Sunday, January 6, 2013

To resolve, or not to resolve? A New Year, New You?

This is the season of the witch--er, I mean, of resolutions. Everyone determines to stop drinking/partying/eating, go to the gym daily, and save more money. It's time to buckle down and get some cleaning done, some words written, or whatever. Start over and do everything differently.

But what do the statistics say? Almost eighty percent of resolutions fail. Good intentions don't translate into long-term meaningful change. At least not usually. Most resolutions are sweeping and unrealistic. You can't reinvent yourself overnight (at least I can't--there's far too much of me!) Small changes and things done gradually are more likely to last.

I used to drive myself crazy because I thought I should be a best-selling author already; because I felt I should have more books on the market; because I felt I was failing my family and my editors and my teachers from the past by not having my work soar into the stratosphere. I wanted everything to start happening, and soon. Whatever happened that was good never seemed like enough. Did any of this self-hate help my books become more well-known? No, but it did cut way down on my output and reduce my happiness level. What good did that do? It only made the critics feel smug and delayed my growth and progress. I could look at those who had lucked into early success and burn with jealousy, but that only messed me up. Acid erodes its container. What was the use of all the angst, other than to damage me?

"If a [wo]man does not keep pace with his/her companions, perhaps it is because the Universe keeps trying to teach him/her a lesson that he or she refuses to be still and learn." I finally decided to listen and learn . . . at least for today.

Reduce stress by putting less pressure on yourself, not more. Do you have a list of 100 books to read this year (perhaps all the classics on the various Western canon lists, or a list from online friends)? Maybe it would be better to schedule downtime and unplug every few days--and read a book when you feel like it. You're not doing this for a grade, so enjoy it and take time to play.

If you resolved to write and polish a novel this year, you can use a NaNoWriMo strategy. You could write 250 words a day (that's a word processing page) and you'd have a book in less than a year. Of course you're going to revise and polish the book, but you've got to have pages first to revise.

If you're burned out on all the typing, clicking, and tapping we do all day on our various devices, try this. Get a Big Chief tablet and a pencil that fits easily in your hand. Or get a college-ruled spiral and a good quality pen with a color of ink that you love (how about purple?) Your inner critic/editor will turn off because it thinks you are just horsing around, but your inner child will be freed to play. You'll get a lot written that may surprise you in its depth and complexity, I'll bet.

Maybe even those light blue ruled lines across the page will frustrate your Muse. Then get a blank sketchbook spiral. Write across the page top to bottom (landscape mode, not portrait). Defy that editor to go somewhere else while you let the inner child have free rein.

See what happens when you take some of the restrictions and resolutions away. Sometimes meaningful change happens when we're not expecting it. If we make the conditions right, all sorts of interesting stuff can happen.

Do you want to lose a few pounds? Don't deny yourself every Hershey's Kiss and every sip of wine. If you over-restrict, you're going to rebel soon, and in a big way. Moderation in all things (unless you listen to Oscar Wilde, and I disagree with him on this point.)

Do you feel a pressure to put out only fiction that you're sure will sell, even if you don't like the genre that's popular? Write the book of your heart. Who cares if anyone else ever reads it? You spend so much time with your masterpiece-in-progress that you might as well love it. In fact, if you don't love the story and the characters, the book won't turn out well. Trust me on this one.

You know what else I'm thinking? You might just be all right as you are. You shouldn't feel pressured to make tough resolutions or to change yourself. Daddy always said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Maybe all you need is a new lens through which to see yourself and your own accomplishments. Daddy also used to say, "God don't make junk." (Translate that concept into whichever philosophical bent suits you.) You're probably a lot better than you think!

So ignore the critics and nay-sayers, just for a day. And maybe every day. You're OK. In fact, you're more than OK. You're one of OUR readers. *grin* You're good. Have fun with whatever you do.

And remember to do a good deed (of some stripe--tiny, huge, or whatever size) every day. It couldn't hurt, and I guarantee it will help or even save someone.

Hope your new year is lucky, blessed, exciting, or whatever you want it to be.

Need something to read? Try my contest-winning Jacquidon Carroll mystery, NICE WORK. You might manage to catch it at 99 cents for the Kindle (the price goes up as soon as the OTP staff gets around to changing it, but for now it's still on!)

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans."--John Lennon


William Doonan said...

Enjoyed your post, Shalana. If 80% of resolutions are broken, we could focus on the 20% that are kept. People do lose weight and drink less and write more. It's harder than we give ourselves credit for. But it's doable.

Julie Luek said...

Although I try to avoid straight-jacket rules, I do try to have yearly goals to aim for. At 48 I realize that life isn't always within our control or going to cooperate with our determination. Have goals. Be gentle.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Thanks for the reminder. When under stress to meet my own expectations, I find creating isn't fun anymore. We all need to be kinder to ourselves and enjoy the process. Beryl

Shalanna said...

@William: It's great if someone can keep those sweeping resolutions. Generally, that's a person like my mother: an organized person who does things without overthinking them and sees "common sense" as overriding quite a lot. I salute them for who they are. However, if someone makes resolutions they can't keep and feels overstressed, that is OK and doesn't mean they've failed--which was what I wanted to get across. Oh, and the part about doing a good deed daily.

@Julie: Goals are good. You just can't beat yourself up if life doesn't cooperate, as you say. "Be gentle," indeed! People must learn to be more gentle with themselves than society is with them. (True!)

@Beryl: Yes! We should be kinder to ourselves and enjoy the process, no matter what it is we're doing. Otherwise, what's the POINT? What we do here "is of little import and will not be long remembered," but the little kindnesses and moments of joy are actually what life is made for. We shouldn't miss them by trying to hold ourselves and everyone else to some unrealistic standard.

(In other words, I'm a bum--come join me--we have cookies! LOL)

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good post! Always like to read what you have to day.