Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I began 2011 with an unspoken but nonetheless determined resolution: I would write a post a week, in column-length, for one year. It was like a lazy version of a 365 project. It was a notable mission mostly because I hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions for their implied acceptance of failure. But I thought I’d buck the cliché and finish the year with a portfolio of 50 new pieces.

As a quick peek at the archives would tell you, that plan didn’t quite work out. I started strong and kept the pace going until May or so, and then petered out. In my defense, I did spend the summer focused on fiction writing, which also didn’t go quite the way I hoped. By the fall, I was struggling for motivation and when I did come up with a printable idea, I was lucky enough to have The Commercial Appeal willing to publish it. (For free, but still.) I had pieces appear in November, December and January, and I’ve gotten a larger response each month, so thanks to those of you who are reading and stopping by here for the first time.

Since nearly the beginning of my experience as a writer, I felt drawn toward non-fiction, and even more strongly pulled toward the punchy, concise format of a regular column. While my college classmates were sulking in their Salinger, I was hip-deep in collections from Mike Royko, Carl Hiassen, and Dave Barry. Just when I began thinking the column arena was a man’s, man’s, man’s world, I discovered Anna Quindlen, Maureen Dowd and Molly Ivins, who proved that being funny and feisty and questioning of power wasn’t off-limits to the ladies anymore. I pored over their work and imagined being in their places, romanticizing the constant crunch of deadlines and the grudging respect earned from those who had to admit they’d been pegged.

Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a columnist-in-waiting. And waiting. And waiting. What I haven’t been, however, is a consistently productive writer, nor an especially ambitious one. There are a lot of things I could blame for that – raising small children, writing complex technical stuff as my day job, constitutional avoidance of rejection – but when it comes down to it, I just haven’t made it a priority. And I’m finally starting to wonder why. When I think about the things that have gotten me energized and enthusiastic lately, they’ve had little to nothing to do with writing: I’ve been plotting a volunteer radio show, I’ve been designing wedding jewelry, I’ve been mastering every level of Angry Birds. I’ve been beating myself up over a lack of creative output, but in reality, I’ve just been putting my creativity out in other ways (and crushing digital pigs).

I’m not ready to admit that I’ve let go of those long-time literary goals, but for the short-term, I’ve decided to stop forcing myself toward them. If it can’t be my job right now, it has to be my hobby, and this isn’t how a hobby should go. It’s supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to be uplifting, it’s supposed to be the thing that gets me going in the morning. If that’s not what it can give me right now, it’s not worth my time. I hope it’s able to bring me joy someday soon, but until then, I’ll spend my time on the things that already do.