(Since the temp will not be above zero for the next couple of days, I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of warmer days. Hence the flowers to the left and me quietly crying in the corner. SO COLD!)
I used to be a huge fan of making New Year’s resolutions. I’d scribble impossible lists of all the exercise and healthy eating and meditation I was going to do over the coming year, only to review the crumpled lists at the end of the year with a strong feeling of guilt and failure. Then I came to my senses and realized no one prospered from me starting the new year feeling bad about myself.
So this past week I spent hours with a purple pen and a yellow legal pad, reflecting on the past year of writing and jotting down plans for next year. I even found my list of intentions from last year (okay, these were more like resolutions than not):
- Complete research for second novel by the end of February
- Revise rough draft of second novel and send second draft to beta readers by the end of July
- Conduct preliminary research for third novel and apply for grant funding by mid-June
- Write six short stories and submit at least three to literary journals
- Write ten flash fiction stories for ten contents and/or journal submissions
- Blog seven – ten times per month (lucky you!)
- Write a rough draft of yet another novel – I have two planned and will write one, depending on how a few external circumstances resolve themselves
I did okay. I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that I am starting the new year with a novel to revise and a rough draft to finish. I published several flash pieces and decided I am not a short story writer. I embraced slow blogging. I didn’t get the grant but I learned a lot from the process.
Mainly I recognized my pattern of biting off more than I can chew when it comes to setting goals. I don’t want to do that this coming year. I do have plans – I’m going to keep writing and revising. I’m going to keep blogging. And I have an exciting announcement about my first novel coming soon.
But more than anything, I have one overriding goal:
To explore my full potential and creativity as a writer.
And I have five practices that will help me live into that goal:
- Reflection – I need time to dream, ponder, doodle. I spent too much of the fall trying to churn out word counts, afraid that I was “wasting time” otherwise. But in order to write well, I need time to stare out the window, “wasting” writing time, mulling over my characters and plots. Inspiration usually comes when I’m writing but it’s supported by dreaming, too.
- Intentionality – Sometimes all I really need to do in order to stay focused as a writer, is to spend a little time each day or week setting a few goals and intentions, while also being realistic about how much I can reasonably accomplish. It’s much more concrete to “write 5,000 words by Friday” than it is to “work on novel this week.”
- Risk – I’ve always secretly worried I don’t take enough risks. That I’m content to live on the sidelines. I also realized last year that I’ve accomplished the things I’m most proud of by taking risks. I have a thing about wasting time (see above) and I think I shy away from risks because I’m afraid I’ll have wasted all this time on something that failed. But, as the universe has been reminding me lately, we learn and grow from our mistakes and failures, maybe even more than our successes. More news on specific risks to come.
- Simplicity – I took down the decorations last week and I kept going, getting rid of items in the house I no longer use. I also deleted a ton of shows from the DVR, shows I know I will never watch. My closets are next. I work best in clean, uncluttered spaces. This applies to intangible things, too. I’m done beating myself up over things I “should” do. And I’m not going to let people steal my time – I’ve always been good at this but circumstances necessitate even more vigilance. There, less mess – physical and emotional – and more time to write.
- Self-care – This comes closest to a resolution. Mainly it means getting enough movement and good food and sleep to stay healthy and functioning. But I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t lose 10 pounds or get to the gym every day.
So, we’ll see what happens. I’m off to tackle my closets!