by Ron Hayes
Okay, I’m doing it. Color it a cop-out entry from for this month, but I’m taking Jennie up on her challenge. While my Catholic upbringing will continue to nag at me that this won’t be a “real” post (since I’m not generating any new, original thoughts of my own), I’m going to run with it because, if I’m being honest with myself—and, by extension, with all of you—I have to face the fact that as this December rolls in, I find myself in quite a similar situation as Jennie did last December: discouraged, unsatisfied, and anxious about the future. And it was in this frame of mind that I first read Jennie’s most recent post here on 5writers. What a revelation! What a fortuitous confluence of events! So, begging your indulgence, I’ll engage in a little bit of what I’m told is good teaching these days and model for you how to go about tackling the Jennie Jarvis Writer’s Challenge for 2015.
Let’s jump right in:
- My REALISTIC goals for 2015 (with rough deadlines). I love the way Jennie keeps us grounded in this part of her challenge because I know that I often fail to keep my expectations realistic. Mentally, I’m always swinging for the fences and then, when I don’t achieve the expectations I’ve set for myself, I discount the good work I’ve done to put myself in position to be successful. In the coming year, my goals will be:
- Submit my manuscripts to at least 3 presses and/or contests per month
- Complete a rough draft of my novella
- Complete a full skeleton outline of my novel
- Write one new poem per month
- Write four new short stories
- Read more. Slow at writing, slow at reading, I feel like I really have to bump up my input to improve my output… I read six books last summer vacation, so my goal is to improve by 2 books during the school year and by 2 books over the summer. 10 books total.
- What I accomplished in 2014 – Toughie. Not sure what I’ve done can be considered “accomplishments,” but let’s give this an honest go (while simultaneously embracing Jennie’s reminder to “be good to” myself). In 2014 I…
- Finished up my two-year term as Erie County Poet Laureate and wrote six new poems for my final official reading
- Completed my first full year as the Poetry writer here at 5writers.com, contributing more than a dozen separate blog posts
- Revised a short story for submission to Digital Americana Magazine
- Submitted poetry to four magazines
- Wrote three short stories, entering one into a competition at Lit Demon
- Joined a new writing group
- Added a second chapter to my novel in progress
- Added several pages to my novella
- Accepted editorial work reading a colleague’s doctoral thesis
- Diversification Challenge. I will complete a draft of one short memoir piece, one short humor piece, and I will write 2 poems in a formal style I’ve never tried before (like a pantoum or a ghazal).
- Focus on Getting Better At Your Craft. I think I have this one covered with the new writing group I just joined but I see no reason why I can’t keep my eyes open for a writer’s conference to go to…
- Get Feedback. See above.
- Submit, Submit, Submit. Again, see above.
Be good to yourself. This one will be hard for me—not only because of how easily I self-defeat, but also for two other things Jennie says: that this is an industry; and that I need to be my own biggest cheerleader. Whether it’s because my teaching and coaching careers intercede so much on my writing time or if it’s because I’m old and weary in an industry where youth=energy=greater success opportunities or if it’s because I just think wrong, I often give short shrift to the notion that writing and publishing (and getting PAID for it) are true vocations, truly legitimate occupations, and NOT merely “hobbies.” Another goal I have for this year is to remember that my work has worth and that my endeavors are worthy of being recognized and receiving remuneration. In other words, I have to stop giving MYSELF short shrift. If I can remember that, I’m hoping it’ll only be a short hop-step to accepting my work and actively working to have it recognized. Could be a tall order…
If you’re like me and you feel like your writing output has stagnated or slowed, or even if you just feel like a good swift kick in the pants wouldn’t hurt, I’m sure you’ll agree that we could learn a little something from December 2013 Jennie Jarvis. So what do we have to lose? Let’s do this! Let’s take Jennie’s challenge and see if we can’t wrangle our own slew of successes out of 2015. And here’s an offer/challenge of my own: Start it with us! In the comments below share an accomplishment from 2014 and a goal for 2015. Then come back next December and share with us all how you did. Until then, Mazeltov! And Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, and a Festive Festivus to you all!
See you in ’15…