There are many things I don’t like about new years.
The agonizing hangover, which I’ve deftly avoided this year, rounds out the bottom of my list. Ever since the first night of 2011, when I chugged a bottle of cherry Gatorade before going to bed after heavy drinking and woke up to vomit that made me think I was bleeding internally, I’ve always hated the morning after as much as I’ve loved the night before.
Just past that is the general spirit of good will. I can’t stand that we, as a society, have set aside a few days to out of the year to be kind to each other and are content to be nasty for the rest of the year. I, at least, have owned up to my thorough nature and am vile 365 days a year.
But chief among my grievances with a new year is the whole aspect of resolutions.
I don’t make resolutions. I never have. But my reasons for doing so have evolved.
At first, I didn’t do them because I knew I wasn’t going to keep them. I still think is sound reasoning. I don’t change anything about myself I don’t want to.
Then, I said I wouldn’t do them because anything I did want to change about myself, I would just start changing. I think this is even more logical. To me, if it’s something you want to have happen, you might as well start doing it.
But ever since I became a writer, I’ve told myself that I don’t make them because I already know how the new year is going to go.
And if you’re a writer, you do, too.
You’re going to resolve not to let yourself get frustrated anymore. You may get rejected a lot. It doesn’t matter by who. Publishers, reviewers, readers, whatever. You’re not going to let that get to you. It’s about the art, not the business. If you let yourself start taking the rejection to heart, you’re going to drive yourself mad. You cannot let yourself get frustrated.
But you will.
You’ll get rejected and there’s going to be a little voice in the back of your head that says “you’re not good enough.” You could brush it off easily at first, but the more it happens, the more you start seeing a pattern and the louder that voice gets. And not just loud, but heavy. You’re going to feel it settle upon your shoulders and it’ll grow thicker and heavier until one day you just fall down and can’t remember a reason to get up.
So maybe you’ll resolve not to let yourself be envious anymore. This seems reasonable. You know that your fellow authors aren’t “competition” and that publishing doesn’t work that way. You’ll tell yourself that the guys writing other stuff aren’t writing what you are, so it’s impossible to judge by the same criteria. You’ll say that your career will advance as it does and that’s that. The art is separate from anything or anyone else. You cannot let yourself feel envious.
But you will.
You’ll see lists that don’t have your name on them, conversations between people you wish you were that don’t feature you, authors who aren’t you saying things you aren’t saying like “I was voted best of” or “I just got accepted to” or “looks like I’ll be.” And in every thing you aren’t on, you’ll start seeing someone spiting you. You’ll start telling yourself that you’re doing something wrong and there’s something terrible going on that’s keeping you from succeeding and every time you smile and say “congratulations!” to someone, you’re going to privately think “you fucking prick, you don’t deserve that.”
And having failed both of those, you’ll at least resolve not to give up. You’ll see everyone else’s career seemingly skyrocketing while yours seemingly goes nowhere. You’ll see awards on peoples’ covers and wonder if you can somehow hew out your latest rejection letter or negative review for a blurb on your cover (“Most…piece of…ever!” rave reviewers). You’ll sit on your ass and wonder why you ever made this decision and whether you might just be better off doing something else.
You’ll feel the need to cry, and you will.
You’ll feel like you should be very depressed, and you will.
You’ll try not to wonder if you’re doing something wrong, and you will.
And then sometimes you’ll wonder if you just ought to give up.
And you won’t.
Eventually, you will dry your tears. Eventually, you will fight back your despair. Eventually, the desire to agonize over whether or not you’re screwing up will become less than the desire to actually tell a story that’s been banging around in your head for awhile and while you’ll never stop wondering if you’re a fuck-up, you’ll at least be able to wonder other things once awhile.
You’ll realize that rejections, if you take them well, will help you get better. And even if you don’t, so long as you keep doing it, you will get better just by the nature of practicing something. And you’ll realize that the best thing you can do is accept that rejection happens and take what you can from it.
You’ll realize that yes, a writing career is a lot like puberty and yours is going to go differently than anyone else’s and that’s okay, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. And you’ll realize that nothing ever stays the same and, much like writing, you’ll get better at being noticed, too. And you’ll accept that even if you can’t stop feeling petty and envious all the time, you can at least not let it be something that comes between you and other people.
You’ll realize that it gets easier, but it never gets easy. You’ll realize that the sheer emotional toll of being a writer is something that no one ever talks about because no one ever wants to appear weak, envious, depressed or cowardly, even though everyone feels like that sometimes or all the time and that’s just something you can’t help doing.
You’ll realize, though, that writing is just one more thing you can’t help doing.
And if you’ve ever considered stopping, you didn’t want to do it in the first place.
Happy New Year.