With Christmas and most of 2018 now behind us, it’s time once again to look ahead to the coming year. You’ll be delighted to learn, however, that I’ve decided to waive my right to bore you with yet another list of Travis Naughton’s New Year’s resolutions. You’re welcome.

Travis Naughton

The last resolution I made was for New Year’s Day, 2017. That’s when I promised myself, and the world, that I would stop drinking. I’m pleased to tell you that next Tuesday will be the second anniversary of my sobriety.

I’m looking forward to year three of the new me. I’m much happier now than I was just two short years ago, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. My main area of concern, as a person with an addictive personality, is my dependence on my smartphone.

Recently I discovered that my iPhone can generate a weekly screen time report so that I can better monitor how I use my device. The initial reports were not alarming; they were horrifying. On average, I spend around five hours per day staring at the tiny, flickering screen of my iPhone 6. That means I waste 35 hours per week looking at my phone when I could be doing something more productive, more satisfying, or more meaningful with my time.

When I figure out how to moderate my use of my phone, my already rich and happy life will be even better. One way I intend to fill those wasted 35 hours per week is by writing. I’m grateful for the opportunity to pen 600-800 words per week for the Boone County Journal, but I know that I am capable of doing much more. I’ve been compiling lists of magazines, literary journals, and publishers for some time now in anticipation of submitting my work to a larger audience. Thorough lists are all well and good, but they’ll be useless if I don’t put in the work of writing.

I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, yet at age 47 I still haven’t had what I would consider a career. I’m currently in my seventh year of substitute teaching, which is the longest I’ve ever worked in a single field, but I don’t know if any part-time job, no matter how satisfying, counts as a bona fide career—especially one that pays so little. Maybe it does, but I still yearn for more.

If you were to ask me what I do for a living, I would hand you one of my business cards that lists my occupations: author, columnist, humorist, public address announcer, minister, jugband musician, and substitute teacher. I haven’t managed to make a career out of any of those part-time gigs—yet. But I intend to.

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions, but from now on, I do intend to spend less time staring at my phone and more time writing. I probably won’t land a major book deal or a nationally-syndicated newspaper column, but I guarantee I never will if I don’t work towards those goals.

When my very first newspaper article was published in the Jefferson City Business Times back in 2003, my mother presented me with a framed copy of the piece. Mom had worked for the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper in northern California years earlier. She was so proud of me.

December 30th will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s passing. She died before I wrote my first book, Naked Snow Angels, and before Bruce Wallace agreed to let me be his new columnist. I know Mom would have been thrilled to learn that I’m finishing work on my fourth book, (a third compilation of columns originally published in the Boone County Journal,) over Christmas break. But I suspect she would also say something to the effect of, “If you’d put that damn phone down, you’d have your novel written by now, Slick.” And she’d be right of course.

Have yourself a happy new year. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do.