Tuesday, December 30, 2014
I used to start thinking about all the changes I’d make for the New Year in the middle of November. My New Years Resolutions would be preceded by pages and pages in my journal of navel gazing and reflecting on the year past and on what I saw as my successes and failures before I finally got around to writing a list of resolutions longer than my arm and impossible to remember, let alone implement. Success was spotty at best.
I don’t do resolutions any more because it’s easier not to than it is to fail. Still, it’s impossible not to view the New Year as the ideal time for new beginnings, and the best time to make changes for the good. With that in mind, I’d like to share a very short list of non-resolutions that I plan to do my best to implement this year and that I would encourage other writers and creative folk to implement as well. I’m not promising success, but I think these non-resolutions will make my life better on a lot of different levels.
1. I WILL BE KIND TO MYSELF! This is first and foremost, and likely most difficult on the list. Most of the creative types I know – writers among the worst – are way harder on ourselves than we would ever be on anyone else, which means, not only do we fail at that massive list of New Years Resolutions, but we thoroughly and completely beat ourselves up about it, just like we thoroughly and completely beat ourselves up about all of the many impossible goals we set for ourselves during the course of the year.
I wish I could give advice on how to implement this first and most important non-resolution, but I fail miserably at it multiple times every year. The best advice is just to keep on trying. I’m trying to teach myself that this is not a resolution to see through March and then forget. I constantly need to make an effort to be kind to myself, to understand that I can choose to be my own worst enemy or my own best friend. I’ll never be able to do enough to satisfy myself when it comes to my writing. It’ll always be a work in progress. That being the case, I have to make being kind to myself a daily resolution – maybe even an hourly resolution, which includes forgiving myself when I fail to meet my own expectation. Each day I succeed in being kind to myself I’ll consider a huge success worth savoring!
I I WILL DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL. Like all writers, I live in my head. I create whole worlds in my head, I make the characters I create in my head do amazing and sometimes terrifying things, but that means my characters get their exercise while I sit on my arse in front of a computer. I won’t succeed in this non-resolution by spending two or three hours at the gym every day. That just won’t happen. I will succeed with a walk in the sunshine when that’s all I have time for, or with a half hour at the gym a couple times a week. I will succeed with walking instead of driving, gardening for a few minutes in the fresh air instead of pressing on when I’m tired and needing a break. I will breathe deep, stretch, move, sweat. These are all things I can manage without a blood sacrifice. I’m sure I’m not the first writer to discover that the more physical I am, the more creative I am, and the more productive I am!
3.I WILL READ MORE! It’s another strange paradox but, at least for me, the more time I spend reading, the more I actuallymanage to write. It isn’t just that I write more, but it’s that time spent in the imaginations of fellow writers stimulates my own imagination, making me think, making me imagine, helping me create.
I’ve heard writers say that they’re so afraid they’ll copy someone’s ideas that while they’re writing, they won’t read. I find myself much more inclined to think of every book I read ss a chance to learn, a chance to become a better writer from example – even in those cases when it’s a bad example. It’s also just a pleasure that feels guilty but isn’t. There are too few of those in life.
4. I WILL LOOK UP! Living in isolation is a huge risk for writers. I work at home. I live in worlds I create, and most of the time, I’m very happy to be in those worlds and often very anxious to go back to them when I’m forced to walk away. But I need to be connected. I need to talk and laugh and share and look around me and observe. Everything inspires. Everything sparks the imagination. And human interaction in the real world makes for better human interaction between characters in the worlds I create. A part of what I do is to create something new from what already is. A part of what I do is to see things through different eyes and to translate what I see in new and interesting ways.
5. I WILL GET IT DOWN! Once I look up, then it’s essential to record what I see, even if it’s just making a mental note.
These are my non-resolutions for 2015. What are yours?
My wish for all of you in the New Year is that you will be gentle with yourselves. You’re worth being kind to! All the best in 2015!