Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Resolution time?

"I love to my resolution is to try hard to make time to read some books this year."

I've seen that resolution on lots of blogs this week. Frankly, it puzzles me. It makes no sense to me that people would have to force themselves to do something that they claim to love. I don't know why those people can't just be honest with themselves and admit that they don't actually "love" to read; they love the idea of being well-read because they desire for people to think they're smart. I can speak from personal experience that for people who really love books, reading is such a great joy that you can't stop us from reading. We'll lose sleep to read, steal time for reading at every possible opportunity, and even sneak books into places we shouldn't. But if you don't feel that way about books, so what? Find your own joy. Maybe it's drawing. Maybe it's music.

Even more puzzling (and saddening) to me is this resolution:

"I really love my resolution is to finally force myself to work on that script/novel I've been meaning to write for years and years."

How can someone purport to "love" writing if they never willingly do it? I suspect that there are a lot of Walter Mittys out there who love to dream about being admired and acclaimed for their writing, and confuse that with a love of writing. You know the type: they spend lots of time imagining their Oscar speech, but no time working on their screenplays. Look, writing is hard, and it's quite often a chore, just like any day-to-day career. But for those who are born to do it, there's a certain thrill and satisfaction in the doing of it, too. If writing doesn't bring you that joy, why on earth would you want to torture yourself? I think there are an awful lot of people out there who are making themselves miserable dreaming their lives away.

Resolutions are something you wish to do because you know it's for your own good, although it goes against your true nature. In a way, resolutions reveal a lot about who you truly are.

S0: who are you, really?

I say: the person you are when you're alone, when you're left to your own devices, is who you truly are.

Now, some people don't like being alone, perhaps because they're not all that interesting and are bored silly by their own company. Or they can't stand being alone because they have no idea who they really are, and they're afraid to find out. Or they simply need other people to give them a sense of purpose and identity, because they only know how to "belong" to a clique -- they've never really learned to think and act as an individual.

But let's say you do spend a fair amount of time alone. What do you do?

Do you actually read the "literature" you claim to admire? Or do you read trashy magazines you claim to disparage?

Do you get out and hike in the "beautiful outdoors" you claim to love? Or do you flop on the couch and play video games weekend after weekend?

Is there a disconnect between the person you pretend to be, and who you really are?

One thing I find very interesting is that most of the frustrated, wannabe* writers I know are also (unhappily) single, and complain about the misery of (not) dating the same way they complain about the misery of (not) writing. I don't think this is a coincidence. When meeting potential romantic partners they tend to have the same disconnect between who they really are, and who they fantasize they are. They'll describe themselves as writers -- even though they never write -- or creative, even though they rarely create anything. They'll describe themselves as energetic and active even though they're usually couch potatoes. They'll claim to be adventurous, active, deep, and literate, and a fan of various "smart" pursuits like foreign films and gourmet food and classical music...yet when left to their own devices they'd rather just glaze over in front of Survivor. With such cognitive dissonance getting in the way, no wonder they can't find a compatible match.

My wish for everyone for the new year is that people accept themselves as they are. While we should all strive to improve our lives, I think we should strive to be "me, only better," rather than "me, only completely different."

So -- to all you aspiring writers fighting the good fight, my New Year's wish for you is that 2010 is the best year ever for your writing career. And to all the "wannabes" out there, give yourselves permission to let go of false dreams and find your true purpose in life.

And to everyone, everywhere: may you have peace, joy, and fulfillment.

*not to be confused with "aspiring" writers, who actually do write but just haven't broken in yet.


  1. Good article.

    I find this "electronic age" giving the less-disciplined even more reason to avoid working on what they claim to be passionate about. Amazingly, someone can tweet, add more friends to their FB, text, and spend hours on their cell, but can't seem to sit down for their writing, reading, or painting.

    Nice analogy about "alone time". I taught a lot of talented painters that were great in class, but that was it, because they had "too much of a life" as I called it -- no alone time. Between shuttling kids, socials, being on the cell, and trying to fit in with the neighbors, they had few moments to work at their real talent. I also had less skilled artists with more determination that turned out to be true successes in the field.

    In summary, IMO, it's about "sacrifice".

  2. Thanks for the comment. I do feel sorry for people whose lives are so cluttered that they rarely get to experience the profound satisfaction of accomplishing a long-term goal. I actually feel kind of fortunate that my income isn't reliable enough for me to have a cell phone, cable, high speed internet, and all those distractions. Strangely enough, my life is so much more tranquil for its lack of convenience.

    Painting is wonderful for getting lost in a state of timelessness and "flow," too...more so than writing, even, imo. Nothing clears my head more than painting because nothing requires such intense focus. (I'm not very talented at it, sadly, so I could never do it professionally, but I do notice that time spent painting really improves my writing, the same way that long walks can....)