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A Freelancerís Resolutions

For the past year or so I have been less-than-gainfully self-employed as a writer.

Now there are many wonderful things to being self-employed, but the ďless-than-gainfullyĒ aspect is not one of them.

Nor, necessarily, is the self-employed part.

Because along with the tremendous boon/blessing/opportunity to do what I most want to do, comes the equally daunting recognition that, in order to do what I most want to do, I must do it.

No one else will. And if I donít, then it doesnít get done. I knew all this going into this enterprise. And fortunately, Iím pretty self-disciplined. Maybe greatly self-disciplined, though I donít really think so.

And thatís where things start to get complicated. Thatís where I become my own worst critic. And not worst literary critic. I have to have some faith in what Iím writing; I have to like it, even when I tweak and rework and refashion whatís on the page.

No, what I become my own worst critic about is time apportionment.

In Wallace Stegnerís novel Crossing to Safety, his main character, Larry Morgan, is a both a fledgling professor and writer. Pressed for time, he devises a rigid schedule, allotting this amount of time for dinner and his wife, this amount of time for grading papers and prepping lessons and the largest part that he can swing for writing.

I figured Iíd do a version of what Stegnerís Larry Morgan did, making sure Iíd left hours for all the necessary distractions of life, but devoted the lionís share of my time to writing.

That, of course, was not realistic. Iíve accepted that now. Those ďnecessary distractionsĒ are life. Fixing meals, taking my daughter to the doctor, doing laundry, paying billsóoh, and simply hanging outóare essential activities. And sometimes a heartfelt conversation that lasts for hours is simply more important than a novel-in-progress.

I came to recognize that I wasnít a horrible person for not being able to be as self-disciplined as a fictional character. Iím not a fictional character. And I donít have a wife to do the wifely things for me.

I came to recognize that I simply have far less time to write than I had thought I would. But along with that recognition came the realization that once I do sit down at the computer, it is paramount that I allow myself no distractions. No distractions!

I will not read my e-mail.

I will not check Facebook.

I will not play Solitaire.

Or Bubble Breaker.

I will not visit any sites that are not directly related to researching what Iím writing.

I will not call my sister or a friend and say, ďwhat are you doing for lunch today?Ē

And of course, I will not read, watch a movie or get up to tidy the house.

Do you realize how often I break all of these resolutions and more?

Do you realize that while writing this column I have had three little just-one-game-of Solitaire breaks, a stray peek at a site my mother would not approve of, and a repeat viewing of the imploding Lake Champlain Bridge?

You see, as Iíve always said, resolutions are set-ups not for failureóafter all, I really do get a lot of writing doneóbut for misery. Because instead of thinking, well, at least I am writing, I think but I shouldnít be doing . . . X,Y or Z.

So Iíve decided that, as a necessary New Yearís resolution, I should become the spin doctor of my own vices. And not just those self-accusatory vices that affect the time I spent writing, but vices across the board.

This spin-doctoring will go something like this:

I skip a yoga class. Instead of telling myself my practice has gone to hell-in-a-hand basket, I will remind myself that yoga means ďunion.Ē Even if I wasnít practicing asanas, I was certainly uniting with something. Possibly a cheese sandwich. But possibly something more profound, like shopping. . . .

Or, just as Iím about to accuse myself of having a drinking habit on par with William Faulknerís, I will remind myself that itís unseemly to compare oneself to so great a master. So drinking that extra glass of wine will ensure that Iím not doing any such thing. . . .

Or, if I sit in front of my laptop playing Bubble Breaker on my phone for 20 minutes, instead of calling myself slothful, lazy and shallow, I will remind myself that I have been building hand-eye coordination, a necessary skill to hone as one ages.

Now, I can hear you tongue-cluckers out there saying that this spin-doctoring isnít a real New Yearís resolution, but just a way to rationalize my lack of self-discipline. And maybe youíre right.

OK, of course, youíre right.

Youíre the person whose always at the gym, who takes spinning classes, for Peteís sake. Who uses a juicer. And knows all the ins and outs and apps on her smart phone. Who checks e-mail at stoplights. Who drinks green tea. Who Twitters. Who, when she does drink wine would never, even once, buy boxed wine.

OK, I admit it: youíre better than I am. You were better than me in 2009. You will be in 2010.

But what of it? Because, thank God, I donít have to live with you. Itís hard enough only having to live with me.

óJo Page

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