New Year’s Resolutions

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I Resolve That…

Time Square Clean up I hate New Year’s Eve. In a nation where getting drunk and acting stupid is something to be revered, manufacturing a holiday for that very purpose seems like overkill to me. New Year’s Day, on the other hand, I love. The idea of resetting the clock once every twelve months to take stock of what kind of person you are and what kind of person you can be, well, that’s awesome.

You see, I’m a New Year’s Resolution junkie.

As time has gone by, I’ve taken this endeavor more and more seriously. This past year I attempted, with varying degrees of success, to keep track of my resolutions. I actually had a spreadsheet on which I logged my year. (Remember, I like charts and graphs.)

I did ok. Not great, but ok. I met my quota for pages read, fell just short of my targeted number of blog posts created, and became hyper-aware of how much television I watch, how much I (don’t) exercise, and how often I play the guitar. I learned something important along the way. It turns out that paying attention to your goals and doing your best to meet them — not the actual result — is what matters.

With that in mind, I present my 2014 annotated resolutions. These are less about specific goals (though there are a few) than in previous years, and more about how I can live a better life. I may not always succeed, but I will keep these taped to the wall adjacent to the bathroom mirror as a constant reminder.

  1. Do everything in my power to help my children be the best people they can be. One of the things you find out as a parent is that a child is completely and totally dependent on you, in every conceivable way. It sounds like an obvious and apparent truth, but until you live it, you don’t realize what an awesome responsibility that is.
  2. Raise my voice less as a dad. Little kids don’t listen. Or maybe it’s that they listen selectively. You can test this theory by telling a child to eat his or her vegetables and randomly tossing in the words “Fresh Beat Band.” They won’t hear a thing until you say what it is they want to hear. So what is a parent’s default response? Yell. But there has to be a better way. I don’t know if I yell more than, less than, or the same as other parents, but I know I yell too much for my own liking.
  3. Be the best husband I can be. I think this one speaks for itself.
  4. Write every day. Whether I’m working on a novel (primary writing or editing), a blog post of my own, or a blog post for someone else, I need to keep my gray matter limber and well-toned. At minimum, I need to write five days a week.
  5. Do everything in my power to make sure that The Scar Boys has an opportunity to succeed. When I was younger, I played guitar in a punk pop band called Woofing Cookies. We were good. Really good, if I do say so myself. And we were starting to get attention — medium to heavy rotation on college radio; reviews in NY Daily News, Creem Magazine, and CMJ; they even mentioned us once on MTV (back when it played music, and was, you know, cool.) But I (and my bandmates) were too young and too stupid to parlay that nascent success into something more. I feel like The Scar Boys is giving me a second chance to create something meaningful and have fun doing it; I intend to leave no stone unturned.
  6. Settle on one of my two current YA projects by Feb 1 and complete a draft in six months. I have two YA novels in progress. I need to decide which one I’m going to work on and commit to it. A contract would help decide, but absent that, I need to figure out where my heart lies. (And yes, one of the two is a Scar Boys sequel.)
  7. Do everything I can to help House of Stone find a home. I have already finished a second novel, called House of Stone. It bridges the gap between YA and A, landing a bit more on the side of adult. (Honestly, is it just me, or do book classifications based on age often seem contrived, or worse, arbitrary? A lot of great adult novels are perfect for teens — City of Thieves, Black Swan Green, Ready Player One — and vice versa — Will Grayon Will Grayson, Crash and Burn, The Book Thief.) Anyway, I’m proud of House of Stone and hope it finds its way to publication.
  8. Give my best effort to BISG every day. BISG is the Book Industry Study Group and it’s where I work (as executive director). That’s where I spend the bulk of my time and my non-Daddy, non-writing energy. It’s a great organization — a national nonprofit working on standards, research, and education on behalf of the book industry — and I owe it my industry.
  9. Grow BISG revenue and launch a forecasting project. These are specific BISG goals that won’t mean much to the three people reading this post (Hi Mom! Hi Bobbi! Hi Krissy!), but they need to be on the list for me.
  10. Treat my employees with fairness and respect. Speaks for itself.
  11. Exercise more, or rather, exercise. I’m at that absolutely awful age where I feel like if I don’t exercise and eat better, I’m going to just keel over. The trick is finding the time. It ain’t easy, but 2014 has to be the year it happens. Look for me in motel gyms during the book tour.
  12. Stop sweating the small stuff. This is a holdover from last year’s list. I have no idea how to actually accomplish this. I’m open to suggestions.
  13. Watch less TV. I included this on my list for the first time last year, and guess what, I tracked it! I now know that I watch an average of .8 hours of prime time TV a night. It’s a loose number, and doesn’t include putting on a Mets game in the background while I work on a blog post, but it’s close enough for rock and roll. My goal this year is to make that number go down.
  14. Play the guitar at least a few times a week. Until this past year, my guitar playing had really fallen off. I got back on the beam this past fall, and I need to stay there. There is little that brings me as much inner peace and joy as playing the guitar.
  15. Slouch less. Another continuation from last year with no obvious means of measurement. (Though I did just sit up straighter while typing this.)
  16. Walk to the train more. I live in Connecticut and work in New York City. The train station is a relatively flat mile from my house so this is both about exercise and saving parking fees. This is another goal I measured in 2013. The baseline is that I walked 18% of the days in which I had occastion to go to NYC. (In other words, when I wasn’t traveling, or didn’t have some other reason to have to take a train.) The goal is to improve on that number. (Yes, yes, I know, I’m completely anal and kind of a geek. But hey, it makes me happy.)
  17. Be in close contact with my parents. Mom and Dad are long in the tooth and are slowing down. I think about my own future and how my kids will treat me as I get older, and I think I should lead by example. Besides, DUOWYWHTDUY. (Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.) Plus, you know, I love ’em. Given time constraints and choices we all make, this one is harder than it seems. See Harry Chapin for an explanation.
  18. Donate more money to worthy charities than we donated in 2013. Again, I have a baseline against which to measure. (The actual numbers I will keep private.)
  19. Help people in need. Needs no explanation, other than to say that even though I’m cyncial by nature, I really do buy into the whole "pay it forward" thing.
  20. Eat healthier – fewer cookies and other junk food. See number 11 above. I got an Up Band last summer and was tracking my diet for a while but got lazy. Maybe I need to start using it again. Or maybe I can just eat better without needing technical help. Either way, I’ll give it a shot.
  21. **** * *********. Redacted for personal reasons! (Hey, there had to be at least one, right?)
  22. Go to bed at night knowing that I did the best I could, at whatever I did, that day. Speaks for itself.
  23. Be centered. I’m not a Taoist (I’m what you might call a curious secular humanist), but there is a part of Taoist philosophy that talks about how emptying oneself of all thought, feeling, and burden will allow a person to exist in the cener of his or her own being. (Kind of like Obi Wan Kenobi’s connection to The Force in Star Wars). Three times in my life I felt in such perfect harmony with the world around me, that I could’ve made Lao Tzu blush. Once was while playing the guitar, once was sipping hot chocolate on the top of a snowy mountain in Montana, and once was watching a moonrise with the woman who would later become my wife. I am basically spending the balance of my days trying to capture that sensation again. It. Was. Magical.

    So this is what I resolve? How about you?