I love New Year resolutions almost as much as I hate them. Changing calendars doesn’t actually mean you have a fresh slate, and your bad habits don’t wither and die when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. That said, goals and lists matter nearly as much as tea in my hierarchy of needs, and a socially-enforced starting line is – well – a great place to start. So, here’s where I plan to go.
Getting the Words Down
If a project appears in print under someone else’s name, I write it quickly. The words land more or less where I want them, and I move on. Unfortunately, my own creative work took the brunt of my stress, health issues, and depression.
I’m now the cringing owner of a virtual library stuffed with half-finished projects. Ghosts of scatter-shot drafts linger in the corner of my mind, old stories waiting for revision decay in a pocket dimension, and the plot bunnies have gone feral.
My biggest writing goal this year is simple: get the words down. To that end, I’ve joined the Million Words challenge (which I’ll explain in more depth later this month). The words don’t need to grand, persuasive, or even palatable. They just need to land on the page. That’s it.
After the first couple months, it’s gonna be open season on plot bunnies.
I have a problem. It freezes my hands on the keys, leading to an endless cycle of self-recrimination and frustration. Unfortunately, it’s a problem lauded by pop culture and high school teachers: perfectionism.
My professors at university loved my attention to detail when citing sources, how rarely an essay arrived with grammatical errors, and the timeliness of each submission. My parents taught me “A job half done is not done” and pushed me to triple check even basic chores – like sweeping the garage – for absolute perfection. Didn’t move that box in the corner no one has touched in a century? Do it all over again.
There was no limit to “good enough,” only an endless ladder of “better, but not perfect.” And I thought that was how it was supposed to be, that one day I’d suddenly master every task and never make a mistake again.
But that isn’t how things work, and it certainly isn’t how anyone successfully writes a novel. I’m most critical of my own work (rather than ghostwriting projects someone else will put their name to). It’s crippling, and this year I’m trying to incorporate an element of Wabi-Sabi to myself and my craft.
Improving Mind Through Body
I (sometimes) practice what I preach. This year, that means improving my cognitive abilities, focus, and mental endurance through exercise and an improved diet. I have been blessed with a legion of persistent health problems, and for a long time I did my best to ignore them. Ditching perfectionism, however, will hopefully help me do better by my health as well as my writing. I don’t have to have a perfect diet or bench a whale to do well.
It’s only been a week, but I’m already feeling results, and I can’t recommend daily walks enough to fellow writers.
What directions will your resolutions and goals take you this year? How do you hope to improve your writing, expand your portfolio, or reconnect with your muse? Share them with us! The less conventional, the better!