A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace.1
If the ever-murky and mysterious They are to be believed, time flies when you’re having fun.
I will say that there were many, many days this year that were as far from fun as my three-year-old is from dressing himself, but as I assess the work done over the past five months, I can’t deny that at least a part of 2017 has been one of the most fun on record.
It all began on July 27th, though I’m still not quite sure what part of my brain short-circuited that day. My useless journal entry simply states:
Started a new adventure. 52 short stories in 52 weeks. Wow. This will be… Interesting.
Okay, no enlightening answers there. I’m like that sometimes (most times). To my family’s consternation, an impulse arises and I’ll just follow where it leads. You can get a rough idea of the inspiration here. But I can reveal to you the two ideas which sprang from that impulse and turned 2017 into a fun year:
Hard work and taking risks.
Huh? Yeah, sure….classic ingredients for a good time. Right. I guess if stress brings a smile to your face.
Stick with me here.
Now, it’s entirely possible to take on one of those two propositions without the other. If you’re into fruitless ventures, for example, you can always mow the cement in your driveway or enter an Ironman competition after a three-month diet of non-stop Minecraft and Ding Dongs.
But combined, those two uncomfortable phrases can spin up a little magic.
Let’s take a look at the hard work aspect.
I imposed a schedule by which I would start a story on Monday morning and finish it the following Sunday. Before this short story experiment, much of my writing had been directionless and transitory. I’d start a novel, get frustrated, and give up anywhere between 1,500 words to 20,000 words. It’s really hard to learn one of the most important and rewarding aspects of writing–finishing–when you never make it to the end.
But now, each Monday morning, I sit down often without an idea of what I’m going to write about and get to work. It’s scary….it’s always scary. Sure, in a stupid way that only creative folks can understand and the rest of the world may scoff at, but the fear is real enough to induce showstopping procrastination.
Of course, that’s just the writing. I’ve also spent nearly every day since mid-July reading at least one short story, one poem, and one essay. There have been nights where I can barely get through one or two of those items and probably haven’t done them justice with my distracted and sleepy brain, but there’s always a bit here or there that sticks with me.
Okay, so that’s the hard work. What’s the risk?
A couple of notions have flitted through my mind:
One, by spending any available writing time on putting together short stories, I would not have time to dedicate to writing a novel. For the past six years, writing and publishing a novel has always been the plan. If I was going to take a year to focus on writing fifty-two short stories, that would only be increasing the risk of getting randomly hit by a bus before I get that vaporware novel out the door.
But guess what? If I haven’t published a novel in six years, chances are another six would pass by, but Now With More Regret™!
The second risk was I would write fifty-two fetid, nose-pinch-worthy pieces of shit trying to pass themselves off as stories. I would then come face-to-face with my greatest fear: that I’ve been chasing an illusion for years on end, thinking I could ever be a competent writer.
Again, guess what? Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Wouldn’t you rather find out that your lover has been cheating on you after a six-year relationship than a sixteen-year relationship?
Hard work and risk.
Waking up at the crack of dawn, conjuring up the most amazing excuses to sleep in with such ease that you wish you could capture and harness that power for writing?
Stretching every cramped mental muscle to find the structure, words, and emotion for an unfamiliar topic or genre within a week?
Getting into the flow of things, only having to stop because of day job or family responsibilities (As I type this up, I’m correcting my son’s crashing-into-dad’s-arm-induced typos)?
Right about now, you’re probably thinking the title of this post is a misnomer. You were promised fun. Where is it?
It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, of events or of actors, that imports.2
Receiving my first paid sale to a published journal (coming out early next year!).
Earning an Honorable Mention on my first submission to Writers of the Future.
Logging into my blog or Wattpad and seeing eighteen finished short stories along with useful critiques and happy-dance-inspiring comments.
These are just a few of the items that have overshadowed mountains of soul-sucking work and turned 2017 into a FUN year.
The natural follow-up question: Where does this leave me in 2018?
Well, having started a very time-intensive project in the middle of the year kind of throws things off, so my most pointed resolution will be to successfully finish what I’ve started (there’s that all-important concept of finishing, again).
What happens after July 31st of 2018, I can only imagine will come in a moment of inspiration just like my experiment did this year.
I hope only to impart a simple message through these 1,000 words of text. To those of you who are struggling with moving that much closer to your aspirations, take note: I’m somebody who could procrastinate any of you under the table. Doing the right thing, especially for yourself, isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.
If 2017 didn’t work out for you as planned, do something, anything, to make sure you can look back at 2018 and christen it fun.
1, 2: Ralph Waldo Emerson – The Transcendentalist