Thursday, January 1, 2009


Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent.

                                                                  —Calvin Coolidge
The topic of persistence came up a lot in 2008. The quote above is one of Ben's favorites, and the year started with me promising to get it printed and framed for him. I'm going to get around to that any day now, pal; I promise.

This spring, I read Michelle's posting on Ron Carlson Writes a Story, which cited as his best advice: "All the valuable writing I've done in the last ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I've wanted to leave the room."

This fall, I subscribed to the Southeast Review Writing Regimen. One of the benefits was having access to podcasts of author readings at Florida State University, and I was particularly struck by one statement made by Ann Patchett in her post-reading Q&A. "My great genius as a writer," she said, "is the ability to stay in my chair."

The universe has spoken: this is the year I make a non-vague writing resolution (since "Write more" hasn't really worked out in the past). So here it is in a nutshell: two pages a day, six magazine submissions this year.

I decided on two pages because it seemed small enough to be doable. Even on a comparatively lousy day, I should be able to slog though 500 first-draft words. Six submissions is the basic schedule of the submissions service I use and this will keep me from having to pay them to do nothing for me for two months.

My boss has told me about the key questions he was taught to ask about every consulting project: Where are we going? How will we know when we get there? Measurement, that's how. So unless you are reading an RSS feed you will notice a new box to the right, labeled "2009." I'm going to track how many pages I write, how many submissions I make to literary magazines, how many contests I enter, and how many acceptances and publications I have. While the latter two are pretty much out of my control, the first three should give me a good idea of how I'm doing vis-à-vis my goals. At the end of the year, pages written should be at least 500 (two pages a day x five days a week x 50 weeks—yes, I'm taking off for vacation) and submissions should be at least 150 (six essays, one every two months, x 25 magazines each submissions batch). I don't have a specific contest entry goal, but let's say ten. That would still be an improvement over last year's four, and it's always good to have one easily makeable goal.

Napoleon Hill, one of the first self-help authors, is famously quoted as saying: "A goal is a dream with a deadline." Here's to working to make some of my writing dreams come true.

Happy New Year!


Michelle Pressma said...

Two pages a day is a great goal. It's attainable, but enough to bring satisfaction. As far as submissions go, you are far more adventuresome than I. I bet you do it, though. I suppose the topic of resolutions is a very popular blog subject today. As many different approaches as there are writers. Happy New Year, and we'll try again next year.

Michelle said...

I would love to do the same thing on my blog...log the number of pages written and submissions and all, but that just scares the crap out of me. Good for you! Keep going. You're right. If you just keep plugging away great things will happen.