New year, new resolutions

Here we are at the beginning of 2017. Last year I made my first ever public New Years resolution. It’s a time to check in on how I did and to do the next turn of the page.

The resolution last year was an easy one: write more, on my blog. It was easy because I wanted to do it. It was hard because it meant finding time to do it. But I managed to pull it off. I did a statistical check-in back in September on how I did, and reached the conclusion that I was keeping to the goal of writing every weekday at about an 88% success rate. I finished the last four months of the year at 92% average, thanks to a very strong September. So yay me!

The reward was substantial in other ways as well. I started finding writing was easier, both on the blog and at work, and started finding it easier to dig deeper and say more interesting things. That later in the year I got my first public speaking conference slots, in New York, Bristol, and Seville, I attribute at least in part to this trend. That is a classic unexpected outcome to a relatively simple change in habit.

Personally, I found the writing took me in some unexpected directions. I knew I liked learning about cocktails; now I like writing about them as well. And on a more serious note, I didn’t start digging deep into America’s history of slavery until this year, when I started finding the fossilized remnants of it lurking just beneath the surface.

So what’s next? This is a harder question. I have some harder habits to change, but I need to change them. First, I need to get more exercise. Second, I need to change my diet to lose some weight.

I’m not committing to how I’m going to do the exercise, but I know how I’m going to measure it. We’re going to close the rings, with a goal of increasing my number of weeks that I close all three.

Regarding the weight thing, I’m not concerned about the amount of weight I want to lose, though I have an idea. Mostly I just want to eat healthier. And I’m going to start with the low hanging fruit: no beer on weeknights. I’m in the habit of drinking beer with dinner, and I think I need to unwind that habit, or at least make it a less frequent thing. Wil Wheaton’s reboot is my inspiration here. I hope I don’t completely go off beer as he did, but I think it’s a reasonable starting point. So we’ll see!

Mid-year resolution check-in

At the end of last year, I made a resolution that I was going to start writing on my blog again, after several years of intermittent posts. It’s almost three-quarters of the way through the year, so now seems like a good opportunity to take stock of how I’m doing.


First, I note that the original post didn’t really specify all the reasons that I’m doing this. It’s worth noting now for posterity. Here’s why I made the resolution:

  1. A desire to get my writing back out of siloed Internet presences like Facebook and Twitter. I mentioned this in the original post. I don’t have anything against those platforms and still use both, but I don’t want my best work to only live there. I want some control over what happens to it.
  2. A desire to improve the ease and fluency of my writing. My job now requires a fair amount of written, world-facing communication in a way that it didn’t before. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that everything you can do well is like a muscle that gets more powerful with exercise, and writing is no exception.
  3. A more general feeling of dissatisfaction. This was only apparent to me in retrospect. At the end of last year I wasn’t happy with some things in my life, and in the past writing has been a good mechanism to start taking control.


So, how’s it gone? Answer: pretty well quantitatively, and very well qualitatively.

Quantitatively: My goal was to write something every week day. January started strong: I only missed one week day and had an extra Saturday post, so we’ll count that as a win. February missed one day, as did March. But two days missed out of 65 is still a 97%.

April was perfect. But May missed two, and June… ah. June missed six. So that’s an 87% for the second quarter. Not so good. July missed six again, and August missed five. So my overall score was an 88%. Kind of underwhelming from a perspective of hitting perfection. However, putting it in perspective, in all of 2015 I wrote nine posts total, and three of them were in the last two days of the year. So getting to 88% (so far) is a huge upswing.

Qualitatively: I’m actually really proud of some of the writing I’ve done on the blog in the last year to date. I had people in the TFC come up to me and talk to me about what Sunday’s post about the Transmigration meant to them, which has never happened. It’s probably the best thing I’ve written in a while. But there have been other good posts and series, including the song-by-song reviews of A Moon Shaped Pool; a set of Virginia Glee Club discoveries including the identification of its first black member, the early history of Wafna, Founders Days through the years, and a pocket history of the contest that led to the writing of “Virginia, Hail, All Hail”; obituaries for David Bowie, Andy GroveJohan Botha and Reilly Lewis; and some one-offs about “Eighty-One,” mononucleosisAsheville barbecue, Tomorrowland, the Shelton Laurel massacre, and trade shows. There have also been Random Fives, cocktails, and lengthy writing about ripping vinyl. That’s OK. As someone once wrote about Sylvia Plath, if she couldn’t make a table out of a poem she was working on, she was more than happy to make a chair. Meaning: writing is writing, and not everything has to hit it out of the ballpark, but you need to keep approaching the craft all the time.

I think I’m proudest of a set of posts I’ve made about race relations and the legacy of slavery, a topic I had never engaged with in the past and that I needed to engage and process. The series so far includes:

That’s not a bad body of work for not quite nine months. I’m pretty pleased with how this has gone so far. Now to figure out what the next turn of the screw is.