A comic meme circulates at the start of every January: the announcement of a new gym called "Resolutions," which offers exercise equipment for the first two weeks of the year and then turns into a bar for the next eleven-and-a-half months.
I can relate.
In January, all things seem possible: this year my life really will be different in all kinds of wonderful ways! By February, the ardor for self-transformation has considerably cooled. Oh, well, I think. Maybe next January I'll launch into dazzling self-improvement schemes with better results.
This year, however, I've made a resolution I may really have a chance of keeping all year through, because it focuses not on the year as a unit, but the month: a much less daunting stretch of time. The resolution is this: to submit a different project somewhere every single month.
That's it. The project can be anything: children's book proposal, completed children's book manuscript, scholarly children's literature article for an academic journal, short article for the SCBWI bulletin (free membership plus $50!), a personal essay, a poem. I didn't specify exactly what counts as a submission: does it count if it's to my writing group, or does it have to be to agent or editor? If pressed, I would say that the submission has to give me that tingly feeling of anticipation, the sense that something nice could happen to me at any moment, just an email away.
The resolution also conspicuously avoids any mention of having a submission actually get accepted. I can't control what the world does. I can control only what I do.
So far, in January I spent most of the month fiendishly revising a manuscript I abandoned several years ago, a time travel middle-grade featuring an enchanted cookie jar. That wasn't ready for submitting anywhere by January 31, so my official submission was a short grant proposal to the Kerlan Collection of children's literature at the University of Minnesota to do archival work on the manuscripts of Eleanor Estes and Maud Hart Lovelace, my two favorite children's authors.
In February, my task is to revise a scholarly manuscript (also abandoned several years ago) for submission to a journal. (See how this resolution is causing me to revisit and complete old work as well as producing new.) If I can't make that deadline, I'll scramble to produce a possible SCBWI article, as I have my heart (and wallet) set on free dues this year.
In March, I may have the cookie jar book revised enough to submit to my agent. If not, I'll work on producing some poems.
And who knows what I'll do in April!
I love this plan, with its flexibility and narrower focus on the month rather than the year. Admittedly it's only the 18th of February, but it's still making me happy every day.
I may not need to turn that gym into a bar this year, after all.