New Year’s Resolutions: Whatever Happened To…?
As longtime readers of this blog know, I have a poor record of accomplishing my New Year’s Resolutions. I will say that I finally did get that job I’d pledged to look for on New Year’s Day 2014, but…
I was supposed to start work tomorrow, leading a creative writing workshop for a ninth grade English class at a high school in Brooklyn. With my first lesson plan ready to send, though, I received an email that the paperwork has been held up, and so has the workshop. I hope it’s resolved soon, because I was looking forward to working with this class of creative writing beginners to inspire them and move them to the next step.
Since the election, I’ve spent loads of time archiving my blog posts in case something I’ve said over the years displeases the new sheriff in town and he and his deputies decide to shut me down. Yes, I know the possibility is remote, but my husband reported from his visit in summer 2015 that the Great Firewall of China has banned this site. I’m guessing that in one post in support of the PEN American Center, I managed to anger both China and Russia (though this site, he says, is very much available in Russia), as well as inadvertently set off some family friendly filters. (Oh, why couldn’t that Russian all girl punk band have called itself Cats Gone Berserk or something along those lines?)
So my 268 posts are safely archived on my laptop, multiple flash drives, and two Time Machine backup drives, along with most of my other creative work. And going through all of them over the past few weeks has driven home the number of times I have suggested that I’ll return to a topic later, only never to return at all. Yes, follow-through has been one of my weaknesses over the years. And when I thought of the excuses I’ve made for not following through, the picture gets even less pretty.
So here’s one of the big uglies. A year ago, I wrote a piece titled “Dipping a Toe in the Self-Publishing Pool.” In it, I talked about my idea to independently publish some of my most popular blog pieces, as well as ones I’d published on other sites. The self-publishing post offered some useful information on how one could obtain a Library of Congress control number, facilitating library purchase of ebooks or print-on-demand titles and a link to the Indies Unlimited site. I asked people to suggest their favorite essays. Five commented to nominate pieces, and others picked theirs via my Facebook page. I planned a book of about 30,000 words, 124 pages, with 25-30 essays and an introduction.
Then I walked away.
One of the central pieces of the collection was to have been “Me Versus the Spanish Teacher,” which I didn’t publish on this blog but on YARN: The Young Adult Review Network. I worked hard on the piece, which one of the YARN editors commissioned because she wanted to know why I decided to become a translator, and whether a teacher had inspired me. Truth was, the teacher if anything un-inspired me; in fact, she kicked me out of her AP Spanish class senior year. The YARN folks apparently appreciated the piece because they nominated it for an award. Thrilled to have their support, I filled out the paperwork to complete the nomination.
Then, sometime that summer, I found out that “Me Versus the Spanish Teacher” had come in dead last in the competition. How did I know? Well, there were six nominees in that category. Announced were a first, second, and third place, and two honorable mentions. Mine had no mention at all. It was like shooting fish in a barrel and missing, except that, while I’m a beginner as a Lego photographer, I don’t consider myself a beginner as a writer. And I could say it was an honor to have been nominated for the award — none of my earlier online magazine essays had ever been nominated — but I’ve been a contest judge, and to come in dead last pretty much means that nobody on the panel liked the work. Maybe one or more actively hated it or were offended by it, I don’t know.
But since that last-place essay would have been an important piece in the collection, I decided to drop the idea of self-publishing altogether. Maybe I made the wrong decision. Maybe my New Year’s Resolution should be not listening to external praise or criticism but doing what I think is right. I considered that. I considered whether “Me Versus the Spanish Teacher” set the wrong tone, and the fact that I liked another piece I wrote earlier for YARN, “Disability Visibility,” even better. But then… Was I disparaging “Me Versus the Spanish Teacher” because it came in last? And was “Disability Visibility” really a better piece — after all, it didn’t even garner a nomination?
I know that I’m far too motivated by external opinions and rewards. I admire my husband and daughter, who pursue what they do for its value to them and not to others. At this point, I can try to do the same, but I’ll probably slide back into old habits. On the plus side, rest assured, dear readers, that your support of this blog has kept it going for the past four and a half years, and the approximately 300,000 words I have written for it. I am eternally grateful to you for you support and encouragement.
I wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year!