Last night, we watched a movie we missed last year in the theaters: Cowboys & Aliens. For a secular, genre film, it had a surprisingly religious message. Daniel Craig plays an outlaw named Jake, who at the start of the movie has lost his memory. He arrives at a town called Absolution, shortly before the aliens attack. A preacher named Meacham tends his wounds, and accompanies Jake and the others intent on rescuing the townspeople abducted by the aliens. While Meacham generally has something moral to say any time he’s onscreen, his final words to Jake seem at the heart of the movie: “God don’t care who you were, son. Only who you are.”
Jake doesn’t spend much time being penitent, at least not in the manner of a devout Catholic seeking the divine rite of Absolution, but the story seems in tune with the era of American expansion, when those who never achieved their potential in the more established towns and cities headed west to begin new lives. Some, like Jake or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ character John Carter, might have been running away from something, or had pasts they would just as soon forget. So rather than accept the limited opportunities life seemed to have handed them, they tried something new, something bold and extreme, and hoped that their efforts would be rewarded.
As we’re approaching the New Year, this seems a good message for all of us to contemplate. If we have yet to achieve what we wish to in life, then should we alter our approach? I don’t buy the adage that success never comes to people who keep doing the same thing: one must first develop one’s skills and abilities, and gain mastery over them, before long term success can come. But then, a slight correction, or even a radical one, is mandated if one has drifted off-course. While I feel like I’m making good progress toward developing my skills and abilities as a writer, I also feel I need to refocus my energies somewhat in the forthcoming year. Specifically, I need to kick my submission efforts up a notch. How exactly I can accomplish that, I don’t know, as the Divine never gives us more hours in each day.
I know I’m a hard worker. (At least, I can be when I really want to be). The key is not just to work hard (which, if ill-directed, may only lead to exhaustion), but to also work smart, focusing on those tasks most necessary to achieving the desired goal. I feel that 2013 could be my year for something to break loose and finally get a publishing deal. But for that to happen, I have to make it happen. So, I’ve got some thinking to do.
What, if anything, will you do differently next year? Is a course correction called for, or do you merely need to continue along the path you are currently following? I wish you all wisdom as you contemplate what, if anything, you will do differently in 2013.