I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. No matter how well-intentioned, they never last. That initial burst of enthusiasm (“I’ll write one hour first thing in the morning!”) morphs into a sinkhole of counter-productive resentment (“I didn’t write this morning, and I’m a terrible person.”)

So for the past few years, I’ve been aiming more towards “areas of interest” rather than true resolutions. That way, there’s no promise to be broken.

For 2009, two of my publicly-professed areas of interest were:

  1. Trying more Austrian white wines
  2. Finding a nemesis

Some background is obviously in order.

Austrian white wines seemed like just the right level of achievable affectation. They’re neither rare nor ubiquitous. You’ll find one or two reasonably-priced bottles on many restaurant’s wine lists. And it’s extremely low-risk: the worst Austrian white wine I’ve had is pretty damn good.

While I didn’t become an instant expert in Austrian whites this year — I didn’t Tim Ferriss it — I consider the experiment a strong success. I drank good wine and became pals with the GrĂ¼ner Veltliner grape. Ask a sommelier about Austrian whites and he lights up, happy to talk about something new.

The nemesis idea never really took off.

It all sprang from a basic realization: I’m competitive. Some of my most productive periods have come when I’ve actively compared myself to someone else — and if it was someone I disliked, all the better. I saw a nemesis as a way to harness my negative emotions in the service of getting stuff done.

But I could never think of a good nemesis. It’s a tricky combination: You need to both respect and despise the person simultaneously. There are many filmmaker-types I respect, but they’re all genuinely good people. There are a handful of filmmakers I despise, but I don’t respect them enough to care what they’re doing.

I needed an evil J.J. Abrams, but I never found one.

In thinking about my areas of interest for 2010, I’m taking my cues from last year: pursuing things that make me happy (wine) and avoiding things that don’t. Again, these aren’t resolutions in the classic sense, but rather statements of philosophy — ideas I want to pursue more strongly in the year ahead.

Auf Wiedersehen, Schadenfreude

You know who I’m rooting for in 2010? Everyone.

I’m rooting for Spider-Man the Musical, Ghost Rider 2, ScriptShadow and the Republican party. While I have serious concerns with each, I’ll happily cheer the best versions of any of them, because it’s not a zero-sum game.

Life, movies and popular culture are a lot more like Settlers of Catan than Monopoly. You don’t win by destroying and humiliating your opponents.

I want 2010 to be the biggest year at the box office for both clever indies and mega-tentpoles based on sticker books. I want a year crammed with so many award-worthy titles that ten best picture slots seems like too few.

For 2010, I’ll be watching for that twinge of schadenfreude and trying to snuff it out immediately. Negative emotion is a waste of time.

Archery

The new Austrian white. Because if it turns out I’m terrible at it, who cares?

Work as the reward

A confession: on some projects, the only way I can force myself to sit at the computer is to calculate the amount I’m being paid per page, until greed or guilt makes the writing happen.

I’m hoping the majority of my work for the new year can be done with healthier motivation. It is tremendously satisfying to be writing well, and that should be the goal. 1

Twenty-ten is going to be a busy year, though it’s not clear exactly which projects will happen.

I’ll be adapting How I Became a Famous Novelist and working on a movie I owe Fox. One very long-simmering non-movie project should finally be announced.

There is also a new version of this site that is just about ready to launch, and an iPhone app I’ll soon be beta-testing.

But that’s after the New Year. Until then, I’ll be on break. Happy Holidays. See you on the other side.

  1. I taught my daughter to read this year, and was careful to make sure she enjoyed it for the sense of achievement rather than my praise. “Good job!” is a trap.