As 2012 rolls to an end I find myself contemplating plans for surviving 2013. That might not be the best way to look at it – surviving, as opposed to conquering the new year, or simply relaxing and enjoying it – but experience has taught me that survival comes first.
That’s dramatic, of course. I’m really doing much better than surviving, especially when compared to about 98% of the world’s population. Living basically middle class in Southern California, despite the small apartment and a mountain of debt, is a huge life achievement.
Things were a bit scary around this time last year. I had left my day job to write the-movie-that-seems-never-to-be-made and tackle my third novel, the-book-that-seems-never-to-be-finished. The screenplay money didn’t last, and soon my savings ran out, and the panic set in.
With a family of four to house and feed, I went into survival mode. It was a tough time and help came from friends both near and far. One woman in particular jumped in to make sure my rent and utilities were paid while I searched for the job that would keep me afloat. Paying her back remains on my “resolutions” list to this day.
2012 was also a year of health challenges, as one of my sons required medical treatment in another state and was required to leave our home for two months. While it was difficult to see him go, the moment revealed itself as the resolution to a problem that had been growing for years. His departure and treatment marked the beginning of what has become the best thing that ever happened to the Schwartz Family. We are reunited and healthy, and close, and thankful.
So I’ve been in this day job for almost eight months and it feels good to be paying my way, to be standing on my own two feet again. The only great challenge ahead is to find a way to manage the demanding day job, the precious family time (which I refuse to sacrifice), and still be a productive author, screenwriter, and poet.
And while it’s been great being a judge for two major writing competitions this year, I’ve learned that a commitment like this means something has to give, and unfortunately what gave was my writing. In the future I’ll have to be more protective of my time, because, as writers, time is our greatest resource.
As I look towards 2013, I make the following resolutions:
Learn to say no. Protect my three major objectives: work, family and writing. Don’t commit to anything if it derails any of the three.
Write the next Hayden Glass novel. Commit to it. Finish it.
Finish the standalone project. No excuses.
Save a little money every month. Build a safety net.
Similarly, put some money into paying down the debts I’ve accrued. Don’t be a dependent, don’t be a flake.
Look around. Keep looking for a way to support myself as a creative individual, 24/7. I shouldn’t have to live two separate lives.
Don’t live beyond my means.
Plan for a future as a working writer. Write spec TV episodes in an effort to get staffed on a show.
Work out at the gym with Ryen and the boys. Get the body I had when I was nineteen.
Stay connected to my wife. We’re taking this journey together.
Don’t dwell in the darkness. Remember that things are good. Stay positive and appreciate what I’ve got.
Read more Bukowski. Read more Updike. See more movies. Return to my roots.
And, if there’s time, pick up that saxophone and wail.
That’s about all I can think to write. What are your resolutions for the new year? Care to share?
Stephen, I've always loved your posts, and I'm really looking forward to see what you come up with in the coming year. Also, great to hear that you're planning to write the next Hayden Glass novel. I wish you lots of luck and success in your personal and creative life.
I, too, wish you every success and happiness in the New Year.
One modification I've made during 2012 is to keep a spreadsheet of my personal finances. I have have next year's basic expenses inputted and I know exactly what I have to pay in each month to cover those, with a little left over for the unexpected. I've also worked out a schedule for paying off some old loans, and am already saving for my mid-year tax bill. It's a really simple method that's done wonders.
Thanks so much, Richard – I appreciate the sentiments. And I've always enjoyed your comments, too. You bring a lot to the party. I look at this little blog I wrote and it feels a bit too earnest for me – if I'd had more time I would've instilled a bit of humor.
Zoe – thanks – adhering to a budget would do me a lot of good. But then again, I always ask the question, "What would Peter Pan do?"
I didn't know about the health situation – I'm so glad it turned out to be for the best.
Finding some semblance of stability is the key to any writing career, I believe. You're doing that. The rest will come.
Two big resolutions for me: the first has to do with finding my next place to live. I'm itching to buy again in California while that's still so possible, but I'm REALLY unsure where I would want to do that. The compromise is probably going to be to buy a nice, small place that is an easy rental, so I'm not committed to living there and can always just rent it out and go wherever once I'm more sure where wherever might be.
The second is to finish the second book in my Huntress series and write the third and release both this year. I have other writing projects to do but those are the most important.
And then the usual: dance more, meditate more, give more.
Happy New Year to everyone!
Alex – buy your next house in Hermosa Beach and we'll all go dancing at Cafe Bugaloo every night until dawn.
I'm resolved to hint for a pre-release copy of the new Hayden Glass novel sometime in the coming year.
I'm also planning on writing a book-worth of words (specifics to be determined before next December); racking up thirty rejections *minimum* for the book I'm querying now; and editing a past project that may have some potential. All with fingers (and toes) crossed, which presents another challenge, but oh, well.
And creating a budget, because Zoë is right, Peter Pan lived in an underground cave, and Captain Hook's treasure is well out of reach, anyway.
Get out of my cave more — that's my resolution.
I don't actually live in a cave but a pretty little apartment.
And I do leave it to work and do absolutely essential things like see movies.
The resolution's really more about calling friends to make plans, taking more of an interest in the world
(say, by actually reading part of the paper instead of just doing crosswords), and just engaging.
How that will work with the reality of working and taking classes three nights I weak, I'm not sure.
Oh, Steve… best. Best, best, best!
My goal is to keep on going.
Stephen, congrats on surviving the scary year! I am truly delighted that your first resolution is to learn to say no. Such an important thing, learning to protecting what is valuable.
I don't make resolutions at the New Year. Keeps me out of jail. This is generally such a hectic time of year, my judgment is not to be trusted.
I did resolve a few months ago to spend less time on the internet and more time writing. Some days it works better than others. Of course, this means I've cut way back on participation in all things social media — including comments over here, though I do read all the posts with much appreciation for everyone's efforts. It helped the withdrawal pains that several comments in a row went to the dungeon. It's like the universe was trying to tell me something… It'll be interesting to see whether this one goes there too.
Wishing nothing but the best, however you all choose to define that, for everyone over here in the coming year!
Stephen, may your year be as you wish it. No one deserves it more! xoxo