New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

It is traditional at this time of the year for folks of a reflective bent to look back on the past 12 months, consider what went well and what didn’t, ponder changes made and changes needed to be made, goals achieved and goals unrealized, and then, after bloating the body (if not the mind) with Holiday cheer, forming a list of New Year’s Resolutions. These action steps are meant to keep you focused and fortunate in the months ahead, guideposts to steer you in a positive direction, to make sure you do not fall into the same traps (i.e. pudding after every meal) as the year before.

But mostly, New Year’s Resolutions are about hope, about optimism, and, if you’re anything like me, the most effective way to ensure you look splendid in a thong this bathing season. In this spirit, and given that I trend toward the literary, here are my top three New Year’s Resolutions which, I believe, will help any writer find creative happiness if not success in 2013:

1) Pretend You’re Somerset Maugham – I am a great fan of Maugham, the writer of classics such as The Painted Veil (made into a horrible movie with Edward Norton starring), Of Human Bondage (the theme of my high school years), and the Razor’s Edge (also made into a horrible movie with Bill Murray starring), but what I really like are Maugham’s short stories. His “Ashenden” series of spy stories, set in WWI, were so good they inspired Ian Fleming to later write the Bond books (these have been made into movies, by the way). But what makes me fall down and scratch my belly in pleasure are Maugham’s stories set in the Far East and neighboring islands of the Pacific. “Rain” is the most celebrated of these stories, although they all have a lazy, pointed, and rum-soaked British-colonial charm. So, in 2013, in honor of Maugham and to create new fans of his work, I will pretend to be him, perhaps in February, sporting English tweeds for attire, a Cockney accent, and, most importantly, whenever I send out a story for consideration, will alert the editors that I am Somerset Maugham. With luck, they’ll go for the ruse and my acceptance rate will jump.

2) Stare at Inanimate Objects – The great Flaubert (the writer, not the trapeze artist) once said to his protégé, the equally great writer Guy Maupassant, that “being original is not only essential for an artist, it will also help you pick up chicks.” Well, I’m paraphrasing, but Flaubert did impress upon Maupassant the importance of originality, and Maupassant, highly impressionable, especially after he contracted syphilis, took the advice to heart (and many prostitutes to bed), creating some of the most unique and poignant stories ever written. According to Maupassant, to be original, you (the writer) must consider “long and attentively what you want to express, so that you may discover an aspect of it that has never before been noticed or reported.” That is the way to be original. Thus, in the year ahead, I will make a point to stare at inanimate objects for as long as possible without being arrested, until I make the object mine, so to speak, when I transfer it onto the page. I imagine some objects that catch my interest, say a bulldozer or a chicken taco, I might also purchase, which will allow me even more staring time. Regardless the object or the situation, I am stocking up on eye drops to ensure my pupils will have the ability to stay focused and moist.

3) Speak in Rhyming Couplets When Ordering Take Out – The days of Alexander Pope are past, the time when men of education and leisure spent their days ruling feudal lands with an iron fist while churning out odes longer than the Tudor’s rule which while making little sense to anyone not born of that era or never having been stretched on a rack, have some pleasantry as they usually were written in rhyming couplets, the AABB beat made famous by Pope and, more recently, Boys to Men. Because I believe it’s important to keep old forms going, and because it helps the writing muscle to flex the verbal ones, I intend in the year ahead to speak in Rhyming Couplets when ordering food from my favorite dives. For example,

“I would like to have chicken with rice,
hold the soy sauce and the five spice.
A soda to drink, no make that green tea –
If I skip the egg roll, will that lower the fee?”

Or

“I want a Big Mac and a vanilla shake
But my heart monitor is clanging, for heaven’s sake.
So instead I’ll have a salad and small fries,
And for later, as I’m diabetic, two sugar free pies.”

So those are three New Year’s Resolutions I am making. Feel free to do the same, make your own, or expand on. Whatever you decide, happy and healthy writing in 2013!

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