2016: A Crossroads Year

by Ron Hayes

In the Memeland known as Facebook, there’s a certain meme that has struck me kinda hard over the past few days. It’s the one that frames the new year as a metaphor for a 365-page book for each of us to write. I think the reason it resonates so strongly is because it immediately generates in me a near-overwhelming sense of anxiety. It reminds me I still haven’t published a book.

In a way, though, it reminds me in turn of that old joke where a man dutifully prays for years upon years, each day asking for God’s help in winning the lottery until one day God answers—by telling the poor fool to at least meet him halfway by purchasing a bloody lottery ticket. It’s the same with my writing: I beat myself up almost daily for not being more widely and more frequently published when the truth is, it’s kind of hard for me to expect anyone to publish my work when I haven’t sent them anything to publish.

I guess that’s why I’m calling this my crossroads year. I think it’s time to choose which paths I’m going to meander down and which path I’m going to attack like Trump on immigrants.

I’ll be honest: in terms of writing, my batteries are low. No good reason for it either. Writing-wise I had a great 2015, and I KNOW it has a lot to do with the goals I set last December. While I fell short of achieving (and maintaining) some of those goals, the fact is I read more than I ever have, I submitted more than I ever did before, and I enjoyed more success than ever before. At least early on.

As I sit here today, however, I have to be honest: 2015 was not a banner year for production at my house. I should have been a lot more prolific. I should have gotten a lot more written. I should have done more. I should have more words on paper than I do.

So here’s what the signposts at my intersection say: Current Career Path or Potential Career Path? Ever the pragmatist, I have to view this as an investment decision; to which do I devote the most important of my resources, i.e., my time? I’m in a position I’ve heard many writer friends of mine having struggled with at some time or other – whether to continue pursuing the muse or whether to let my relationship with her devolve into a mere dalliance rather than allow it to keep consuming me as a passion.

What exacerbates the whole issue is realizing that this is born less of self-doubt and defeat and more so as an offshoot of opportunities presenting themselves in my day job. Without numbing you with the inane particulars, I’ll simply say that I have some serious decisions to make in the coming months as regards the time I spend at work everyday. I have no doubt each path that presents itself to me today will be rewarding. One or two may even turn out to be lucrative. And at least two of them I know will certainly mean a commitment to a certain level of self-inflicted anguish.

It comes down to the basic question, I guess: Do I live to write or should I write to live? I wish I had an easy answer to share with you all. I don’t. I’m seriously, seriously torn. I mean, I have no doubt I’ll always write, but what I’m concerned about is how seriously I’ll continue to write.

Have you grappled with this crisis of conscience? How did you resolve it? Help a brother out! A big facet to 5Writers is the give-and-take we’ve always envisioned this site engaging in, so here’s your chance. Respond below. Reply. Share with me and your fellow readers what YOUR crossroads were and how you determined which way to turn. In the meantime, I think I hear my novella calling me back…

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  1. #1 by disdainfulbeauty on January 3, 2016 - 2:50 pm

    Ron, I write for myself. I really only spent about two years of my life pursuing publication just because I felt that publication would legitimize my work. I had enormous and almost unheard of success with sending out submissions, and my first publication nominated me for the Pushcart. But I find the “work” part of being a writer tedious and annoying. I decided some time ago that I would only submit when asked, and it has actually been such an easy seamless ride since. My calling. We are kindred spirits. Write for yourself and quit adding undue pressure on yourself to be anything but the amazing father, teacher, husband, writer, coach, and all around great guy…you deserve a break. Give yourself so credit. You are amazing.

  2. #2 by jarviswrites on January 3, 2016 - 4:37 pm

    I see a LOT of SHOULDs in that post. You SHOULD do this. You SHOULD HAVE done that. I think you SHOULD take that word and throw it out the window. It feels like you have an idea of what a writer SHOULD look like. That’s a great way to mentally screw yourself over. I didn’t get ANY new writing done last year because of my pregnancy brain (except posts for this website). Does that mean I’m any less of a writer? No. It means I gave myself a break.

    Give yourself a break as well. Write when the muse calls, and don’t worry about what proof you have to show to the world. Life throws us what we need to grow and change. Maybe what’s happening at work is happening in order to give you new inspiration to write something that will become your masterpiece. Maybe it isn’t, but that doesn’t matter. We don’t need to fit our careers or our lives into boxes. Just set some modest goals for yourself – you will write ten minutes each week or you will write for one four hour chunk each month or you won’t write during football season because you are too busy,but then you will write more in the spring – whatever..

    But I agree with what was stated in the last comment – quit adding undue pressure to yourself. All that will do is cripple your spirit.

    And maybe go on a few Artist Dates. You might need that.

  3. #3 by The Accidental Poet on January 6, 2016 - 10:10 pm

    I discovered a wonderful book by Julia Cameron called “The Artist’s Way.” (I am currently conducting a creativity workshop at the public library where I work. We are using Cameron’s book as our text for the workshop.) The book outlines her 12-week program for creative recovery. She discusses the many ways in which artists and writers can become blocked. Primarily, we tend to talk to our “creative self” negatively, thinking we’re too young or too old, we don’t live in the right city, we’re not good enough, people will laugh at us, or, worse, no one will buy our work. We also have thoughts stuck in our head that are based on people in our life have told us, “Art is no way to make a living. Get a real job.” Fear will also block our creativity. She talks about the need to continually fill our creative well. Writing is, by definition, like transmitting. It is about the output of our creative self. If we constantly “put out” without filling the well, we’ll “go dry.” We need input. We need to receive as well as transmit. This comes from multiple sources. As “Jarviswrites” mentioned above, one way is to take yourself on an “artist date.” She suggests a two-hour activity once a week, such as going to a movie, visiting a museum, or taking a long walk in the woods. Cameron said, “Serious art is born from serious play.” I like that. Reading, as I noted you do often, is another great way to charge our creative battery. (I read constantly.) It helps me to remember that I initially write for me. No one ever sees my first draft. I write because I have to. When I don’t write, I get antsy, irritable, anxious. I suggest youtry not to use a lot of “shoulds” when it comes to your creative life. It actually tends to block you even more. I hope these comments help you as much as your post helped me.

  1. New Year. New Stories. New Ideas. | Five Writers

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