Let Us 2014

  2012 Goal: Lose 50 pounds [X] 2013 Goal: Read 50 books [X]

Goals for this year:

  • Read 51 books
  • Write every day
  • Run more
  • Be a kinder, more empathetic person

Some of these goals are playing off of the big goals that I set for myself in the past two years. Obviously choosing to read 51 books is a rather arbitrary number, but perhaps 10 years from now I'll be at the point where I can read 60 books in a year, or perhaps by then I will have two kids and be lucky to read 10 books of my own choosing.

The great thing about having read so much last year is that I have a pretty deep backlog of books from authors who I really fell in love with last year: Dostoevsky, Murakami, Chandler, Russell, and much more. I expect most of this years reading to be devoted to filling in the gaps of a lot of these authors catalogues. I also plan on finally tackling some works of Joyce, most notably Ulysses and Portrait of an Artist As a Young Man, then perhaps further exploring the works of Faulkner.

As I noted in yesterday's post, I truly intend on reading more books by minorities and woman this year. It's foolish to deny myself the widest range of human experiences by mostly reading books by old/dead white guys, and now that I'm a little more confident in my own tastes as a reader, I expect a much more diverse set of books to be read in the 2014. I'm especially looking forward to reading James McBrides, NBA winning, The Good Lord Bird and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's, much lauded, Americanah. I am currently reading Alice Munro's, Collected Short Stories, and will probably try to keep reading her works at a rate of one short story per week.

The mini-goal for this year in reading is to pick up a few books on poetry. I've dabbled my toes into the medium in the last month or so, trying to read a poem or two every day, and I absolutely love the concentrated dose of imagery and feeling that only a good poem can provide. I look forward to revisiting T.S. Elliot's, The Wasteland, it was a book that I remember being in awe of in high school, and I can only imagine it being even more powerful now that I have the added perspective that only time provides. I look forward to exploring all genres of poetry and finding what suits me best.

As a reader this year, more than anything, I'm excited to see my tastes continue to grow, and to continue to seek out works that challenge me both academically and emotionally. I'm also excited to see what new novels come out and sweep the literary world by storm. It's exciting to read something like a Tenth of December or The Flamethrowers from last year, because it inspires so much interesting conversation within bookish circles on the internet.  Here's to hoping that 2014 will be just as exciting to me as a reader as 2013 was.

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Now on to the resolution that has forever been in a thorn in my side. No matter how many times I tell myself that this is the year where I finish a novel, or complete a set of short stories, I always find myself looking at a digital scrap book of half used ideas with no obvious through-line. I've been able to discipline myself in other walks of life, whether it be going to the gym five days a week, or giving up sugary foods, but when it comes to parking my ass in the office chair and staying put until there are a bunch of words on the screen I have failed time and time again. This is a shame because on those occasions that I do devote myself fully into a story, essay, or dare I say even a blog, I feel completely satisfied with the experience. There's a satiation that is reached deep in the creative hollows of my brain that is as satisfying as any great meal or the best sex I've ever had. It's this scratching of the seemingly impossible itch that keeps all of us creative types coming back time-and-time-again.

I wish I could say that there has some some great catastrophe, or perhaps lack of great catastrophe that has kept me from becoming the writer I've always wanted to be, but this is simply not true. I've spent too many days waiting for the sirens song to lead me to the ruinous shores of inspiration, but as almost every writer will tell you, that's just not how this game works. I'm aware of that. I know that writing is often an excruciatingly slow, grinding process, that is more often that not an endurance sport, one that one has to train for daily if one is to create something of lasting value. Unfortunately now I feel more like a creative sprinter than an endurance runner, and I know that I have a lot of work ahead of me in my journey to become a better writer. I have a lot of honing of craft to do.

In the past I would do things like start a fancy looking website in hopes that it would inspire me to create. Which is kind of like buying an art gallery with nothing to hang on the walls. Perhaps when I have things worth showing off, I'll have some make me a fancy website, but for now this place will do. May this be the old gym (the kind with the tattered heavy bag in the corner and squat rack that looks like it's held together by ducked tape and thin hopes)  that I journey to everyday to put meaningful work in. I'm excited to see what this space will look like 364 days from now. If you happen upon this blog at some point this year, I hope it gives you some entertainment/inspiration for your own creative life.

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Speaking of endurance sports, ever since I made it a goal to get back in shape a couple of years ago I've wanted to run a 10K, but while I'm in much better shape than I was two years ago, I have not put in the necessary work to do as well as I'd want to if I were to actually sign up for a race. In all honestly I'm still overweight to a point where running more than a mile or two is hell on my knees. It doesn't help that my knees are in pretty rough shape to start with, but if I want to really get back to running like I did in my high school years I know I'll have to lose another 20 pounds or more. Which means going back on a diet. Which means eating a lot of chicken, salad and rice again. Which means not buying bags of Flaming Hot Cheetos or being lazy and making a tombstone for dinner. (Sigh) I'm not sure if going through the experience of prolonged dieting in the past will be of assistance or a psychological burden for this year, but I really want to see what this aging body is capable of.

Last year I was in a self-imposed limbo physically. I dutifully went to the gym, and set a lot of personal bests when it came to lifting weights, but I also used weight training as an excuse to eat whatever I want and consequently gained back some of the weight I had worked so hard to lose the year before. So routines will be adjusted and better shopping decisions will be made to start this new year as I take the first baby steps back into the life of distance running.

I look forward to getting back into a regular running routine, even if it means spending the first couple months of the year trudging away on a treadmill (I live in Northern Illinois, which is currently covered in snow). Hopefully by the time the ground has thawed I will be ready to hit the road and put some quality miles in. I don't intend to use this place to track my progress week-to-week, but I'm sure I'll be checking in with overall progress over the course of the year.

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The last of my resolutions is a simple one, yet perhaps the most difficult thing to be mindful of on a daily basis. In 2014 I think we should all be mindful of how kind we are to each other. Here are a couple of videos that I think are worth viewing from time to time to help us remember how powerful kindness can be. The first is of George Saunders addressing his graduating students at the University of Syracuse, the second is a great video made from David Foster Wallace's excellent graduation commencement speech, "This Is Water".  I'll leave you with these two videos, as they capture the importance of being kind better than I ever could. I wish you all the best in the new year, and I will talk to you all tomorrow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ruJWd_m-LgY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzFNh2_dSBg