New Year, New Challenges

2017 was probably the toughest year I’ve experienced since 2003, the year my son was born.  As tough as 2003 was, though, it all turned out ok.  My son was born with kidney issues, and it was very hard times.  My son was sick, and having multiple surgeries. I was dealing with the kind of health insurance horror stories that politicians roll out during election season.  On top of all that, I was struggling financially to keep us above water due to those previous explained challenges.  But my son is healthy today, and as tough as 2003 was, I would wade through all that shit again to end up with the same result.

2017 is harder to see as anything but a long trod through an ever darkening swamp.  I can’t imagine ever looking back at it, and thinking I’d do it over again… certainly not for the same results.  I lost my Mom to cancer.  A few months later, her brother, my Uncle also succumbed to it.  If that wasn’t enough, within 2 hours of my mother’s death, a family member called me upset because Mom left some of her life insurance benefits to me.  Really upset.  Greed, ugh.  So, yes, 2017 is over and good riddance.  Let’s forget about it…except for maybe telling my mom, “I love you” one last time.

Writing hasn’t been going so hot lately, but I can control that. I spent the last week (I was off work), thinking about what I want to accomplish with my writing and education as a writer.  Obviously writing has to be part of it.  What about the education?  As much as I’d love to take some of the workshops out there (especially those offered by professional writers), I just don’t see me being able to take on the costs right now.

So what about writing books?  I’ve got plenty of those, and have read many of them.  I’ve noted a real danger in them.  Actually, more than one danger.  They are:

  1. Information overload.  If I were to challenge myself to read say 12 writing books over the next year.  The amount of advice would be a burden to the actual writing.  Why do I say this?  Because I’ve lived it.
  2.  The books are filled with rules.  Where is the fun in that?
  3. Inevitably, some of the rules contradict each other.  WTF.

There are some good books out there, but I’m going to go another way, rather than try to luck my way into one or two gems out of a dozen.

The late, professional writer Ray Bradbury suggested that beginning writers read for 1,000 consecutive one of each of the following :

  1. A short story
  2. An essay
  3. A poem.

His reasoning is that if you fill your brain with this much reading, you will never lack for ideas (and my adder to that is you will probably learn something about good — and bad — writing).  So I’ve started that streak, as of yesterday.  I don’t know if I’ll get to 1000 on the first try, or ever.  Life has a way of throwing rotten lemons, that aren’t sufficient for lemonade.  But, when I fall off.  I’ll just stand up and dust myself up and start a new streak.  I hope I’ll still be able to continue to read novels, but right now the focus is the above streak.  That reading comes first.

In the same spirit of the streak, I’m going to start a 5000 word/ per week challenge.  This, too, started yesterday with 1000+ new, relatively clean words on my current novel in progress, “Heaven Ain’t Bad.”

I will report out every Sunday night on how these challenges are going.  Right here on this blog, that nobody reads.

The overarching goal for 2018 is 250,000 new fiction words (this blog does not count).  Hopefully, that will generate 4 novels.  I will get at least one of those published and up for sale.  I’m setting the bar pretty low on the publishing part, because that is all new to me.  I will have to learn, and I want to guard against becoming so consumed with this part of the process, that it hinders the writing.  Right now, the most important thing I need to do is write. Practice. Get better at telling stories.  The writing takes precedence over the reading, but I also acknowledge that a writer must read.

2018, you are here.  And so am I.