My writing during this holiday season has come to a screeching halt. The fact that I used the phrase “screeching halt” shows just how lazy I’ve become. I lugged my laptop to my in-laws and never opened it. My editor and I haven’t met in three or four weeks, and won’t for at least a couple more. I’ve got a short piece for a friend's website that I can’t seem to get done — and by “get done” I mean “start.” My wife and I have been binge-watching documentaries about Mt. Everest (because we cut the cord - remember?). I’ve been knocking topics for this column around in my mind for days. I thought about writing another supremely hilarious essay on gift giving, but didn’t feel I could top my Father’s Day chronicle of space age underwear that I’d given to my wife. This year I gave my wife sensible pajamas from Stein Mart and my mother-in-law bought me underwear.
I blame Trump.
So I’ve decided to take a glance forward to 2018.
Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions, for me and you:
1. Finish that big project you’re working on. After all, you have an entire year before you’ve welched on your promise.
For me, it's my next book. The Napoleon Bloom, will be out by Summer 2018. In order to remove any sense of irony from this statement, I say this with full acknowledgement of my history of brushes with mortality. I know I said it would be out in 2017, but then I rewrote more than half of it. It’s not as bad as Gregory David Roberts having his only manuscript for what became the amazing epic Shantaram, destroyed by a prison wardens… twice. I’ll be honest, if my manuscript disappeared from all hard drives and cloud storage, I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to start all over again. (Please stand by while I go back it up, just to be safe.)
Soon I’ll be getting my book cover designed, laying out the print and ebook formats and putting together some semblance of a marketing plan. It’s been more than three years since I did this for my first publication, so I’m sure all the rules have changed. My friend Nathan Van Coops puts out books every fortnight, so I’m hoping to bribe him for the latest best practices. He’ll do most anything for a plate of tacos. Less than two months ago he said he’d started writing a novella, a spinoff from his highly successful time travel series, In Times Like These. Then, out of nowhere, I get an email from his subscription list that the new book is out! Meanwhile, my book is like one of those houses that’s getting remodeled for decades, but is never completed. I know it took Harper Lee like 60 years to put out her second book, but by the time I'm done, it'll be a period piece.
2. Start that project you’ve been neglecting.
“I’ve always wanted to write a novel / book about raising tortoises / guide to obsolete 1970s cookery.” Whatever it is, tarry no more.
In 2018 I will also get to work on what I plan be a darkly humorous memoir: an ode to almost dying. As I prepared to dive into this project I stumbled upon an entertaining podcast for writers. It’s called The Drunken Odyssey, and it happens to come out of Orlando, so they’ve featured quite a few local authors. It’s been around for years, so there are a lot of topics to peruse, and I found a good panel discussion on memoir writing. My latest habit is playing podcasts on my earbuds when I go to bed, and I usually fall asleep long before the episode ends. This can produce some strange dreams. Nothing good can come from sleeping with a long and meandering interview with Billy Corgan (of Smashing Pumpkins fame) infiltrating your subconscious. The world is a vampire.
3. Build an audience and get your work out there. Start a blog. Self publish. Go to an open mic. Take writing class.
Build an audience? This is one of those hot phrases that says nothing. People toss it out at board meetings: “We need to build an audience!” — as if it’s an actual activity. Millennials would say it’s to build followers and become an “influencer,” which I think only means something if you’re on Instagram. So I’ll probably have to get myself an Instagram account — which means Instagram’s value is about to plummet. JK Rowling never “built an audience.” She wrote a bestseller and voila: Audience! Stephen King didn’t once mention “building an audience” in his masterpiece On Writing. Granted, these are two of the most talented — and perhaps, more significantly, prolific — writers of our time. We must make up for any lack of sheer talent with selling. (Hey, I was a salesman before my DNA played target practice with my arteries.) So in the spirit of establishing a market for my morbid memoir (trademark), I’ll be producing the Gen X version of these young-entrepreneur-hippies living in tricked out vans and tiny houses. Translation: I’ll be writing about our family road trips in a 2002 Dodge conversion van. There’s no telling how many hashtags I’ll ruin in the process. #vanlife.
4. This should actually be #1. Take the stress out of writing and set a regular writing schedule.
I’ve got to reestablish my writing schedule. It's what keeps me sane. Yet it seems the more time I have to write, the less I actually get accomplished. We have these two kids who want to eat three times a day — every single day! Meanwhile, there’s a nasty rumor going around my house that a kitchen is getting redone. I foresee a lot a excellent opportunities for procrastination — and material for this column. Writing has to be a part of the weekly calendar, or it simply won’t get done.
And I swear, if my book isn’t done… and I mean published… by summer, I expect hate mail from you, my dear reader. Without hate mail, I won’t know if I’ve built an audience. If it doesn't come out, I'll blame Trump.
Bad genes forced Jonathan Kile to give up a life as traveling salesman. Good genes make him a fine and — some would say handsome — writer. His first book, The Grandfather Clock is available on Amazon. The sequel, The Napoleon Bloom, will be out this year (editor's note: or so he says).