Monday, January 7, 2019

Resolve: 2019 Edition

Well, it’s a week into 2019 and I’m just committing my resolutions for the year to writing and public posting. Full transparency: I struggled a bit this year formulating an attack plan because, frankly, I wasn’t feeling motivated. I let myself down in some aspects of last year’s goals and have been rather hard on myself, which might explain my lack of gusto as the New Year kicked off. Last year, like the one before, I committed to an agenda of resolutions. Here’s a recap and how I did with each:
Last year’s mind-related resolution was to read more than last year by cutting out some TV hours. (Farewell, GOTHAM and MADAM SECRETARY…) and—more importantly—to read more widely with a goal of branching out from horror to include more literary fiction, mysteries, LGBT fiction, and at least one non-fiction book that struck my fancy in my TBR pile.
How’d I do? Eh. I maintained the reduction in television hours but didn’t quite read as much as I’d hoped. I’m a slow reader and one who needs near-perfect conditions (i.e. quiet, comfort, a cup of tea), which I recognize as a self-limiting behavior. Although I matched my reading output of the year prior, I’d still only give myself a 5 out of 10.
My 2018 body-related resolutions were, first, to continue on my then-current weight loss trajectory (I’d lost 50 pounds by year’s end) to lose another fifty pounds and, second, to decrease my psychological reliance on Starbucks coffee.
How’d I do? I failed miserably. I never quite managed to recalibrate following Oprah’s tinkering with the Weight Watchers’ successful SmartPoints program by adding the nonsensical “freestyle” element. The result: I re-gained forty of the fifty pounds lost in 2017. Yep—and I’m as addicted as ever to Starbucks lattes and their cursed egg/bacon/gouda breakfast sandwich. Epic fail on my 2018 body goals.
Lastly, with regard to my soul/spirit-related goals from last year, I’d committed to two resolutions. The first was to continue to build on the momentum I’d gained in 2017 with my writing. The second, coming on the heels of my 365 days of gratitude social media postings, was to seek out something that inspired me every day in 2018—a quote, a piece of art, a person, a place, a photograph, a book or film, a historical figure, a motivational article, a clever meme, a current events story reported in the media—and post it to Facebook each day. The idea was to refocus my perspective on all the inspiring people, places, and things that surround me and use those as inspiration to be the best possible version of myself and motivation to do the work required to do so.
How’d I do? Happy to say that I did far better with this last set of resolutions than I did with those in either the mind or body categories. The daily inspiration postings were completed—365 of them in all, one for every day of the year. While I don’t think they resonated as meaningfully as the previous year’s gratitude postings, I think I inspired myself and others on occasion. Or at least gave us all something inspirational to chew on.
I continued to write up a storm, with two pieces published this year—one a historical-horror reimagining of the last night of Judy Garland’s life called “The London Encounter” which was published in a hefty and wildly entertaining anthology titled Fantastic Tales of Terror: History’s Darkest Secrets edited by Eugene Johnson, the second a non-fiction piece called “What Came First: The Monster or the Plot? In Conversation with Stephen Graham Jones” which found a home in the second book in a series of how-to guides for new and established authors titled It's Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life edited by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson. I can’t say enough nice things about working with both of these editors or Crystal Lake Publishing, the outfit that published both books. I was also asked by Lambda Literary to contribute a piece on queer book to film horror adaptations. The result: “Five UnconventionalQueer Horror Films to Fright and Delight this Halloween.”
And although I didn’t make headway with either of my two novels-in-progress, I stuck to my resolution and wrote my ass off. In addition to a few additional short stories, I also made significant progress on something I’ve been keeping under wraps—a poetry collection. Yep, you heard me correctly. Back in 2015, I relocated to the state of Michigan for a year with my fiancé, Brian. While there, I challenged myself to start reading more poetry and then I started to intensively study and work within the form. Surprisingly, a collection of decidedly horror-themed verse has emerged. I’ve literally only showed it to one beta reader—a dear friend and colleague who’s very well-respected within the horror writing community—and she went crazy over it. Her generous and enthusiastic feedback has now energized me to finish it and find it a fitting home…
…which leads me to my resolutions for 2019. I’ll start the mind/body/spirit sequence in reverse this time. This year, I’m borrowing a tip from the nuns who used to teach me back in my parochial elementary school days: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. 
I. Soul (Spirit)
My priority this year with regard to my writing is to finish that aforementioned poetry collection and find it a fitting home. I’m also resolving to finish a handful of unfinished short stories and find homes for the ones I completed last year. One has already been submitted to a very cool themed anthology.
I’m going to eschew a “theme” this year and forgo any kind of numbered daily posts. I was grateful, I was inspired…and now I’m tired. To be honest, 730 consecutive days of prescribed posting was a worthwhile exercise in self-discipline and now it’s time to apply that same level of self-discipline to other areas of my life, including my writing. 
Toward the end of 2018, I engaged in this cool little exercise called a “reverse Advent calendar” during which I added a food item each day during Advent to a holiday basket for those in need. At the end of the cycle, I brought the non-perishable items to a local food pantry. In 2019, I’m going to try and be more generous and giving in general. I’m setting a goal of performing at least one charitable act each month. 
II: Body
It’s simple: I need to eat less and move more. Period. No excuses, no blaming Oprah. Where there is a will, there is a way. Oh—and there’s that group cruise to Bermuda in early May to provide some extra motivation. I’ve rejoined Weight Watchers and will commit to weighing in every week. I’m also going to strive for one positive diet and/or fitness action per day—might be as simple as this past Saturday when I skipped the Starbucks. Speaking of which, yes, I’d like to break the coffee chain’s hold over me but I know that denial has never worked for me. That feeling of depravation builds and builds and I crash hard with a relapse that’s worse than the habit. So I’m going to try gradually cutting back when my stamina is strong (like I did on Saturday). On days when I succumb to the lure of the latte, I’ll count it in my daily points and work it into the program. As far as a weight loss goal? I’m going to shoot for 60 pounds by year’s end—the 40 that I regained plus an extra 20 for this year.

III: Mind
Included back in the 2017 slate of resolutions was a goal to limit my news sources, filtering out biased sources in favor of more unbiased, legitimate sources. I did this successfully but, sadly, much of the rest of society has only dug deeper into their partisan holes. To that extent, I’m going to drastically limit political postings to my Facebook wall and try to refrain from commenting on political threads elsewhere. I’ll likely limit those political posts I do make to the upcoming primary season as various candidates throw their hats into the proverbial ring. These are conversations worth having, in my humble opinion. 
Above all else, I’m going to resolve—mind, body, and spirit—to practice more self-love this year. I’m going to try to do things for myself that bring me enjoyment, satisfaction, and contribute to my inner peace. Because, in the immortal words of one RuPaul Charles, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love anybody else?”

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