Come to My New Blog!

If you followed a link here from a comment I made on somebody's google blog, I would love to have you visit my blog, but this is no longer it. While I may occasionally post things here again once in a long while, virtually all my content will be at from here on out. If you were curious enough to come this far, why not give me one more click?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Good thing I waited a few days to make those resolutions

After being pretty successful with my New Year's resolution for 2008, I had some pretty ambitious plans for 2009. Then Monday came and reality slapped me in the face. I'm now sitting here at my desk, surrounded by piles of paperwork I need to get through, and coming to the realization that I need to reprioritize. I know what you're supposed to do when you finish one writing project: begin the next one. Writers write. Duh. But I've got four preps, two of which are new to me, and way more work each week than I can get done in a measly forty hours. It isn't fair, but that's the way it is: I need to devote more of my off-time to my day job.

I'm deeply conflicted about this. I don't want to be one of those people who say they want to write but always have some excuse for not doing so. How many times on this very blog have I commented on how much of this year's growth could have come sooner if I'd just pushed a little harder? But until someone wants to pay me to sit around and write, I need to make sure I keep giving my employers reasons to keep me around. Hopefully what I've done this year will keep my internal self-critic quiet for a few weeks.

Twenty, to be precise.

So here are my scaled back resolutions for 2009:

  • Finish revising Vanishing Act, including the feedback from my critters.
  • Send Vanishing Act to Moonrat for the critique I won, and incorporate her feedback into my submission.
  • Begin sending Vanishing Act to literary agents, starting with the ones who've asked to see it.
  • I can't control whether or not I sell any fiction in 2009, but I resolve to either sell something in 2009 or have rejections for at least five different works to show for myself. This isn't as ambitious as it sounds, because I have a backlog of completed and unsubmitted stories.
  • Do the preliminary work for my next novel.
  • This summer I will begin writing that novel.
  • Complete a first draft of that novel.

That last one may be a bit iffy, if I don't even get started until June, but I can work pretty solidly for almost ten weeks over the summer, and then I'll still have about twenty weeks left in 2009.

No specific goals for writing short stories or for attending conferences and such.

EDIT TO ADD: One more resolution I nearly forgot:

  • I resolve to stop bringing up my blog traffic stats anywhere else, no matter how fascinating, troubling, or just plain weird they are, because it makes me look like a total goober.


lotusgirl said...

Sounds like you're being practical. Don't you hate that?

What do you teach? I used to teach HS ages ago. Latin, French, Spanish, English. Latin was my main subject, though. They would just give me something else to fill up the class schedule. Don't you love how they do that?

Jim Van Pelt said...

Hi, Joe. I've devoted a part of my career trying to figure out how to balance the day job with my writing job. If you haven't done so yet, you might drop in to my columns at The Fix Online at

An article you might like is "The Day Job: Finding the Time" at

Good luck with the new preps! I only have one of those this semester, but I'm teaching five different classes.

Joe Iriarte said...

Ugh! I've gotten into this zone where all I can think about is my writing, and these slave-drivers just want me to do all this work, like they think they're entitled just because they pay me! Where do they get off?!

I teach high school math. This year it's Algebra 2, what we call Advanced Topics in Math (which virtually everybody else calls Math Analysis), and Calculus AB and BC. Next year, who knows? Stability is hard to find around here!

They did that to me the first year I taught at this school. We were a K-12 school at the time, and I was hired to teach 6th grade math, but we were a small school, and every regular teacher had to teach an elective as well. So they put me to teach Spanish, because it happens to be my first language. I'm sure you realize how the logic behind that makes no sense at all. As a native speaker, I really have no intuition on how to help people trying to learn a second language after language formation has already taken place. As someone who hasn't studied the speaking of Spanish, I don't know the best methodologies to teach someone a new language . . . what do you teach first, how do you structure your class, and so forth. I can't even call on the memory of learning English, because I was only four or five when I did. I think I was a very mediocre Spanish teacher.

I think it's very cool that you have such a mastery of Latin. So much of the basis of our highest thinking in philosophy and science is rooted in groundwork first laid down in Latin. How neat it would be to be able to read primary text and have it make sense to you!

Joe Iriarte said...

Hi Jim--you must have snuck in after I started typing my reply to lotusgirl!

Thank you for dropping by! I'll definitely check out those columns. I read at least a dozen of your posts last night--the ones that seemed the most connected to the things that have been on my mind--and already started making plans to go through the rest at a more leisurely pace, because I really found a lot that was of value! I read a fair number of blogs, but yours is a goldmine! Seriously!

The balance has been much harder for me this year than in the past. Last year, I decided that if I was serious about wanting to write, I had to make it a higher priority, and treat it like a second job. And it's been wonderful; I've learned more, and faster, than ever before, and I feel like I have a greater store of creativity than before, if that makes sense. A deeper reservoir to tap.

But it's gotten harder to break away. It's not an issue at home, because my wife shares my committment, so after the kids go to bed, writing side by side in the living room actually *is* quality time together. We bounce sentences off each other and stuff. And it's not an issue with the kids, because I'll take them to the playground and bring my laptop, and they run around and then pop over to the picnic bench where I'm sitting from time to time and we chat, so they don't feel neglected. But it is an issue with my job because teaching just grows like some sort of blob, to take as much of your time as you can give. I've become more jealous of that time.

I'm glad I don't teach literature anymore. I did that for a year, and there was just no way I could keep up with the workload. I don't know how you can teach lit and write. Heck, I could hardly read back then.

If I'm ever at a conference where you're presenting, I'd love to see you talk live about that daisy plotting method. My better short stories seem to echo themselves, going in kind of a cyclic pattern like you describe, but it's just worked out that way. It's really cool to see something like that accidentally in your own work, but I'd love to feel like I had more conscious control of that aspect of my craft.

Jim Van Pelt said...

Ha, I thought for a minute I'd caught you blogging in the middle of your school day, then I realized you were in Florida. Your day is probably over. I, however, still have a class to teach. This is my planning period. I'm a little compulsive about checking my e-mail and blogs. I've been known to compose blogs or e-mails while kids are reading or testing (a bad habit I try to resist).

Did you see my posts about the Write-a-Book-in-a-Year club at the school? I wrote a 100,000 word novel first semester by using my classes as motivators.

Have a great weekend.

lotusgirl said...

I wasn't the best Spanish teacher either. I had only had 3 semesters of it. But I was teaching the first years so they figured it would be fine. The poor Spanish students. My undergrad major was Latin. I have a masters in French--totally fluent, lived in France for a year and Switzerland for 6 months. They give me a Spanish class. There's our tax dollars in action. I always had 4 preps though so not much sympathy from me--though at the time I wasn't trying to write. Who had time?

Joe Iriarte said...

Foreign language teachers--and elective teachers in general--always have a lot of preps. I don't know how you do it. (Of course, I didn't care squat about number of preps until my district got ridiculous in their lesson plan requirements. When TSWABATs, assessments, and page numbers were all I needed, I preferred more preps because it kept me from getting bored. Now that my lesson plans have to include ESE strategies, ESL strategies, character education benchmarks, technology benchmarks, and CIM objective, CIM activities, and CIM assessment, . . . now I'm a little less blasé about the whole thing.)