Sunday, January 01, 2006



I don't think I've made a proper new year's resolution in years. And I can't seem to remember what I resolved to do, not do, change or not change the last time I did make a resolution. It may be that I've had a bit of obsession with self-examination for years, and so I tend not to wait for an arbitrary calendar date to make changes to my habits. I'm forever trying out different "life hacks" to find new ways to increase my productivity, or to do my various chores more efficiently, or to feel better or sleep sounder or what-have-you. It's something approaching a mania with me, and I think if people knew half of the deliberations that I go through on a regular basis, I'd be dismissed quickly as an obsessive compulsive nutbar. (Just to give one minor example: After months of experimentation, I've determined that the quickest procedure for dressing after a shower is Deodorant, Shirt, Boxers, Pants--putting on socks and shoes in the bathroom, in cold months--with the caveat that I have to finish towelling off standing on the bathmat, since I've discovered that if I walk around the room with the towel that I waste unnecessary time wandering back and forth. See? Crazy, right?)

Some of my mid-year "resolutions" are lunacy like Deodorant-Shirt-Boxers-Pants, but some have been a bit more significant. Almost nine years ago I was working the tech support phone lines at Dell, and reached the point where I was approaching reading as a way of killing time (which is something you need working the night shift on a phone queue). I drifted quickly from reading science fiction and fantasy novels to reading the franchise novels foisted on me by my coworkers, and found that sinking into familiar genre worlds (Star Trek, Star Wars, what-have-you) was an activity that required very little frontal lobe activity, was mildly enjoyable, and burned up free hours at an appreciable rate. At that point in my life, I'd written a handful of crap novels and a stack of fair-to-middling short stories, but after filling a desk drawer with rejection letters from agents, magazines, and publishers, without making any headway, I'd lost my drive. Aside from the occasional comic series pitch (none of which even merited a rejection letter, as I recall), the only writing I did were vague formless notes towards unrealized projects. I probably went more than a year without finishing a single project. I was also playing a lot of PC games at the time, mostly first-person shooters, and was a full-time smoker (not a "convention smoker," like I am now), and would stay up half the night, long after Allison went to bed, chainsmoking and playing Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight or some such.

One night, long after Allison had gone to sleep, I had something of an epiphany. Feeling like I'd smoked a hole right through my throat, my eyes dry and scratchy, neck, arms, and wrists screwed up from several hours making like a mouse at a feeder bar playing some PC game or other, I looked around my cramped office at the piles of franchise novels crowding my bookshelves and the crummy superhero comics stacked on the floor, and I realized I was wasting my life. Seriously, in that one moment, I realized that the ache that had lingered for months in the pit of my stomach was the unconcious realization that nothing I did with my time mattered in the least. I made money so I could spend it, I read just to pass the time, I played games and smoked and drank and ate junk, and at the end of every day I'd progressed towards my dimly defined "life goals" exactly not-at-all.

So I made a resolution. I've probably got the hard-copy somewhere in my files, and I'm sure that the original soft-copy is still in my archives, but the upshot of it was that I was done wasting my time. I resolved to stop reading junk, to stop wasting my time with games, and to stop talking about being a writer and just fucking write. I typed up all of the things I needed to accomplish, and all of the things I wanted out of life. I printed out a hard copy, signed and dated it, and tacked it up on the wall where I'd see it everytime I went in and out of office. Then I had another cigarette, mulling it over, and finally went to bed.

The next day, I picked up the novel I'd been fiddling with, on and off, for the better part of seven years, and started working. (It was Voices of Thunder, the first I did under the aegis of Clockwork Storybook.) I didn't take the resolution down from the wall until the novel was done, almost a year later, but by then the work habits I'd forced myself to follow had become, well, habitual. So that as soon as I finished work on that novel, I started working on the next, and then the one after that, and on, and on.

I've made one or two resolutions since then (to stop smoking--except at conventions, naturally!--and to cut out carbohydrates), but none of them on New Years. I've managed to keep them all, though, for what it's worth. This New Years, I think the closest I'll come to making a resolution is this: Be open to making new resolutions, as circumstances demand. There's always room for improvement, after all.

Well, that was a longer and much more self-important post than I'd intended. Still, the name of the blog is "Interminable Ramble," isn't it? On a lighter note, via Jonathan Strahan, is this little gem. From the keyboards of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett comes a rare return of the heroes of their Good Omens (which served as my introduction to Pratchett on its release; I was a comics reader who came for the Gaiman, but I stayed for the Pratchett), as they present the New Years resolutions of Crowley and Aziraphale.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by 

Blogger. Isn't yours?