by Gar Anthony Haywood

Actually, that blog post title’s a little harsh, because all SJS did to deserve it was blog about New Year’s resolutions here before I could.  Oh, well.  How about the next best thing, i.e., a list of all the things I resolve to stop doing in 2013?

Because the key to being happy and successful, it seems to me, is not only a matter of developing a host of new, constructive behaviors, but putting an end to those things we habitually do to sabotage ourselves.  For instance, I am promising here and now that I will try my damndest not to do the following things in 2013:

–  Procrastinate

Putting things off that need doing is a sure-fire way to guarantee they’ll either get done poorly at the last minute, or won’t get done at all.  In 2013, I’m going to take care of business now, not later, no matter how boring or inconvenient it may be to do so.

–  Make excuses

There are no doubt several reasons your latest manuscript failed to sell, or the last six agents you queried turned you down,  but using them as a rationale for not working harder is a recipe for disaster.  Nike may have turned the expression “Just do it” into the punch line of many a joke, but as a philosophy, it’s sound as hell.  Don’t obsess over why you can’t do something; just do the damn thing already.

–  Work without a plan

Zoë touched on this subject last week, and it really struck a nerve with me.  Creating a work schedule that you’re absolutely, positively committed to following has always sounded to me like a great way to make widgets, not write a book.  We creative types need to be free from such conventions, right?  To do our best work, we need to allow it to come naturally, not in accordance to some predefined set of parameters.

At least, that’s how I’ve been approaching my writing up to now, and the results would suggest it may be time to re-think things.  Structure is not a four-letter word.  Neither is discipline.  Writing like a free spirit is okay if you’re a poet with no career ambitions whatsoever, but if you expect to make a decent living as a writer, attention must be paid to output.  This year, I’m going to write as if my life depends on my making a daily page quota — because it just might.

–  Devote more time to social networking than is necessary

Yes, I’ve made a lot of professional contacts and brought more than a few new readers into the fold via Facebook.  But more than half my FB time of late is spent on highly entertaining nonsense, and that’s time I can’t afford to waste any more.  In 2013, I’ll continue to have a strong and regular FB presence, because dropping off the site completely would run counter to contemporary laws of productive self-promotion, but anybody expecting to find me “liking” this or commenting on that thirty-five times a day is destined to be gravely disappointed.

–  Renege on any of the above

Making promises is easy.  Keeping promises is hard.  Highly successful people do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it.

You guys are my witnesses.  If any of you catches me making a liar of myself, please don’t hesitate to call me on it.

Happy New Year!


  1. David Corbett

    I think the secret to honoring all promises to oneself is understanding specifically why we so routinely break them. And I think that often relates to what aspect of our personality is driving the bus to self-betterment.

    If it's the hectoring nag in our minds, we're doomed. If it's a better self we have confidence in, have faith in, actually and honestly believe we can reasonably aspire to, there's a chance. And we have to get a handle on the undertow of laziness, indifference, self-doubt and other undermining influences on our own behavior.

    We have to be brutally honest with ourselves about just how much better we can be. And then find a manageable course to that better self. All of your "no" steps seem to me to be reasonable ways to address the naysayer in us all. No excuses especially. And I think it's better to have an achievable plan than an overly ambitious one. Failure tends to feed upon itself, and if we find ourselves getting frustrated at how badly we're doing, the towel gets so much easier to toss.

    best of lucj with this in 2013, Gar. I'm on board with you.

  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Personally I think we should rename the whole blog: DAMN YOU, STEPHEN J. SCHWARTZ!

    Hmm, phrasing resolutions as NOs is an interesting take on it. Maybe scarier than YES resolutions. Even so, I may try it for Friday.

  3. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    You crack me up, Haywood. I should tie you and Sokoloff together and fit you for a double pair of cement shoes.

    Good luck on the resolutions. I've resolved to ignore mine already. There, I can check that off my list.

  4. KDJames

    Sorry to chime in so late— I helped my daughter choose a wedding dress today. A lovely, though tiring, event I will remember forever (and I'm not being sarcastic, the occasion was very touching and a real pleasure).

    I think there's something to be said for re-framing things from an opposite perspective. My mom once told me to stop looking at my To Do list as things I "had to" do and instead look at it as things I "want to" do.

    For instance, I want to eat healthy nutritious food, so I "want to" go to the grocery store. And I want to sleep on fresh clean sheets, so I really "want to" do laundry.

    I know, it sounds overly simplistic and we're all too smart and clever to fall for that, right? But even onerous tasks seem to become more palatable when you stop thinking of them as things you "have to" do. I think it might be equally effective to tell yourself to STOP doing certain things, rather than saying you "have to" start doing new things.

    Great perspective, Gar. I wish you much success in not doing stuff.

    I'm trying to convince myself I want to clean the cat boxes. Meh. Maybe tomorrow.

  5. KDJames

    OMG! Look at that! I posted a comment and it didn't go to the dungeon to languish for eternity with the spiders and cold dripping mildewed stone walls!

    And now that I've used three exclamation points in as many sentences, I'll go back to being banned for life.


    It's okay. I'm calm now. Carry on.

  6. Allison Davis

    My Chinese doctor told me I was carrying aruond too much so I was supposed to make a list of what I was letting go of for 2013. Make room for something new, like more writing. Then, make a list of what I accomplished in 2013 as if it were the end of the year. Lastly, name that thing you wished you would have known at the beginning of 2013 that you know at the end of 2013 that would have made things easier. There's a mind twister for you. I'll let you know how it all works out but I am feeling lighter already.

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