Sunday, January 15, 2012

I’m penny pinching, and a better writer because of it

So, I have a list of 33 New Year’s resolutions. As an aspiring writer, you’d think one of them might be “write more often” or “finish a first draft of my novel”. Nope. There is not a single writing-specific resolution.

There are, however, about 10 financially-related goals. And by financially-related, I mean ones that include the following words and phrases: saving, cutting back, spending wisely, trim, budget, expenses, retirement, emergency, and down payment.

Ok, it’s only mid-January, so it is a little early to feel smug about this but…I have to say that my 2-week-old penny-pinching ways seem to be sticking. And have created quite an unexpected domino effect: I believe I am writing better because of them. 

One of my resolutions is “make maximum use of what I’ve already paid for before spending on something new.” For any of you who have read my previous postings, this means the end of having 12 unread books on standby on my bookshelf. That’s right – I am not allowed a new book until everything on my shelf is read (or, as someone very correctly pointed out to me the other day, until I actually use my library card).

I also already subscribe to the Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and about 25 different writing-related blogs. And to a gym. And there are about 10 unwatched DVDs on my shelf, and at least 20 unread books.

What this resolution has meant to me so far is this: before I go and spend money on a book, magazine, or entertainment of any kind, I have to be able to say that I have exhausted all of these other options.

Already, my inner critic has been sparked by an article in the New Yorker about Sarajevo, Chicago, and feeling at home. The article is called Mapping Home by , and appeared in the December 5, 2011 issue (

Had it not been for my resolution, this issue would have found its way to my recycling bin (given that I was 4 issues behind with all the craziness of the holiday season). Reading the article, it dawned on me that I don't know my protagonist well enough: I can't tell you where she truly and honestly feels most at home. And, to be honest, the story just won't work, nor unfold believably, until I figure that out.

And, as my mind clears (well, overheats) on the treadmill, it is free to properly think this through.

I’m now reading, running, questioning and, as a result, writing more than I ever have before. I'm inspired by what I’m reading, consolidating thoughts while I’m running and – now that I’m no longer busy spending money – I have more time to put those consolidated thoughts down on paper.

Ok, let’s face it, most resolutions don’t last past February. The optimist in me, though, is hoping that two months may be all it takes to really crack the backbone of this novel. We shall see…

So, which of your resolutions are creating domino effects?

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