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Month: January 2024

Goodbye, 2023 – Part 1

The New Year is a fresh start for all of us. It is a chance to set new goals, kick bad habits, and envision better ways of living. While celebrating the New Year is universal, not everyone makes a resolutions list as it’s the follow-through that trips people up.

Even though I love setting goals, I count myself among the uninitiated. I make resolutions every year because I like the idea of change as much as I do the feeling. The follow-through is where I faulter. No matter how appealing these self-made opportunities for renewal are, I always struggle with making sacrifices. Having to lose something to gain another is a sandpaper notion. Plus, having to do it repeatedly is like paying taxes every pay period, feeling the sacrifice while seeing no real benefit.

If I’m continuing to be honest, my success is in small goals, like washing the dishes, going to the gym (once a month), or completing a Lego set with my girlfriend. I do really well in establishing small habits. I love peeling away the days on my FRIENDS Day-At-A-Time calendar. Apart from the upfront cost, there’s no sacrifice. It’s simply a matter of remembering to keep it current. 

The big goals, like actual resolutions, are a riskier story. In my mind, these long-term goals require consistency and sacrifice. Unless the goal really matters, like writing a novel, I don’t get more than 3 weeks in before giving up. 

Last year’s resolutions partially suffered such a fate. Before I met my girlfriend in February 2023, I was working on my weight, visiting the gym twice a week and eat better. I was also making a list of topics I wanted to write about, from the philosophical to the theological and cultural. You know, lightweight stuff. When I started dating my girlfriend, however, all that got mostly derailed. Romance was in the air. There were now two butts in the car for every adventure, and a couple’s lifestyle began to take shape. My single life all but disappeared, along with free time.

About ten months later, around the New Year, I looked back on 2023. Instead of thinking this new life meant abandoning old goals, I made resolutions list about as new as the new iPhone 15. I was coming back around for a sense of completion, even though I had stepped away for a time. I’m not really one to give up on a goal permanently. A new relationship simply makes one radically rethink their lifestyle priorities.

This year, my goals aren’t all that different. I still want to lose weight (shrink from a size 36 waist down to size 34), save up for a rainy day, and read more. By making these my targets, I’m joining the majority.

There is just one goal, however, that makes this year different, maybe even specialized. It’s my novel. Not everyone wants to do that, sit at a keyboard and type words for a thousand hours or more. Those who do face a heavy question, one that I have wrestled with since the day I realized how important writing a novel was to me, “What makes my novel stand out from all others?”

Competition is fierce. Hearing it on the radio during the pandemic as an item on one’s bucket list was a reminder that writing a novel was a goal that people, not just writers, think about. Good writers don’t necessarily have an English degree to parade on their resume. Those undercover talents can come from anywhere and snatch that gold ticket to literary success right from underneath those who have to work hard to be good. Also known as undergraduates with an English degree, the pro writers are few in number out there, and with their education worth a nickel and a dime in the job market, compared to a business or communications undergraduates, there’s little else worthwhile apart from writing a novel.

“What makes my novel stand out?” That question haunted me. It made me shiver for more than weeks and months. It lasted for years. I was testing my love of writing, and my future was on the line. When I expected burnout, the passion for storytelling came with giddy excitement instead. No matter how bad a day I had, the next day never failed to renew me. It proved to be as faithful as the sunrise. Time proved to be the Great and Powerful Ozz that pulled back the curtain where the answer had been tucked away.

That’s what separates my resolutions list from that of any other writer or person who thinks they can write. It’s not just a strong desire. It’s passion, an unstoppable drive to achieve excellence, telling the best story about the deepest and clearest message of significance to the reader.

Now that I’ve thoroughly set high expectations for my intent with this novel, I’ll pull the curtain back on this painful process through which I’ve dragged the daydreamer part of me for the past six years. 

Before I do that in part three, however, I’ll share two things in part two: first, the schedule I’ve carved out for the whole year to write this novel: and second, the painful journey that prepared me for such an arduous task. 

This 3-post series will be my way of saying goodbye to 2023 and the years before that, going back to 2018. The worst enemy to a writer who has a story in his mind is a concise filter to keep his epic journey to bite-sized chunks for a weary audience. The journey of a writer cannot be told in as many words. 

I’m using a concise filter, size XL. So, buckle up.