Stop stopping. Start doing. Or stay small.
I’ve been struggling the last few days, trying, failing to ready a story anchored to the inevitable end of 2015. Actually, that’s not true. It’s been the better part of December. I don’t know why I lied just then. Whatever the post would become, I knew it would only ever be one of many, a drop that dealt with the deluge of resolutions that pour from keyboards at this time of year. Those articles come in all flavours, not to mention all the lists, quizzes, graphs and charts splashed across the web and calling for clicks. There’s certainly no shortage of them in this place. Articles on new fitness routines and financial advice, posts on innovation techniques, productivity tips presented in GIFs. Each one published around midnight. Each one contrived to take advantage of the clock instead of offering something worth readers’ time.
I know what you’re thinking. This probably sounds rehearsed. Indulge me.
The truth is I want to offer something more, but am not sure how. Around this time a few years ago, I published a piece on resolutions, predictions and Isaac Asimov. It did reasonably well as far as metrics go. But when I revisited it, it felt a little…well, the phrase that keeps bubbling up in my mind is “wishy-washy.” More recent stories have felt much the same.
Slowly, steadily I’ve felt my writing atrophy. While my back was turned something that once felt so effortless, that I found so enjoyable, withered.
No doubt this partly stems from other minor successes taking more time: graduation, job, newer job, all that. Still, that is little consolation when staring at a blank page for the umpteenth night in a row, flipping from nothing to News Feed, back to nothing, back to News Feed. Back. Back. Back again. Still nothing.
The last year has been one for excuses. At what I’ll lovingly call my peak, I was writing no fewer than six nights a week and publishing something, somewhere every other day. Not all racked up hits, but that was never the point. I racked up momentum. I took so much from the act itself the rest never mattered much, only the want to improve. Lately I’ve convinced myself that its the tools that must get better before I can: a new pen, a fresh notepad, a new writing app that is clean and minimalist and plays soothing white noise to help the user focus. Focus.
I have been, just on the wrong thing. Instead of getting excited for new ideas, my attention was drawn to the process, the how of doing it, and making sure everything was just so before attempting anything. That shortsightedness left meI muddling through the year, leaving behind a trail of sporatic posts and dozens of half-hearted drafts destined to never see the light of day. No more.
It was serendipity I suppose that I was finally shaken awake on New Year’s Eve eve. Sitting alone, drink in hand after another unsuccessful night, I stumbled across Kimberly Harrington’s “2015: The Year I Wrote Like a Motherfucker” which I found simultaneously annoying and electrifying: annoying because I was jealous of her success, of course, and electrifying because she had shown the way:
So when I think of this past year I think of it as the year that — at 46 and then turning 47 — I finally set aside my complaints, my excuses, my jealousy (well, most of it), and I just dug in and did the work. I got rejected, I was humbled over and over again, and I felt proud and energized when momentum was on my side. On January 1st, 2015 I took off those training wheels and I never looked back.
It was a crystalizing moment that confirmed what I already knew: the only way out is through. To that end, I’ve created a new publication here on Medium called A Collection of Short Stories where I’ll be publishing stories often on a variety of topics, large and small. And with every one, moving a little closer to something more. I hope you’ll join me.
So let 2016 begin with this first post, one full of rocky rhetoric and false starts. Fail, try, try again. Happy new year.