Fifteen New Year’s Eves ago I gathered with my writing workshop for our first annual “writers’ resolutions” party. We met in my home, which at the time was a converted storefront in Portland, Oregon. It was dark, damp, cold. We lit candles though, and passed a bottle of whiskey around.
It was Chuck Palahniuk who started it. He’d just had his second novel rejected, and he was bitter. He took a swig of whiskey, slammed down the bottle, and resolved to write and sell a book in the coming year. That book was Fightclub, and it sold ten months later. You know the rest of the story.
From that first drunken declaration, a tradition was born among us. The imperative? Resolve to do something that scares the shit out of you. At least a little. Something you fear; something that pushes the envelope for you as an artist. Something that flies in the face of your personal myth. Something that leads you further than you ever thought possible.
Yes, it will cost you. Yes, it will hurt. But now, more than ever, those who risk nothing, get nothing. The digital age and the ubiquitous nature of social media has turned everyone into an instant author. Why is your voice so important? Why is your story so unique? Your artistic resolution should deliver on a promise to discover a part of yourself you’ve always turned away from. You know what I’m talking about. The stuff that embarrasses you. Makes you squirm. Makes you feel like your face just broke out in a rash of pus. That’s what Chuck did. He risked exposing that rash, and look: his act of courage lives on to speak to a subsequent generation. It defined a subculture and spoke to a segment of society in a new and authentic way. You can’t do that by resolving to lose five pounds or eat healthier or even sit at your computer 10 minutes longer each day to hammer out a first draft.
This year, blow it out of the water. What do you have to lose?