It’s the start of the new year and so I thought I should write the obligatory “new years resolution” post. We all do it, right? We resolve to write more, or to watch less TV (or browse less Facebook). Maybe you’ve set out big goals—start a novel, finish one, get an agent?
My wife wrote out a list of fifty-two goals—not specifically to achieve one a week, and most are small, very achievable actions or changes. She’s a very organized person.
So, new year, new resolutions?
I’ve never been a fan of big resolutions, and certainly not centered around New Years. For me, new years is such an arbitrary line in the sand. While much of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, it’s no more than an agreed upon system. New years day? It’s really no more or less important than any other day circling the sun. Yeah yeah, we need a system to function, for society to be on the same page, to have at least one socially acceptable “get loaded” day (not counting conventions)—but why New Years? Why not winter solstice, or the spring equinox—those both seem like ideal points of change. Why not your birthday?
I should point out that I have a personal reason for seeing this as arbitrary—my birthday happens to fall on the fifth of January. To me, this is the start of the new year, not the first. Start a new diet on the first? No way—I have a nice dinner and dessert (okay, desserts) planned just a handful of days later. And from a little before Christmas through (and perhaps slightly past) my birthday, I’m in holiday mode—the last thing I want to do is mess up my fun by trying to have less of it.
My bigger objection, though, is the idea of a resolution—your realization that something needs changing so significantly that you have to force yourself to do it. If the need is really there, you should not wait until the new year to make it, nor for your birthday, or even the coming Monday. Do it now. Stop reading this blog and go do it. It’s okay, really—go do your thing. Need to work on your health or weight? Go take a walk, and make the next meal a better one. Do some writing over lunch, or before going to bed, and maybe even first thing in the morning. Skip TV this evening—it’s the same junk that’s always running anyway (you can always catch it later with Netflix or elsewhere).
I’ll fess up to the fact that I don’t always follow this same advice. I mull over ideas; I get excited about something and don’t end up executing it; I know there’s plenty of things I could improve and end up kicking that can down the road a bit. I have goals, some of which I’m actively working on and others I will…soon. But I started a new diet in the middle of October, with both Halloween and a vacation just ahead of it (I’m still on it, by the way, even with the small hiccups of Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday as well as a few others). When I first jumped into my exercise phase, it was the middle of May—that was almost five years ago, and I’m still active. I started writing my first novel on the first of April (no joke!), after spending a month or so cleaning up a year’s worth of notes. It took me another eight months to finish writing it, but I did, along with maybe ten or so short stories along the way.
I’m also deadline-oriented—I have to be with the work I do if I want to keep clients happy. It also helps when writing for anthologies and ensuring you get something done before they close to submissions.
There are reasons why you aren’t doing what you think you should be doing—rarely do those distractions or habits go away just because of a resolution. Correct them if they’re a problem, and if they aren’t find a way to embrace them in a controlled, healthy way. Adjust your goals, refine your expectations, and don’t wait for some arbitrary time to make the big changes.
And now, with this out of the way, it’s time for some World of Warcraft—I have goals to work on after all.