Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Renewal of the Vows: Sort of

Tomorrow marks a twenty year anniversary of sorts for me. On January 1, 1989, I made a vow in the journal I was starting to keep. On that date, I gave myself five years to get published, and I promised myself that I would work on some writing task, no matter how small, each day. That meant I would read a book about writing, or study a grammar guide, or, mostly, that I would just write. And I added a last promise, that if I’d really tried hard for five years and had nothing to show for it, I’d quit writing and not look back. I’m glad I didn’t have to abandon writing. In fact, I sold several things that first year, and quite a bit since, although at times I wonder if it’s gotten any easier.

Several times over those first five years I had to “rededicate” myself to writing. Life does get in the way. I was also establishing my career in those years, and a marriage that ultimately didn’t survive, and I was raising a son. I don’t regret letting those things get in the way of my writing. They had to. No matter how important writing is, life is more important. Other people are more important. Children are the most important. You can’t write without doing some living yourself.

Eventually, it became sort of routine to “renew” my commitment to writing each New Years, even if I’d written a lot and had good success in the previous year. I’ll do it in my journal again tomorrow. I don’t really make resolutions, per se, but I do take stock, and I believe it’s important at least once a year to verbally acknowledge those things that remain important goals in your life.

Looking back now on that original vow, I think the only thing I might change is the time limit I set for myself. I don’t think the time matters because every writer grows and develops in their own way and at their own pace. It only matters how many words you’ve put on the page, and whether you’ve tried each time to make them better, and if you’ve put in the hard work and study that you must do to improve.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful New Year’s eve and New Year’s Day. As for me, I’m planning on enjoying the three F’s—food, football, and fine reading.


Virginia Lady said...

Twenty years ago I started seriously writing stories, but then life got in the way. Eventually I realized I must write or I get nasty with people around me.

I never put a time limit regarding writing though, perhaps because I've read of others who have. But it isn't something I can put a deadline to, of course, very few things get a deadline with me. Most of my deadlines are imposed by others. Can you tell I'm, shall we say, spontaneous?

SQT said...

Happy New Year Charles.

Life is more important isn't it? I often struggle with responsibilities that pull me in one direction and desires that pull me in another. But I don't regret doing what's right for my family first. There's still plenty time for me left to do the other stuff.

Lucas Pederson said...

Writing heals, doesn't it? Life is a bitch, but it's also beautiful. A bitter sweet thing. it likes to get int the way of one's dreams and vows. I know the feeling.

But you did it buddy. you are published. You are a great writer. And I send a hearty congrats your way. Happy New Year, my friend.

Lisa said...

It was encouraging to read this post today. I find that I am continually readjusting my plans for writing. The more I read and write, the more I learn that causes me to make slight adjustments to the course. I suppose in the end, as long as the commitment is strong, there is room for course correction - we're each on our own journey and no two are the same.

Heff said...

I made a vow my damn self just as of now - drink as much in 2009 as in 2008...Hey, it's good to have goals.

Happy New Year, Charles !

Shauna Roberts said...

That's a cool story, and I like how you renew your vow every year.

I find I have to rededicate myself about once a week because life keeps throwing me curve balls.

Today I wrote up my list of writing goals for the coming year, as I do every year, and pasted it on the wall near my computer. I have high hopes that this will at least be a year I accomplish all of them.

Have a great new year.

laughingwolf said...

good insights, charles... glad you still find time to write

i began at around grade 4 or 5, but also included drawing/coloring, soon added photography, and some harmonica playing... still muck around in all, plus guitar... was first published in uni, when i wrote a weekly newspaper column on campus activities for the local daily

now i've added animation, sound work, and videography... it all keeps me outta trouble :O

oh yeah single-parenting of three, too, just to keep 'real' ;) lol

G. B. Miller said...


(Sorry, some habits die hard. Like text speak)

I only started writing about 1/5 of the time go that you did, but it wasn't until I hit the Cbyer World in 2007 when I really decided to get serious about it. Got even more serious when I started my blog this year.

It seems that I'm always learning something new about the craft each and every day, and I find that is a truly rewarding experience.

Personally though, I will stick with a basic deadline. I'm such a procrastinator when it comes to writing, that I really need something to keep me focused.

Happy New Year's Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Virginia lady, I also notice that if I go very long without writing I get irritable. And spontaneity is a good thing.

SQT, I always see family as a responsibility, an enjoyable one most of the time, but something I really need to take care of.

Lucas, thanks for the kind words. Writing really has been healing for me.

Lisa, yes, the time doesn't really matter. It's the committment of energy, of soul perhaps.

Heff, a goal is where you find it. Sounds like it'll be a happy 09.

Shauna, yes, sometimes the need to renew turns around a bit quicker than once a year. I hope you reach all your goals in 09.

Laughingwolf, parenting is tough enough with one. I don't envy your three. But I bet they've turned out well.

Georgie B, I think I definitely needed a sense of deadline when I started, though giving myself five years was pretty generous eh?

Danny Tagalog said...


That's incredibly inspiring, and I may just take your lead. This year I am writing an online Japanese journal and have two academic pieces to polish up. Then I will have to do more, but I really want to do my creative piece. I know what it will be like and I guess organisation and vows are the most important things.

Funny that my marriage is happy and the quest to write often makes it unhappy. That's partly due to clinging from one party, but I think things can be arranged.

Cheers Charles;)

the walking man said...

All I know Charles is that my world, my education, would be less had you not been able to keep that vow. Thank you and may ever increasing goals present themselves to you and may you rise to attain them all.

David Cranmer said...

Very inspirational post and I wish you and Lana great success in '09!

Rick said...

Morning and Happy New Year's, Charles! You're blog has become regular reading for me over the last year, and just wanted to say tnank you for being out here.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Charles! Good post. Life is always there jumping in front of us at every turn. Life has to be taken care of or you find yourself in an empty parking lot, wondering where you are. I don't know where that last sentence came from, but there it is.

Anyway, you've given me some points to ponder. I'm glad you made it and did the writing and continue to write.

BernardL said...

Goal does sound a bit better then deadline. :)

ivan said...

Seems SQT has the right and unselfish idea, but unfortunately, for us maniacs, we don't seem to care. The words, the words, the beautiful words. Entire phrases and passages running through out heads. We are seduced by them.

Will probably flame ya.

Clare2e said...

I like reading about fulfilled vows and success for other writers. It's inspiring to me. I keep making and adjusting my goals, and I know they'll get checked off eventually. Could be in 2009.

Keep up the great work, and have a great 365 to come! Hi and Happy New Year to Lana, too!

laughingwolf said...

thx charles, you are right...they're great kids, most times :O lol

Crushed said...

I like that idea, renewing a commitment.

Without setting definite time limits.

I guess it's a good one to take on.

Writing I think, should be about expression. It shouldn't perhaps be tramelled in by too many structures.

Good resolution!

Barbara Martin said...

Renewal of writing vows. Excellent practice, Charles. Happy New Year to you and Lana for a successful 2009.

Gabby said...

I think that as long as you put important things first (family, etc.) then you can truly succeed in those other endeavors. BUT, if it happens not to be, at least you won't regret having not spent enough time on the important stuff. Happy New Year to you too, friend! (PS - I have updated my blog, you can now find it here:

Travis Cody said...

I agree that it's important to re-evaluate. Although I don't do resolutions, I do examine at various points along the way.

Most of my path right now is focused on the new job. Writing is too discouraging for me these days, so I've let it go for now.

I read. I study for my professional life. And I build with my Lady. That's plenty for my plate at the moment. And I'm ok with that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Danny, I experienced something similar in my marriage to Mary. She often ressented any time that I spent on my writing. It's unfortunate but hopefully you can get it worked out.

Mark, thank you. That brightened my day. I appreciate the thought.

David, and luck in 09 to you and yours as well. Beat to a Pulp is off to a great start.

Rick, thanks for visiting, and for sharing all your writing posts on your own blog. I've fed off those.

Jack, the empty parking lot is a good way to put it. We don't want to end up there.

Bernardl, even the word deadline gets me all anxious. Lol.

Ivan, sometimes I see that those who make the biggest names are monomaniacs, but many of them do flame out. As for me, I just want to write well, and I don't really worry about fame or fortune.

Clare2e, I hope your goals and vows will get met in 09. Good luck!

Laughingwolf, I sure would be much more empty if I hadn't of had my son.

Crushed, I think humans are so short sighted at times that we have to keep renewing our committments, to our families, our jobs, etc.

Barbara Martin, and the same to you for 09. May it be grand.

Gabby, thanks for the update. I'll update my feeds. Happy New Year to you and yours.

Travis, I've discovered that you can't do it "all" at the same time. There's a definite need to prioritize some things, and loving and eating (as in having a job to provide the money for eating) are among the biggest needs.

Vesper said...

Such an inspiring post, Charles. Thank you!
A commitment to writing... I do that, all the time... But no matter what happens (that is, ever getting published or not...) I'll never stop writing. It's true that "life" is more important, but writing is an intrinsic part of my life...

Happy New Year! Enjoy your 3 F's... :-)

Greg said...

glad you didn't stop writing! i like those 3 F's.

L.A. Mitchell said...

Thanks for sharing your ritual of renewal as a writer. I wish you all the best in the coming year :)

Sam said...

Happy new Year!

New Year's resolutions are made to be broken - I've found over the years, lol.

But still each new year finds me busily making resolutions:
Get out more, go to the gym more, play more golf, be nicer to my MIL, stop eating chocolate (hahahaa), etc. Etc.
I suppose the enthusiasm of starting a new year is a Good thing, though.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It eventually becomes so much a part of your life that you can't imagine not doing it. Happy New Year.

Miladysa said...

I'm late to comment but I ditto the inspirational sentiments expressed here. I might even make a committment myself!

All the very best with your endeavours Charles :D

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, when I put it down in black and white in my journal it makes it pretty concrete.

Greg, yes, those are some good ones.

L.A., and happy New Years to you as well.

Sam, I think a sense of "renewal" is very nice. And an important thing to many of us fallible humans.

Pattinase, yes. by now it's long since become a habit to me. And I'm glad of that.

Miladysa, and the same to you. All good luck in 09.

Lana Gramlich said...

I wish I had your discipline, baby. I guess I can credit myself with keeping a resolution I made at least 10 years ago; never to make any more New Year's resolutions. Isn't that something to be proud of? *L*

Michelle's Spell said...

Happy New Year to you and Lana! I agree that it's an excellent idea to take stock. Sometimes life does get in the way of writing and I think that's a good thing. But I'm also now starting to write no matter what and let stupid things (like cleaning, exercise, televison etc.) go. I find that so much that I thought mattered doesn't. I'm glad that you exceeded your five year plan and are still writing -- it would be a terrible loss for you not to be!

laughingwolf said...

agreed charles... much as i love my girls, having my son at the end seemed to complete the circle

j said...

Congratulations on accomplishing goals that you set for yourself.

We enjoyed two of your three f's - food and football. Well, enjoyed is not the right word for the football watching since the Tide fell apart.

Happy New Year Charles! I hope that 2009 is a wonderful year for you and your family.

Mary Witzl said...

I let life get in the way all the time and it almost always pays me something back. You are so right: you can't scrimp on time with kids. Laundry, dusting, and dishes, though -- they're a big waste of my time.

Happy New Year, Charles! I'm not making resolutions this year, but I am definitely trying to put more into the whole process of taking writing seriously. This was a good post for me to read.

AvDB said...

Very nice post, Charles. I often feel guilty because I let life get in the way. But, as much as I love writing and want to be published, I love my family more. It made me feel better to read you feel the same.

I know it's a little late, but I hope you and the lovely Lana had a very good New Year's.

Amber said...

I need to write myself some vows for my next 5 years. Time to stop being a slacker and finish things I start!!

Just browsing blogs!! :)

Happy New Year!!

Rachel V. Olivier said...

I think those vows to ourselves are important. And yes, sometimes the time constraint does more harm than good.

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