Again, we enter the last few weeks of the year and I take a look at that list to the right of the blog I've been ignoring. 2010 was a tough year, not because the money was tighter than usual. It wasn't, really. I managed to get through, thanks to a nearly endless work week and supplementing my income with regular donations to the plasma center.
No, it was tougher for other reasons, I guess. It started hard and it's ending hard. There wasn't much of a gooey center.
But here's the final update on what I did and did not do this year.
1-I did not get published. My first book was ignored and subsequent rewrites have mostly stalled. Book number two is being re-written. Who knows? Either way, it's not getting published this year. Next year, looks particularly bleak.
2-I haven't written to my grandmother in weeks. This has kind of been on again and off again.
3-I've learned very few things this year and certainly not 50. Most of the important things I've learned are not particularly practical. For instance, Larry Groce told me once that there were really only about 300 different melodies. Everything else kind of riffs off that. I remembered that when I started reading about archetypes in literature and sort of connected the dots about people.
There are no unique people. We are not unique little snowflakes. We're all riffs off a set of archetypes. This explains to me why so many think they know me, why I resemble somebody else they've met and usually remember well. They do know me. I'm closer representative to a particular (and fairly common) archetype in the great book of characters that is repeated over and over.
This is the kind of stuff I learned. It's sort of interesting, but not really useful. It doesn't improve my life or the life of anyone else in any measurable way and is a little depressing, actually.
4-Read 12 great books. Never happened. I read mostly pop fiction this year. Some of it was fun, but none of it was what anybody would consider edifying or enlightening. So, I did read 12 not-so-great books.
5-Make enough money. Well, I made enough to survive. My credit rating is up, but that's about it. I get by, but thriving is another matter.
6- Complete Captain America project. Nope. Still working on it. I'm trying anyway.
7-Improve. That's a tough one. I think I'm some better as a writer. I'm stronger and I don't smoke these days. I'm a good father. I think I get better at that every year. I'll rule that as in the plus column.
8- Remember I'm lucky and decent. I'm decent yes and I have tried to be as lucky as a man can be, but I wouldn't say that's true. You can make your own luck. I've read books on the subject that talk about improving your chances for positive outcomes, but that sort of thinking makes luck like of like cooking. Some people can follow the directions of a recipe for a cake and turn in something that's better than you can buy at a bakery. Other people can follow the same directions and create something inedible.
It's not just what you do. It's where you are, who you are and what you have at your disposal. There is a difference in what you have for ingredients, the quality of your tools and even the elevation of where you do the work. Some of these things you can adjust, some of them you're stuck with.
I did not make much luck this year.
9-Escape. I never did. Not once. All year I've been like a chained dog in a fenced yard. There was no vacation. I spent two nights away from home this year. Both of them were at my Mom's.
On the pluses and minuses, I fall easily in the negative, which is disappointing since really the bar wasn't particularly high. I could make excuses on why this or that didn't work. Mostly, it has to do with losing steam, with finding my optimism and drive collapse beneath the everyday struggles of just being me. Some of it was maybe turning 40 or just laziness.
I could have eased up on the cheeseburgers, though, and watched a little less television.
Looking back, 2010 won't be a year I'll miss. There were a few bright spots here and there, but there was a lot of wasted energy, heartache and headache.
But we start over. We start over because that is what I know how to do. I get up and give myself another chance. I do that because despite the periodic whining I like me. I think I'm worth another chance. I am always worth another chance and besides, what else have I got to do?
One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing the same way over and over and expecting a different result.
Maybe I should stop hoping to be published or to travel anywhere farther than Pearisburg, Virginia. It doesn't mean I should stop writing, that I should stop sending my work to people or that I shouldn't go where I can when I can. It just means I need to lay off creating artificial deadlines that do nothing but periodically make me feel like I failure over the course of twelve months.
Making oaths and promises for self-improvement doesn't seem to work for me. I've been waiting to get this tattoo to celebrate the completion of project Captain America for a while. Maybe the point isn't to win, but just to compete.
Maybe this time, the way to do it is to go ahead and have dessert first then move on to the soup and salad. Maybe instead of looking for ways to make more work for myself in order to reward myself at the end I should look for ways to treat myself, then work to pay for it somehow.
It's all a work in progress, I guess.