Before writing this blog post, I never really gave much thought to a bucket list for this year. Or a career bucket list, for that matter.
I daydream about miraculous debut and career events all the time: I see my book in O Magazine. Terry Gross wants to interview me on Fresh Air. I make the NYT bestseller list. Wait, they get bigger: eventually, I win the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. Roxane Gay Twitter stalks me and somehow we become best friends. And finally, Bradley Cooper wakes up one day and realizes he MUST play the dream peddler in his next film and options my film rights (for an absurd amount of money, of course—don’t forget this was the biggest bestseller of all time). Then, he also feels this weird need to wine and dine me in person and convince me why he will be perfect for the job. (Look, I said I dream big, okay? I’m a writer. We’re supposed to have a good imagination.)
I used to feel guilty when I was supposed to be writing and would find myself doing a pretend interview with Oprah instead. This was back when Oprah was still just one show, and she used to invite authors to be interviewed as part of her book club. And no, I definitely was not talking out loud, alone, in front of my computer and my unfinished short story.
But then I read a Tony Robbins book and was encouraged to discover that this kind of daydreaming—or “visualizing the future,” as Tony would probably put it—is often a sign of future success. People who achieve their goals, Tony wrote, tend to visualize them clearly and specifically. It keeps them motivated and on track to continually remind themselves what they’re working toward. My imaginary Oprah interviews (and National Book Award speeches, and so on and so forth) definitely kept me motivated, so I allowed myself to enjoy them. Although I’m not sure they really kept me on track.
A bucket list, though, is something I believe I should be able to control. Winning awards, receiving international recognition, having movies made out of my fabulous books, all fall under the category of things I definitely can’t control. I don’t want to reach the end of my debut year–or the end of my life–and feel regret just because all my dreams didn’t necessarily come true. I don’t think having them come true is really the point of having dreams. Dreams are for fun. They give us hope. They let us escape for a while. But dreams aren’t goals.
So here I am asking myself, what kinds of things can I control this year? What can I put on my bucket list that I know I can do, so I reach the end of my year proud instead of disappointed?
- I’m going to run my second book past a few beta readers, and give it to my agent. For some reason, I’m really afraid to give it to my agent. What if she doesn’t like it? What if I’ve spent the last three years working on something she might think it better not to show my editor at all? What if she sends me back to the drawing board and my heart is broken? Even though I think that’s unlikely, it’s not impossible. But overcoming my fears and letting her read my book is something I can do.
- I’m going to say yes to every single thing a book blogger or online magazine editor or my publicist asks me to do. (I will initially say yes. If I say I can do a phone interview and then I get laryngitis that day and miss it, I’m not going to beat myself up.) Sometimes I get a little worked up about the amount of time it’s taking to participate in this blog and answer interview questions and write articles when I am asked. But I recognize that I’m incredibly lucky to be asked. Every time I can get my name out there is an opportunity to put myself on someone’s radar, to maybe sell another copy of the book. And right now, that’s my job. I want to do everything I possibly can to have a successful debut, and worrying about book two and book three will have to wait. And if I’m lucky, there may actually come a time when I can’t say yes to every request because there are too many (knock wood). This is the year when it’s most important to me to do everything.
- I want to plan a really fun, yummy book launch for all my local friends to enjoy. Selling books would be great, but I want the goal of my launch to be the celebration. It’s a huge event, like a milestone birthday party, and I just want to throw a great party without expecting anything from anyone except that they come, laugh, eat, drink, and share the moment with me.
That’s it. For now, that’s all I can think of. I know it’s a really short list, but maybe that’s a good thing.