Category Archives: New Year’s

Writing 2015, by the numbers


Happy New Year everyone! In the grand tradition of one year ago, I’m taking advantage of this time of transition to look back at my writing stats for 2015, and set some goals for 2016.

Writing Hours: My goal is to eventually get to the equivalent of one hour per workday, i.e. five hours a week, or 260 total hours for the year. It’s pretty challenging with full-time work, full-time relationship, new house with lots of things that need to be done, etc., but I still figure you get further with a goal you fall short on than with no goal at all. For 2014, I ended up with 65.75 hours, an average of 1.26 hours per week. So how’d I do in 2015? My records (maintained, of course, in Excel) show that I logged 70 hours. I am duty bound to report that 70 does not equal 260. But, hey, it was an increase! A 6.5% increase, to be exact. So even if I fall short of 260 in 2016 (very likely), this gives me something to beat!

Weekly submissions: I aim for a submission each week of poetry, fiction or nonfiction, which would come to 52 submissions a year. Of course, life intervenes, and some years it intervened quite badly. 2014 was my submitingest year ever, with 43 weekly submissions. No longer a record! In 2015 I did 44. Stats on the leader board at this moment in time are as follows:

statsWe’ll see how those “pending” submissions turn out. And of course, having done this, I now aim to get at least 45 submissions out in 2016!

Novel/Poetry Collection submissions: I try to get my unpublished novel Out in the Neon Night, and my poetry collection Pushing 40, out to contests and independent publishers once a month. Life, well, you know life… So, not quite 12 each this year, but I did submit the novel 7 times and the poetry collection 7 times. Several of those submissions are still pending, so I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time, you can read a chapter from the novel here, and several of the poems from the collection have been published over the last few years, and can be found at the Poetry section on this website.

As you may have detected above, I sometimes get frustrated by the limited time I have available for writing. Maybe you have a similar problem. It helps me (and maybe might help you too, who knows!) to remind myself what I have been able to do with those 70 hours:

  • Launch this website!
  • Get back into regular (semi-)weekly blogging through the website.
  • Complete the penultimate draft of my full-length screenplay, and start on the (please let it be so) final draft.
  • Produce a passel of new poems, and complete revisions on several in-process ones.
  • Brought a short story that I haven’t worked on for several years to workshop, and used the comments to start a revision on it.

My goals for 2016? How about:

  1. Finish that screenplay BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY and start sending it out into the world.
  2. Use the block of time that frees up to finish a first draft of a novel-in-process.
  3. Complete the short story revision mentioned above.
  4. Finish a new short story I’ve been working on.
  5. Use darkly bright and sparkly poet Kim Addonizio’s book Ordinary Genius to spur some new poetry.

So that’s my 2015 by the numbers, and some of my goals for the coming year. Tell me about yours!

My Year in Writing

Do you remember NASA’s “faster, better. cheaper” venture in the 90s? It was based on the idea that by designing smaller missions that could launch more quickly, the agency might get more done, more efficiently, than if it pursued grand initiatives. Some of the missions fell down and went boom, but it did get NASA moving again after a decade of relative lethargy. Well, in that same spirit, I’m continuing on my mission of getting out at least a blog posting a week this year, even be they quick and dirty. And so on to this week’s theme- my writing track record in 2014.

A few years ago, I settled on the goal of making a publishing submission per week. Short story, essay, poetry, whatever, just submit something to a journal, offline or online, once a week. That would, of course, be 52 for the year, which has never happened yet due to holidays, hectic work weeks, feeling under the weather, what not. My operating theory is that having the target probably gets me delivering more, even if I miss, then if there was no target. Turns out that 2014 was my most submittingest year ever, with 43 total submissions, as attested to by my tracking spreadsheet:

My tracking spreadsheet also informs me that I’ve had two acceptances so far from things I submitted in 2014. One should be coming out in the Spring, and since I have a superstitious peasant mind, I don’t want to jinx by saying any more. The other was two poems that appeared in Misfit Magazine in October.

I also had several “near-misses”, i.e. places that wrote back to me and said something wasn’t quite right for them, and why, or that I was a semi-finalist but not a finalist. I actually find these to be nearly as motivating as acceptances. They’re kind of proof-of-concept of being on-track, and provide a lot more feedback than the form “Dear [insert name here]” rejections one usually gets, or the even more unnerving whistling silence of places that never answer back in any form. 

In addition to the regular weekly submissions, I’ve also been submitting two larger works to presses and prizes: my unpublished poetry collection Pushing 40, and my unpublished novel Out in the Neon Night. I sent out the poetry collection ten times last year, and the novel seven. I’ll keep you posted on further developments…

My other major writing focus over the last year was to get more regular and disciplined about writing time, always a challenge for me given full-time work, a full-time relationship, recovery, other interests (including serving as a Poetry Editor at Mud Season Review), etc. In other words, life. Shout-outs to Tarin Towers for telling me “shut up and do it” (it was phrased more elegantly than that, but just as firmly) and my talented and lovely wife for helping me brainstorm about the how/when. I targeted 6 hours a week. And came not even close!

Excel informs me I ended up with 65.76 hours of writing time, which works out to an average of an hour and a quarter a week. Again, though, I have to believe that aiming got me further than winging it would have, and resulted in less of a sense of anxiety and drift. So what does 65.76 hours get you? In my case:

  • Completing the (hopefully) penultimate draft of my full-length screenplay
  • Revising a short story to get it down to a word-limit that will work better for submissions
  • Starting a new short story
  • Writing a personal essay looking back on Generation-X as seen through the lyrics of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” which I’m quite pleased with and currently submitting hither and yon
  • Completing a challenge to write 40 poems in 40 days
  • Writing a sestina, because the idea intrigued me     
For 2015, I’m aiming for 5 hours a week, on the theory that if one wrote for an hour a day every weekday, that’s what it would equal to. Because, math. We’ll see how I do, but for this week I have one hour down, thanks to writing this post for you. So thank you! 

Short New Year’s Post

I am told by fairly reliable sources (for example, the archive menu immediately to the right of this posting) that I didn’t Blog at all in 2014. Egads!

Well, the simplest way to stop having stopped something is to start it again. And the simplest way to start something is to be okay with doing even a little pinch of it, and to give yourself permission to do it imperfectly. So I’m going to keep this short.

2014 was a good year in many ways, but one of the big ones was that I bought the house pictured above with this lady:

The house also features these resident cats:

And the following ring-necked pheasant that sometimes visits (unless the fox we’ve seen crossing our road several times has gotten him):

The whole process of looking for, buying, and moving in to a house dominated a lot of the year, one of the reasons there was so little blog activity. But enough excuses! I hereby am blogging again. This is the post that bear witness to that. May Odin, Zeus and Ra have mercy…

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

 Or, as our friends in Japan would say, Happy New Year!

Just brief one today to say happy New Year’s to you all, and publicly witness my intention for the year. I have a New Year’s tradition for the past few years, which I picked up from the very wise book The Language of Letting Go. It’s pretty simple: set some quiet time aside and write down everything you might wish for the coming year. Big goals, little goals, pie-in-the-sky dreams, all of it. And then, once you have it all down, turn it over to the Universe, any such Higher Powers as you see fit, to fulfill as it will.

I’ve found it’s a very good way to witness and own what I want and at the same time release my hands from the levers of control about how, when or if it comes to pass.

What I’d like to share today is not the list, although I did note in making it that it was both smaller than in previous years, and eminently achievable. Which tells me the good news that my life is a lot less pent up than it used to be. Instead, what I’d like to share is the release part of my intention.

Which is that, all individual goals coming and going as they may, what I would really like to manifest for this year, after all the rushing around of 2011 (two weddings! one cross-country move! punishing work schedule! etc., etc.) is a year of living simply, in balance, and just being.

May you all have a blessed New Year!   

Three Intentions for 2009

For New Year’s 2007, I was on a retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains which had a New Year’s Eve ritual inviting us to form and share three general intentions for the year. I went to the same retreat again this New Year’s for several days, but I was back in the city for New Year’s Eve itself, so I didn’t do the ritual this time. I can’t be more specific about the reason, except that it involved my girlfriend, some close friends, and Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. In any case, the ritual was such a valuable thing for me in 2008, not to mention which my intentions also largely came to pass, that even though I didn’t do it there, I’d like to do it again for this year, and share it with you. Here are my intentions for 2009:

1. To invest more in myself physically- I’ve always done gangbusters investing in my mental life, and the last few years I’ve been getting much better with doing the same emotionally and spiritually. My physical life has always been the least developed- sometimes I’ve even thought fondly about being a brain in a jar hooked up to a supercomputer. So, I think this is a year to work on that. What does that mean? Beats me, it’s just a general intention! Seriously, I imagine it will mean all kinds of things about diet, about exercise, about consciously investing in clothes and wardrobe, and about trying new physical activities. Maybe yoga wind surfing?

2. To reconnect with my Muse- While I’ve done a lot of writing in the last two years, and even started and completed some brand new stories, I haven’t really felt the fire (as one example, I haven’t written any new poetry) since going in to rehab at the end of 2006. I think that’s a pretty natural result of having to focus on recovery first these last two years, and I mostly have patience with it as part of a natural ebb and flow. But I do think this is my year to get back in touch with it, while staying safe and sober. So, I’m re-reading old journals to see what’s there that I can connect with, starting to learn music, reading new poetry, creating more time for writing in my weekly schedule and just generally inviting the Muse to alight. Tell her if you see her!

3. To be a little less self-obsessed and a little more connected to other people- Recovery literature regularly talks about most of our problems coming back to self-obsessed suffering, and for me this is definitely true. My external life has really gotten to be pretty darn good these last two years, and the only things I really suffer from these days are old patterns of thinking and feeling that still unspool in my head. So the solution, I have heard, is to spend a little less time there and a little more focusing on other people. Not to mention I might do something nice for others in the process. So tell me, what’s going on with you? Maybe I can take you out to lunch soon…

Those are my intentions for 2009. How about you?

Eight From 2008

While it’s not standard for year-end countdowns, I’ve decided that a top eight albums is the best approach to take for 2008. What can I say? I’m a sucker for numbers and symmetry. Here, in alphabetical order, are my top picks:

1. Get Awkward (Be Your Own Pet)- They’re punk and garage with a dash of metal. Their songs are simultaneously tongue-in cheek and brash, slapping you to the mat from the start and keeping you there throughout. They’re fronted by a brash blonde girl. They’re from Nashville. What on Earth is not to like?

2. Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (Drive-By Truckers)- This album has it all. Male lead vocals. Female lead vocals. Straight-up country. Rock that reminds one of the Seventies in a good way. Music that sounds like storm clouds brooding. And as good as it is musically, it’s even better lyrically. The 19 tracks herein include heartfelt paeans to family, subtle evocations of domestic discontent, a soldier musing on the unknown life of the unnamed foe he’s just killed, and a song from the viewpoint of someone who has had it with a friend’s (family member’s? spouses?) crystal meth addiction.

3. Lust, Lust, Lust (the Raveonettes) There was a good case to be made with their previous album, Pretty in Black, that the Raveonettes had lost their mind. On this album they find it again and the lust, menace, and shimmering clouds of guitar feedback are ours to enjoy.

4. Narrow Stairs (Death Cab for Cutie)- I’ve been a late convert to Death Cab, but like many an infatuation acquired in later life, I’ve made up for it by falling hard. A song like “I Will Posses Your Heart” that starts with a four minute drum intro shouldn’t hold your attention, but in their hands it keeps you rapt, and brings a shiver when the lyrics finally kicks in with their mixture of romanticism and dark obsession. And really, at the end of the day, anybody who writes a bleak, piercing song about searching for Kerouac’s ghost can call me their bitch.

5. & 6. Nouns (No Age), Rip It Off (Times New Viking)- These two bands are probably tired of being mentioned in the same breath, but they really are two peas in one wonderful lo-fi pod. Of the two, No Age brings more melody and traditional pop structure in their navigations of ragged walls of sonic distortion. This makes Nouns more consistently listenable, but Rip It Off more exciting and challenging.

7. Stop Drop and Roll! (the Foxboro Hot Tubs)- Yes, okay, it’s really Greenday in musical drag buying time while they try to figure out how to follow American Idiot. But what glorious drag it is! Their roaring, rocking success at producing rock in the Kinks/Who/Hollies et al vein makes me wonder why rock ever stopped sounding like that.

8. We Started Nothing (the Ting Tings)- Dance music with the form and attitude of rock, this album is just good clean fun from start to finish.

Those are my picks, but in the interest of full disclosure, Bruce Springsteen’s Magic only made honorable mention on my 2007 list, and it’s turned out to be one of the few albums from that year that I still regularly listen to. I reserve the right to listen further… And so should you!

All is quiet on New Year’s Day

I believe that what I’m doing on New Year’s Eve has some kind of link to what will happen in the year ahead. We could get Jungian and call it synchronicity, or newagian and call it manifesting a vision, or just plain call me a superstitious ignorant peasant, but there you have it. I first noticed this phenomenon about ten years ago, and the fit has actually been quite good.

For New Year’s Eve 2005 I was at a party with an unavailable budding potential ladyfriend, drinking and listening to her friends spin heavy metal records all night long. Sure enough, 2005 was a year of relational mismatch, drinking, and renaissance of interest in heavy metal.

2006 began in a small neighborhood bar, with a single friend, wistful glances at women in the distance and lots of whiskey and beer. The year delivered on the eve’s promise of an increasingly small life where distance from people grew as drinking expanded.

At midnight on December 31, 2006 I was in rehab, hoisting a caffeine free diet coke aloft with a few friends from the program. The next morning I wrote that if that meant that 2007 would be a year of sobriety and focus on recovery with a few really good friends in my life, that was all right with me. Blessedly, that was exactly what 2007 turned out to be.

So this weekend I was on a recovery-oriented spiritual retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains. At 11:00 last night, I went to a candlelight meditation in the chapel. After a half hour there, I went to the main lodge where a dance was in progress and got my ass out on the dance floor. At midnight I was surrounded by beautiful, happy people, who had just spent an intense emotional and spiritual weekend with each other, all hugging and wishing each other Happy New Year.

I reckon 2008 will be filled with emotional growth, spiritual connection, active realtionships with others. And love. Happy New Year to all of you!