Kinder, gentler resolutions

by Pari

It’s late night, the time when I thank God for the remote. Flipping through the now limited channels of our basic cable . . .  past the evangelists preaching last-minute salvation, the telenovelas with characters that definitely need saving, and the news shows that make me wonder if anything holy exists  . . . I can’t help but notice a change in the timbre of the commercials.

Yes, folks, it’s resolution time. The time when we shake our heads and ask,
“What the hell happened to last year?”
“What do you mean it’s almost 2011?”
and “Hunh?”

Last year, on December 31st, I taped my resolutions to the inside back cover of my daily calendar. Smart, hunh? Well . . . not really. It’s amazing how skillful I became at opening the thing so that I didn’t have to look at them.

I think I’ll take a look now . . .
Why’s this clip here?
What’s that glue for .  . . 

Actually, I’d completely forgotten that I only posted the “writing goals” for 2010 in my working calendar. That was a good idea. No additional emotional trauma about gained weight, missed exercise or being a horrid mother and spouse. I’d have to go to the complete list of resolutions I typed up on the computer for that and, well, I don’t even remember what I filed them under.

Whew!

But let’s look at those writing goals:

1. Write at least two pages of fiction daily.

2. Write and mail at least one short story per month.

3. Write and propose/mail at least two original novels.

4. Reach 10 items in the mail at one time.

Um . . . not bad. Manageable. Humble. Achieved?

Nope.

I have no clue if I’ve been writing anything close to two pages a day, but I’d bet I haven’t. (More on that in a minute.)

I’ve sent/queried maybe six stories this year. Maybe less. Though I’ve written a YA novel and a novella, I haven’t even begun to edit them or to think about potential markets. And, at most, I had four or five items in the mail at one time. So I’m majorly behind on that curve.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Guilt.

Guilt, who?

Guilt that helps you hammer your ego into oblivion, causes paralysis, and makes your inability to write feel totally justified because it feels sooooo good to feel bad.

Um. Gee. Thanks, but I already gave at the office . . .

 

Really. I look at that moderate list of resolutions and I’m not sweating the fact that I didn’t meet those expectations. You know why? It’s because I’m in a better place creatively than I’ve been in in long long time.

And I’m more consistently productive than I’ve been in years.

You know why. No trick. No smoke or mirrors. I’m just writing fiction every day. Anyone who follows my little fan page on FB knows some days I only get to 100 words or so. Other rare days my word count is up in the thousands. But call me “Turtle,” because, baby, those words add up.

So what for the New Year? The same list of resolutions? A shorter one? A more ambitious one since, come on, really, a writer who wants to be read does have to get her work out instead of hording it.

Okay, okay. I think I can do this . . .

Here goes:

1. Write fiction every day.

2. Send a work of fiction I’ve written out into the world to be read. (That gives me great squiggle room; I can post on Smashwords, try to sell someting etc etc etc. Yeah, I like that one almost as much at #1.)

Success breeds success, right?

In that case, I’ll have good news in December 2011.

How about you?

Do you make resolutions?

Want to share one or two with the ’Rati?

——-
Thank you to all the wonderful members of Murderati — the writers and our community here — for a truly beautiful, supportive, and intellectually motivating year. I hope 2011 brings joy, health and success to us all.

32 thoughts on “Kinder, gentler resolutions

  1. ZoΓ« Sharp

    Hi Pari

    I'm all for having goals – and I'm the world's worst for setting them and then beating myself up for failing to achieve them – but I think it's the time of year to be gentle on yourself. Everybody goes better for the carrot than the stick, and has a more enjoyable time in the process.

    If you believe that life is a one-lap race, a one-time-only offer, then doesn't it make sense to celebrate what you HAVE achieved, rather than mourn what you haven't?

    Reading your posts, you have managed an amazing output of work this year. It seems that your creativity has never been more abundant. So, please, give yourself a huge pat on the back rather than a box round the ears ;-]

    My only real ambition for this year is to improve my QOL – Quality Of Life. And I'm not talking about success, or income, I'm talking about contentment.

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Oh gosh, goals.
    Personal: be more physical daily. Everyday I walk my dog, yes, we walk on our breaks at work, but I must commit some sustained work out.
    Work: I'm still in a temp position and though there is no end in sight to the work, I need something permanent this year.
    Home biz: more subscribers for Premeditated.
    Reading: (yes I make reading goals) Don't drop below 5 books a month, include some nonfiction.
    These are do-able and not self-defeating. πŸ™‚

  3. Sheila Bookjourney

    It is that time year to start thinking about the goals of 2011 isnt it? I really hope to have something brilliant written down by the 1st… I guess we shall see.

    I like your idea of putting them somewhere you will see them every day. I think I need to do that too.

  4. billie

    One thing that has made a HUGE difference in achieving writing goals this year has been making monthly goals with my writing group partner. We meet once a month, and the first thing we do is look at what we accomplished from the previous month. Then we set goals for the writing weekend. At the end, we schedule our next meeting, and share our new goals for the coming month.

    The thing is, I still had a lot of goals I didn't accomplish – but having that monthly meeting and ability to talk about why, and look at the goals to see if they were reasonable, etc. made the difference in me skating along for months on end feeling like I'd gone off the road, and me getting back on the road with either the same goals, or a revised one.

    The absolutely quintessential example of this was this month's group, when I had gotten completely off the edge with a book cover I was supposed to have done for the past two months. It became obvious that I was turning it into one of those things to agonize over and quickly losing any objectivity I had about it.

    Writing partner came in, sat down with her laptop, instructed me to google "best book covers for 2010."

    She pointed out that many of those chosen were completely simple. Not some elaborate, advanced graphic design piece of museum work. She had me brainstorm a few ideas and then, I kid you not, she did a book cover on her laptop and showed it to me. I loved it. So we went from me being totally off my goals to suddenly getting way ahead of the game.

    Not all months are as dramatic, but sometimes it's absolutely priceless being able to talk through a very stuck place. There have been a few months we couldn't meet due to schedules or illness we didn't want to share, and we did telephone meetings those times – worked just as well.

    So we will continue doing this through 2011. Otherwise, my main thing to work on is balance. I have a lot to do around here (as do most of us on a daily basis) and in some ways my being home all day to do them gives me a false sense of "the whole day" being there to do them IN. Alas, it is all too easy to respond to one needy task and find that half that day has disappeared. So I'm always trying to find the balance between getting everything done and getting the "have-tos" done.

  5. Ellen Byerrum

    Writing down goals makes them real, and if you don't achieve them all (and really, who could), you have put them down in black and white. You've made them real. For years I wrote my goals down on one piece of paper, and throughout the year, I would make notes on it, marking every sign of forward movement. It's interesting to look back on those tattered sheets and see how much progress I made, sometimes achieving a goal years later. Now, I still jot goals down, but I don't rely on those sheets as a guide. But they helped me when I needed them. I'm all for goals, but not so much for resolutions.

    Best of luck with your goals, Pari. I am always impressed with your productivity.

  6. L.J. Sellers

    I always set ambitious goals, with the idea that I'll work harder and accomplish more than if I set low standards. I don't worry about the guilt of not quite getting there, because I'm always beating myself up about something anyway. It might as well be something important.

    My personal resolutions this year are to read more, express more gratitude, and to give up diet Dr. Pepper. That last one one may kill me.

  7. Sylvia

    I'd like to think if I write down resolutions I'll keep them. I've tried. Guilt sits on them and stares at me. Bah. Maybe this year?

  8. pari noskin taichert

    ZoΓ«,
    I hope this post didn't sound like I was beating myself up, because I'm not. Actually, I've done a fair amount of patting. I do want to send *something* I've written out into the big wide world this year . . . probably after LCC <g>.

    And I like your QOL orientation. Contentment. Yes.

    PK,
    The only goal that sounds like it might not be in your control is the work one . . . it's kind of like "getting published"; it's dependent on others. And I wish I could read 5 books a month. What a delight that would be. I'm more in the 1-3 range right now due to other circumstances in my life.

    Sheila,
    You DID notice that I didn't look at them all year? But I'll tape the two into my new calendar anyway . . . I might forget how to open it and actually read them again.

  9. Debbie

    I made a resolution over twenty five years ago that I never broke…to not make resolutions! (Does that even count?) I do try to move forward. When I got my computer two years ago, I planned to write children's books. Wrote a YA novel instead…and then it's sequel. This year, the children's books are no longer on the back burner. My MS will eventually trickle back from beta readers and I'll edit; I'll need to find a critique group to tweak it further. My goals aren't a yearly thing though, they are more a project that unfolds logically in terms of work to be done. The completed MS therefore requires me to approach an independent reader, re-edit, and research before query.
    The rest of my life, be more outgoing, positive, generous, come to terms with being the unseen or stand up.

  10. pari noskin taichert

    Billie,
    Actually, I owe my one of my writing buddies a high tea b/c of missing my goals in 2010. But that's okay. It's going to be great fun to spend the time with her.

    As to balance . . . yes. That's one I work on all the time. I didn't dare make it a goal though because I wouldn't know how to quantify it to know if I've made progress or not.

    Ellen,
    Great to hear from you. I understand your distinction between goals and resolutions. The latter are still useful for me, in broad strokes. And, I guess, I've had the opposite response. I'm very good at setting goals and losing sight of everything but those goals to the point of making myself sick (in the past, at least), so I opt for Door #2 at this time of year.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    L.J.,
    I like your take; it resonates. If I look deep down, I think I might find a similar perspective. But Diet Dr. Pepper? Really? Next time I go to La Fonda I'll check the vending machines . . .

    Sylvia,
    I don't think people HAVE to make resolutions. Some of us find it therapeutic — or something — to put the past year in that perspective and approach the new one with a bit of definition. Others don't find it useful at all.

    Debbie,
    Goals for me are incredibly easy to define (not to always achieve). But in college I scared the crap out of myself by setting a major goal and pursuing it to the point of obsession, to the point where I did make myself sick. Ever since then, I've tried to be much more reasonable with goals — at least the daily, weekly, monthly — ones. But I still like resolutions for the reasons I've already stated above.

    AND good luck with those books! Just don't set the goal of getting them published by a traditional publisher b/c you don't have any control over that. It sounds like a goal to send them out, though, is tremendously achievable.

  12. Eika

    I usually don't do more than one new years goals, and it's a simple one: to improve where I am writing wise. As long as I keep writing, keep working, I'm making it; I'll look back at my writing from a few years ago to compare myself soon.

    Most of my goal-making comes on my birthday.

    See, a few years back- so long ago now it's hard to remember- I found a website that promised something neat: you write an e-mail, plug in an e-mail address, and it'll e-mail it there at some future date. So I wrote a letter to my future self, as it encouraged, all about the sorts of things I'd hoped I'd achieved by then, and how proud I was of myself for doing it, and sent it.

    Then I forgot about it.

    It didn't go in the spam folder, though, so I wound up reading it. Ouch. Disappointing others is one thing, but disappointing yourself? Not so much. So, of course, I wrote myself ANOTHER letter and it got sent to me the NEXT year.

    I just don't learn, do I? Oh, well. At least I know I got that 'send out queries' goal knocked off this year.

  13. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Ugh…I'm making my list now, checking it twice…

    Really, three major creative things: Write one screenplay and two novels in 2011. The screenplay is a writing assignment, so it basically counts as my "day job."
    And then, pay the bills, stay out of bankruptcy, spend loads of time with the wife and kids, think happy thoughts.
    Done. Ready for January 1.

  14. judy wirzberger

    My goals this year are more and less. More: enjoy life, time with friends and family, meditation, living in the present, making my world lovlier to live in. More sun, sitting and staring at lakes and oceans, belly laughs
    less: gossip, ill will, snarking, demeaning thoughts, weight, being sedentary, procrastination, negativity
    Less working at a regular job (retire) more writing what I enjoy More extending a helping hand; Less judgement More fun, more enjoyment, more time with grandchildren and the universe.

    More realizing each day is a new day with layers of sparkling paper covering adventures, experiences and inspiration waiting to be unwrapped.

  15. Kim C

    1. Stop being my own worst enemy/critic.
    2. Finish my degree – a 21 year undertaking.
    3. Get rid of all the unnecessary clutter in my life. I've come to realize 'things, can bog you down just as much as anything emotional.

    I figure the last two are quite doable. The first one, well, that will be the toughie.

  16. pari noskin taichert

    Oh, my, Eika,
    That writing a letter to yourself sounds a lot like journaling and reading what you've written years after the fact. I've kept all my journals, but might burn them at some point. Who knows? I do like the idea of simply continuing to improve one's writing; that's something all of us can do.

    Oooph, Stephen. That sounds like a lot. How did you do with your last year's goals?

    Judy,
    You just accomplished some of your goals by writing such a lovely and uplifting comment. Thank you.

    Kim,
    I have a question: How can you measure those goals to know you've achieved them? It seems to me that part of beating ourselves up is that we don't have a way — sometimes — of truly marking the progress we've made.

    What do you think?

  17. Spencer Seidel

    I think it's more important to close the past year and keep your future wide open. Take stock of the good and bad things that happened in 2010, be complete with that, and then leave it all in the past where it belongs.

    When I make resolutions and goals for the coming year, I sometimes feel that I'm taking crap from previous years and putting right back in front of me instead of leaving things wide open for new possibilities. As if setting these narrow goals for myself restricts my possibilities, if you get my meaning.

  18. Kim C

    Pari,
    Good question. I don't know. I have a tendency to openly criticize myself. If I can just refrain from those passive-aggressive, self-directed commentaries I am inclined to toss out when feeling vulnerable, I'll have succeeded. I guess I measure that on a day-to-day basis. Beyond that, I have no idea.
    I should probably start a list of all that I have accomplished and use that to try and start focusing on the positive. Not sure about you, but I have a tendency to forget about what I have achieved and focus on what I haven't. If success breeds success, then I guess we all need to start focusing more on our own successes.

  19. pari noskin taichert

    Alex,
    I took you more for resolutions on, say, the solstice . . .

    Spencer,
    Good advice about being complete with the past and letting it stay there.
    So . . . do you do resolutions at all? I find that the two I've come up with this year actually make me happy. I look forward to writing every day. And to send out "something?" Well, I should be able to manage that one during the first week in January. Success!

    Kim,
    I don't want to get all therapisty on you (yeah, it's that MSW coming out, I guess) but how about putting a number on some of those goals? For example, you can catch yourself openly criticizing yourself, just keep tabs on it for a week or a day or whatever. Then you'll be able to say, I want to reduce this habit by — 2 — or whatever and go from there. Might help to define it to monitor that progress.

    And, of course, making your successes does so much for every aspect of your life.

    I love to celebrate my accomplishments . . . when I remember to <g>.

  20. Spencer Seidel

    Pari —

    I really don't do resolutions! I keep it all loosey goosey. Or maybe my goals are just so obvious I don't feel like they're resolutions. Things like: finish the next book.

    Congrats on being able to meet your resolution in the very first week of January!!

    Spence

  21. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Pari – I'm alive, ain't I?
    Goal accomplished.
    Of course, anything can happen between now and Friday night…

  22. KDJames

    It's been interesting reading these resolutions. Pari, I don't make resolutions at the New Year. I make them whenever I feel all resolute about something. Between the holidays and house guests and fiscal year end at work, there's already enough stress this time of year. If I had to write a list right now, it'd probably involve getting out less, spending less time with people, never inviting anyone over, not cooking or baking anything ever again, throwing away all these decorations…

    But the resolutions here sound like good ones — wishing everyone the best of luck achieving them! And definitely wishing a kinder and more gentle year for all of us.

  23. Eika

    Pari,

    The problem is, I lose journals. Or stop keeping them. Or feel pressured to keep them. If I make lists elsewhere, I'll either forget all about them and lose them, or check them constantly and feel pressured.

    I can't check the e-mail once I've written it; I don't keep a copy. And, now that I've done it enough times that it's not just an odd surprise, it really keeps me on track. Say what you will about it, but if I had a time machine, I'd like to say that I'd be proud of me. (Though, honestly, I think that if I went back in time further than middle school or so, I wouldn't believe me when I said I was a time traveler, so, you know.)

    Any real motivating factor for you?

  24. Reine

    Keep in touch with an old friend each day and move outward a little toward new friends and doings, would be my resolution. Plan an accessible trip to France, because I just want to go back, would be another. And, of course – the ever popular – write every day. How many words? Can't do that, so I'm really glad to read your method is helpful.

  25. pari noskin taichert

    KD,
    I like that idea of resolving when you're in a resolution frame of mind. I might try that some time. But as I learned when I worked in hospice . .. some of us are just anniversary people; dates mean something special to us. The New Year is a good time for me to reflect. I also do it on Chinese New Year and my birthday.

    Eika,
    I haven't kept a journal in years. My emails serve the purpose to some extent as does my fiction because I can often remember what I was thinking about — or what was happening — when I wrote it.

    Reine,
    I think your resolutions sound wonderful and life-affirming. Where in France would you like to go? I have an incredible fondness for the Cote D'Azur; it's so beautiful there and reminds me very much of NM.

    As to the writing every day . . . I guess I was ready for that commitment. Again, word count simply doesn't matter. It's just the act of staying in the story, keeping it close and living with it until I finish it and start the next one.

  26. Reine

    Hi Pari, I like to go to the forest, actually- convenient since it's a more accessible than the more sandy areas. There is a deer park/forest, near the caves, that's been owned and cared for by various ancestors and relatives of a sort, for centuries. I like it there. There is a church nearby where they were baptized and buried. It dates from the 16th century. No one worships there anymore, but it is lovely and has a great sense of spirit, a dignity of a certain type of survival I admire. I'd like to buy a little cottage there and write… bring in the history.

    You spent a lot of time in France. What did you like most about being ther?. What did you do there? Do you have a family history there?

  27. Reine

    Forgot- One of our fond family memories is of my grandfather caring for the deer at Forest River Park in Salem, MA during the depression. He was a direct descendant of the people who were granted that forest where the deer are cared for by relatives today, as it is now a park.

  28. pari noskin taichert

    Reine,
    There was so much I loved about France. I think I appreciated it more as an adult, but I loved the museums, the churches and cathedrals, the chateaux. I adored the food — gained 35 pounds when I lived there as a foreign exchange student — the history of the place. And I admired the certainty of the people I met, born of being part of such an old culture — and the conversations over espresso . . .

    I didn't get to the caves, alas. Maybe someday . . .

  29. Reine

    Pari, I don't think you can actually visit the caves anymore, not the original, anyway… black mold from the new air-conditioning and lighting, apparently. The reproductions in the nearby caves are said to be really excellent, though.

    I love the cathedrals, too. My favorite is Chartres, the only one I visited that I missed getting a print of.

  30. pari noskin taichert

    Reine,
    That's so sad about the caves.

    In La Membrolle Sur Choisille, (near Tours), which was where I lived for a year, there is a small church/cathedral that we went to for midnight mass. It really was at midnight and the entire service was by candle light. I'll never forget it. It was the first Mass I'd ever been to and the entire experience was magical.

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