Another year has passed and, as we prepare to ring in 2022, here at Nothing in the Rulebook we’ve been struck, in the twilight of the year, by the writings of Seneca, and his 2000 year old treatise on the Shortness of Life:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
With these words swirling in our minds, we’ve decided to do what so many others do at this time, and resolve to do things differently in the year to come.
But what resolutions should we hold ourselves accountable for, in 2022? Well, as readers, writers, artists and all-round creative folk, we thought we’d put down a few resolutions with a creative angle, in the hope that we might loosen the creative ligaments and spur ourselves onto widen our lives, as Seneca instructed; rather than merely lengthen them.
Without further ado, below we have a short list of what you might call “guidelines” for the year ahead. We’d love to hear your own though (and we might even add to this list with full credit with any suggestions we receive), so please do add your own in the comments or send us an email!
Getting a debut book out there is no mean feat, especially in the current climate where most big publishers are mostly interested only in sequels, prequels, or celebrity memoir (or, as Julian Barnes observed in The Paris Review “Publishing houses are only looking for books that are imitations of other successful books.”).
So, in 2022, we’ve resolved to read more books by debut writers – not necessarily only those published in this calendar year, but recent authors who for the first time find their books on the shelves of bookstores. And we’ll support them in other ways, too, leaving reviews online to help support the inevitable sales algorithms, and spreading word via social media. We have compiled a short list of debut writers and their books that we’re recommending for 2022, but if you are a debut author and would like us to support your book, please get in touch.
Start a diary – and keep it
“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments” so wrote literary legend Virginia Woolf when discussing her own diary keeping.
It perhaps seems a bit old hat to suggest keeping a diary in an age where our lives are self-documented via various social media platforms. Yet for writers and readers (and other creative folk!) alike, the simple art of noting one’s experiences and thoughts down in a moderately thoughtful and creative manner, through a diary, can be infinitely helpful. 2022 could be the year you start – or restart – your diary writing habit.
Measure activity; not results
When it comes to the work of a creative – whether a writer, artist, photographer, film maker or musician – your job is to share your truth, not worry about the outcome of your work. The first goal of any creative artist is therefore to sit down and do the work, no matter how scary or hard it may be. When you do this, you almost always create something better and more honest than worrying about “what will people think?” So, create art in whatever shape or form that moves you and leave the results to your audience. In 2022 therefore, set yourself creative goals based in activity – and aim to meet them by the end of the year.
Take time to laugh: read the Bad sex in fiction connoisseur’s compendium
Spasming muscles, groans, whispers, licked ears, sweat, bucking, otherwise central zones and bulging trousers. If you’re hoping your New Year’s Eve will feature at least some of the above, you can guarantee it by checking out our collection of all the winning entries of the infamous ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award. It’s hilarious, and a lighthearted break from the seriousness of both creative resolutions and the grimness of reality in the 2020s.
The big one: should you quit your job and become an artist?
“The kind of life that makes one feel empty and shallow and superficial, that makes one dread to read and dread to think, can’t be good for one, can it?” asked literary legend Willa Cather when pondering the trade aspiring creatives must so often make between pursuing their creative passions and working to pay the bills. It is a question that deserves attention, particularly so at a time when working hours are increasing and worker’s rights diminishing.
It’s a similar question posited by another literary great, Charles Bukowski – who asked: “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”
These existential worries are pretty big ones to kick a new year off with. But if now isn’t the kind of time to consider these big, soul searching questions, when is? Creativity isn’t always suited to the demands of late neoliberal capitalist society; yet it’s something we desperately need as both individuals and also for our collective human consciousness. So, even if you don’t throw it all in this year, maybe it’s still worth asking the question: if creativity brings you joy, what do you need to do, in order to pursue it?