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Posted by Chuck

Welcome To 2009

A 2009 Welcome message from Chuck Palahniuk.

Last night our writers group met at Suzy’s house, and we took turns announcing what we’d accomplish with our writing in the coming year. After a decade of this ritual it’s too easy to simply resolve to complete a current project, then begin and complete another. Something feels a bit automatic, and that robs the process of any value.

Instead, consider that a suitable goal should make you feel a little – or a lot – embarrassed with its aspirations. Maybe only the goals that seem “impossible” really inspire or excite us to take action. In my experience, I’m never excited to answer mail unless I can do that task in an outrageous, over-done manner. It always feels like more work to send a simple letter than an elaborate package. With that in mind, please consider that these resolutions are a first step toward doing something which seems completely beyond your abilities at the present time. None of us want to waste our lives. We all want to surprise ourselves as we discover our abilities, and we want to meet other people and accept their help in completing our plans. In turn, we want to help others reach goals which seem beyond their current abilities.

In workshop, Suzy wrote down each writer’s committed goals, and we each took a moment to examine our writing lives. What we didn’t like, we determined to change. What sounded exciting and motivating, we stated we would accomplish. Please take a moment to examine your own writing life.

It’s my top priority to not waste your time. So in the coming year I’ll be introducing fewer techniques or distinctions around writing; instead, I’ll be reviewing your work and using it as an opportunity to apply what I’ve already introduced: Submerging the I… Horses… Avoiding abstracts… Symmetry… all of it. I’ll look for the best aspects of your writing samples, praise those, then discuss how to make other aspects work more effectively. Each month, the Cult workshop will send me a selection of your work, ideally chapters or scenes or short stories – parts that stand alone to some degree – and I’ll respond with my comments.

By the end of 2009, I’ll have chosen enough of your work to publish an anthology wherein each piece of fiction presents a perfect illustration of a writing technique we’ve discussed. I’ll write an introduction to the anthology and publish it in the spring of 2010. Beyond that, how we’ll distribute the book… I’m not sure, but that’s all part of the “impossible.” For now I’ll be looking for your best, wildest, most-exciting work. If we take good care of that task – all the other details will resolve themselves. If we do this first part right, we’ll have publishers bidding against each other for the finished work.

Maybe we’ll donate the royalties to a charity, or split them among the contributors. We’ll decide that after we’ve done our job. Yes, publishing seems to be as depressed as the rest of the economy, but great work will always sell. For now, your job is to present your best work – hell, write better than your “best.” Commit to surprising yourself. Despite how circumstances around you change, you’re still the talented, dedicated, creative person you’ve always been. Let’s show readers, teachers, booksellers and publishers how amazing a book can be.

Consider this New Year as an invitation, and a challenge.

I’ll Shut Up Now,

Chuck Palahniuk