. Because I believed in myself and my writing, I took a chance and wrote what I enjoyed, not what I thought readers would read or other writers would respect. Small difference, but huge payoff for both me and my readers.
And this new fearless attitude brought other benefits. I met a ton of fantastic people this year, mostly because I swallowed my inner curmudgeon and put myself out there. This includes the gang at DeadPixel, and many others. I’ve also made a decision that pained me more than I can possibly put in words. This pain stemmed from a fear of failure, or I guess more like the fear of everyone else knowing I’d failed. I (and Carlos) decided to let OFW go. As of tomorrow, it will no longer exist and this makes me sad. We had such hopes for this site for writers, but it’s just too hard to keep it going with only a handful of folks grinding the gears. However, it took up far too much time for me personally, and I promised myself I’d stop busting my ass for anything that doesn’t produce results. I hated thinking about it, and I resisted until I couldn’t do so any longer, because I really do feel like I’ve failed, but once the decision was made, a weight lifted and I have no regrets. I’m glad we did it, and I’m glad it’s over. Sure, it’s a failure, but what I learned is far more valuable than my cracked ego.
Anyway, my point is that on December 31, 2012, the only thing I cared about was getting through 2013. I didn’t think about what lay ahead, because I couldn’t imagine anything positive happening after saying goodbye to such a major influence in my life and a big chunk of my heart. During the many discussions I had with my dad while he was sick and while watching him slowly, reluctantly accepting that he had no time left, he said his only regret was in not doing the things he wanted to do, because he was either too afraid or thought he’d have time to do it later. I’m not talking traveling the world or doing something batshit like jumping from a plane. I’m talking about the little things that we all put aside because of family, responsibility or fear; the things we wish we could try or say or do, but we don’t because responsible adults don’t entertain whims, and besides, what if we fail? Dad wished he’d said “Fuck it” and done all of those things or rocked the boat now and then just to see what fell out.
So, the only resolution I made when he passed was to stop being afraid and to start doing what made me happy. It’s why I got the tattoo (which horrifies most folks who don’t understand the meaning behind it), and it’s why I sent the query for LUCKY in the wee hours, after Googling something and finding Crescent Moon Press’s site accidentally. I thought, “What the hell’s another rejection?” Nothing I’m not used to. After all, I promised that when fear paralyzed me, I’d force myself to do whatever it was I was afraid of anyway. Screw the “what ifs.”
And awesome happened.
I never made resolutions, because I felt they set you up for failure and disappointment. They do, but this isn’t a bad thing. Failing at something isn’t a negative if we learn from it, and failure moves us forward. Not trying at all gets us where? Resolutions are fantastic, but the problem is, we make the wrong resolutions. The only goal I plan to set for 2014 is to get through it with no regrets, as I did 2013. If I fail, I fail. No big deal. If someone disapproves, fuck them. It’s not their life.
So as you ring in your New Year, try to look back over your life instead of imagining the future. What’s holding you back? What’s keeping you stagnant? Responsibility? Guilt? What do you fear most? Why? What if you said fuck it?
You’ll never know what lies ahead unless you take the step away from the past. Quit promising to fix or change yourself or your life in ways that really do nothing to make you happy. Instead of a resolution to fix what’s wrong with you physically or socially, or whatever pleases other people instead of yourself, make promise to yourself to be happy. It sounds pretty simple, but so hard to actually do. I’m not happy every day, and I struggle with guilt and fear, but I can say that although this has been the hardest year of my life, it’s also been the most amazing and fulfilling. And it’s because I said fuck it to all the fear and bullshit that used to keep me stagnant, and just made the effort to have a truly happy New Year.
Okay, there’s all the guru-ish nonsense you’ll get from me. Have you made any resolutions? Why or why not?