Turning over a new leaf

Well, 2008 is almost here. And as is usually the case with incoming new years, thoughts have turned to New Years' resolutions and all the things I could be doing better (or, not at all) to improve the overall quality of my life.

Usually, these things are of the "lose weight / read more / hey, fuck you, I don't need to improve myself, how about everyone else improve themselves and leave me the hell alone" variety.

This year... This year is different. It's different in a way that last year should have been - I understand that, for most people, the year you turn 30, things change and one tends to reflect on life and make changes accordingly. Well, last year around the time of my birthday, I was too busy playing at being a tv producer to give a crap about any of that introspection stuff... I was sleeping about an hour a night and spending about 300% my allotted budget to try and make something out of nothing and all it got me was... Well... Nothing.

Wiser, maybe. And a tremendous amount of debt. But nothing much besides.

So this year, I've had a lot of reasons and a lot of time to think heavily about my life, all 30 years and 340 days of it - the people and events that have shaped it, the habits that combine to form the whole of it... What's positive, what's negative, and what's truly, honestly extraneous. And depending on the day, the time, what was playing on the music player and whether or not I'd just stubbed my toe, my opinions and thoughts on those things changed quite a bit. 2007 has been one of, if not THE most, turbulent years I've ever experienced - but it's brought me to now, a period of about two weeks with a bevy of experiences behind them and nothing but time to think about them.

And this is what I've come up with:

1) I have spent most of my life going too far out of my way to please people - especially those who don't deserve it.

2) I have spent most of my life going too far out of my way to seek information on current events simply because I have an addiction to information.

3) I have let a number of people down (slighty, but still) by not writing on a consistent basis.

4) I have let my body get to a point where there is actually a concept of "getting BACK into shape" - even after the football tryouts.

5) I care far too much about irrelevant things.

6) There are a small number of people in my life who have, without being asked to and without trumpeting the fact that they have, stood by my side during the most difficult periods of my life... Even when I tried to push them away.

7) I spend WAY too much time online.

8) If I have to multitask on more than two concurrent things, all items - regardless of number - that I multitask on, I fail at.

So. Having come to these conclusions, I've taken the following steps to lead a healthier, happier and overall more fulfilling life in 2008 and beyond:

1) I will be online when work or necessity dictate that I need to be online.

This is a HUGE step. In fact, it's so huge, I can't even quantify how huge it is. Up until about two weeks ago, roughly 14 - 18 hours a day, I had some form of internet connection with no fewer than 3 chat sessions (sometimes upwards of 10) and no fewer than 5 brower windows open at any given moment.

The past two weeks, I've removed my RSS feeds to Reddit, Fark, Digg, Slashdot, CNN, BBC, Reuters, AP and Wired. I've stopped signing into IM unless I have a need to communicate with someone specifically, for work-related items or otherwise. The only RSS feeds I now have active are XKCD, Seth Godin's blog and the Mentally Incontinent Forums, and while I still take time to send "P" via my phone to the folks on Facebook who poke me, I only SMS for conversation, and only during down momens. This alone has forced me to focus on the things I NEED to do, like fixing up my house, writing stories and novels, and working out.

2) I am going to the gym minimum 5 times a week.

There's one thing I've discovered about myself over the years - I'm a "bargainer." I'm the kind of guy who wakes up every single morning dreading the very thought of going and running or lifting weights - so I make a deal with myself. "Just get up and go to the gym. Go inside and lift a few times and leave. You can have a light day today."

When I get inside, I begin working out, and the entire time, I'm making these little bargains - if I do one more set of X, i can cut back on Y. And by the time I'm finished with X, I am in the mood to do Y - but I'll only do half of the Y that I usually do, and I'll only do half my session of Z. Of course, midway into my session with Y, I feel like doing the whole thing - and so, I tell myself "Ok, do the whole Y, and skip Z." And by the end of my day, I've done my full X, full Y, and double the Z I did last time.

I don't know why, but it works. And I feel great.

Adding to this, I've built in an irresistible incentive by entering into a challenge with my friend Jeremy to see who can lose the most body fat over a 15 week period. Every week, the person who loses more body fat that week gets to hit the loser in the arm - and they don't "cancel out" - if i win this week, and he wins next week, there are two hits that get delivered. At the end, we will weigh in in Las Vegas at the Mentally Incontinent Vegas party, with the winner getting $500 in chips.

3) I will write at least one new story for Mentally Incontinent every week, and regardless of my perception of quality, it will be posted on Monday of each week.

I already have a cache of work to choose from. I'm going to give myself a few hours today (December 31) to finish up the one I really want to post, but if it's not done, I'll just post one of the others I've written.

One of my personality quirks / qualities / whatever you want to call it - I've always been capable of making the people who manage me very, very happy with the work I do. And with Penguin Books, I've been doing some work on marketing for the It's Not News, It's Fark book and the new Truth about Chuck Norris book, and they've been very very happy with the stuff I've done - so happy, in fact, that they've given me some leeway on my deadline for the Mentally Incontinent book.

This is not a good thing.

With every reprieve in deadline they give me, I get more and more slack... Losing more and more readers - some of these readers are very, very valuable and wonderful folks who have been longtime presences in the MI Forums and on the site. And I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for having let them down.

And of course, there are other reasons I haven't written... With the exception of the 4-part story about a high school crush on a teacher, there hasn't been much new from me in 2007, and the reasons are... Irrelevant. Sure, they're powerful and meaningful and deep and all that gnarly shit when I, Joe Peacock, think about them - but the thing is, as a supposed "Writer", I'm not about that. I'm about producing writing. And without producing writing... How can I be a writer? I mean... Sure, all my reasons are valid and understandable... If only I could explain them to you in a way that you could feel exactly what I've felt and know exactly what I've known the past year.

At best, I could tell you some stories and share with you vast missives about pain and dispair and creative drought, and you could nod your head and say "yeah, that makes sense" and still, there'd be no stories and no book and no reason for you to actually read anything I write. Because I've not written anything.

This is unacceptable.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter how I'm feeling or how sick I get or who hurts me or what conversation sparks what memory that locks me down for weeks at a time and makes me want to go run headfirst into a wall to make all the bad thoughts stop... If I want to be a writer, I have to write. If I want a reader-edited book to be edited by readers, I need to give readers something to read (and edit).

I get it now.

4) I've hired a manager.

It sounds odd... But I've gone and put someone on the payroll to manage me. I'm giving this person my current list of things I need to do, and my current schedule as it pertains to already-committed tasks. I'm going to allow this person to build my calendar and then KEEP ME COMMITTED TO IT.

He's a trusted friend who's been working with me for about half a year now, and he has no trouble kicking my ass into gear when it needs it. It's just that now, he gets paid for it.

One of his major responsibilities is to assess the weekly "hey, I have a new idea!" shit that I come up with and force me to come up with an honest schedule of when the hell it could fit into my current schedule. If it can't, then out it goes.

There will be a section on my newly redesigned site (coming soon) filled with these ideas. If I can't do them, I'm going to slap them into this section and let others have them. No sense in wasting them, you know.

5) I'm going to quit caring about anything and anyone that isn't directly related to me, my family or my friends.

This is probably the hardest of all the things I'm doing. I have to quit reading about, watching and having opinions about politicians, celebrities, rock bands, rap acts, video directors, television shows, movies and everything else that isn't honestly, truly important.

This does not mean that I will quit paying attention to all of these things. I will simply stop CARING about them. I've had an irrational concern about everything on this planet since the day I was born... And the natural consequence of that is that the entire world and its problems become my concern (and those of you who suffer the same affliction - and there are a LOT of you - know exactly what I'm talking about).

It's fun to be angsty about the fact that America knows more about the color of Brittany Spears' panties on a given day than they do about their elected Congressmen, but honestly... Who cares? I know what I know, I care about what I care about, and everything else outside of that is wasted effort.

The shorter version of this, as my wife put it, is that I'm going to stop trying to fix the world from the comfort of my recliner.

6) I'm going to update my journal every. single. day.

Yep. Go ahead and unsubscribe from the RSS feed now. You thought you got a lot of mindless drivel from this thing before? Prepare to drink from the firehose.

The theory here is that, so long as I'm writing - regardless of what it is I am writing - I will be compelled to write more. For about 15 years, I kept a notebook with me everywhere I went, and I could probably fill about 4 pages a day with just my observations and thoughts and the lyrics of whatever song might be playing my head. That's precisely the reason I was able to write about a story a week when I first started MI - the stuff just poured out of me, and it wasn't because it was spilling over the sides... It was because I'd been in the habit of WRITING. It is SO much easier to write something if you wrote something the day before.

On that.... The last honest journal entry I made was October 27, 2007. It was half a page long. Before that? July 5th. And before that? December 12, 2006.

Three entries in one year. Pathetic.

So, I've vowed to write in my notebook every single day. And I figure I might as well put something in this thing every day as well. Sure, you'll be getting sloppy seconds of filtered crap, but whatever... It's the internet, if you expected quality, you should have gone to the library.

So there you go. Welcome to the new Joe.