It’s widely agreed that most people abandon their New Year’s resolutions by mid-February.
I’ve always found this perspective unduly negative and deterministic. Yes, many people may suffer setbacks in their yearly goals during February. Yet it’s also widely agreed that “If at first you don’t succeed…” is a valid approach to life.
Especially when February plays host to an entirely different new year, the Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year), which one can utilize as a revised starting point for recommitting to their New Year’s resolutions.
To be clear, I am not Chinese. However the city where I live (Vancouver), and Canada in general, boasts a very large Chinese and Chinese-Canadian population, to the point that at least a general familiarity with the Lunar New Year has found its way into the consciousness of non-Chinese people.
Besides, you just can’t beat the timing of the event in terms of taking stock of your resolution progress, which is an essential, ongoing practice in the achievement of any sort of long-term goal.
(Particularly goals of the New Year’s resolution sort, where all the focus is placed on the choosing of the goal and next to none on the planning required to see it brought to fruition over the course of the year.)
For this reason, I’m going to do a mid-February assessment of my own New Year’s resolution progress, in order to either remain on track or course correct while the year is still quite young.
My resolutions for 2018 include the following:
1) Keep my critique group running efficiently and effectively
Assessment: This resolution is progressing on course. My group is going well, providing chapter critiques according to a set schedule, meeting face-to-face at regular intervals, and communicating with mutual respect and support.
(I’ve started blogging about my critique group—discussing how it was formed—and will write more about how it operates and the how and why of critique in general. So be on the lookout for these future posts.)
2) Complete draft 5 of my WIP using the feedback from my critique group
Assessment: First of all, this resolution needs correcting to “draft 6”, since draft 5 is the draft I’m currently producing before sending each week’s chapter to my group.
That said, these draft 5 revisions are based on group feedback on preceding chapters. So even as stated, the resolution is in progress and on course. My critique group is currently up to Chapter 11 of my book, and I’m about to begin draft 5 of Chapter 13.
But what I actually want to do this year is produce a whole other draft once the group has read to the end of the story.
In this as well, I’ve already gotten started. Having given myself a bit of time and distance from the group’s feedback before digging into it, this revised version of the resolution is also on course. I’m currently working on draft 6 of Chapter 3.
Which does in fact mean I’m writing two drafts simultaneously.
3) Make a decision about going back to school
Assessment: This one is holding, as I’ve yet to hear whether I’ve been accepted into the program I applied for. If I am accepted and decide to attend this year, classes would commence in September.
4) Devise more of the plot of my next novel, as informed by more research into ancient Greece
Assessment: Honestly, I’ve not done much with this resolution as yet. I do have a book on Greek mythology that I started reading in January, but I haven’t gotten very far with it.
Greek mythology is a fascinating topic, but this book has a very long, dull introduction. Even the numerous colourful pages of statues, vases, and ruins from the ancient world are failing to help enliven the text.
My initial plan was to read five pages every night before going to bed, as I’ve done in the past.
But I do all my writing and reading work at night, and between resolution #2 (both versions of it), resolution #5, and my need to read my critique group members’ own chapters, I haven’t really found much time for research as well.
Possible solutions: There are a number of options available to me to get this resolution back on track:
- Find a more engaging reference book
- Skip the long introduction
- Set aside dedicated weekly research time on the weekend
- Work out a different time for reading my critique group members’ chapters
- For the time being, find other ways to do research that don’t involve reading (e.g. documentaries, podcasts)
- Leave off with this resolution for now and pick it up again later in the year when I’ve finished the two drafts of my WIP
5) Achieve better balance in my life between working and not working
Assessment: This one is only going okay. I’ve been actively doing things in support of it, like going to bed at 10:30pm instead of 11:30, and not taking on extra tasks unnecessarily.
However, all that going to bed one hour early is doing for me is causing me to wake up an hour before my alarm, still tired yet with not enough time left to fall back into a deep sleep.
Every. Single. Night.
Plus, I did just successfully interview for a new role at my job, which I’ll carry out part-time alongside my now part-time usual position. And I knew going in that both of these roles have their busiest period of the year in the same month.
Plus, I might be going back to school in the fall….
Possible solutions: At my mother’s advice, I’m going to keep trying with the new sleeping schedule, at least until the spring.
Other than that, I’m not feeling especially overworked at the moment, so perhaps I’m doing better at this resolution than I think. I’ll have to check back in on it again in another couple of months.
6) Keep a list of noteworthy things that I accomplish throughout the year
Assessment: I have been doing this, although usually several days after the fact when I remember that I’m supposed to.
It’s yet to become habit that I automatically think to record achievements or positive happenings in my life. Like many people, I’m still far too used to glossing over good things and just moving on to the next task.
Still, I consider this resolution on course in deed, if not in thought. Keeping the list in Evernote, which is on my phone, has been a huge benefit.
How are you progressing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Tell me about it in the comments.
Also, a reminder that I am still collecting your burning writing questions to answer in March as part of my 10th writing birthday celebration. Send me questions in the comments of this post, via my contact form, or on Twitter. You’ll either learn something from my answers or laugh your a** off, if not both at the same time. I aim to please.
(Image source #1, #2, and #3)
5 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolution Redux: Taking Stock & Recommitting to Your Goals for the Year”
Leave a little time somewhere for the unpredictable – and keep assessing as you go. I’m trying to recommit to getting out of here. The list of things which MUST be done first is long, and I’m the Achilles heel of the whole plan: I make plans, and my body interferes with my ability to execute them, and no one else does a thing. But so many things which occupy my attention now will be permanently off the list that the primary goal, moving (if I survive!), competes regularly with my writing.
The problem with writing epics is that the proof is in the final work, when it all comes together, and the intermediate steps, completed, are not predictive of the quality of the final product. I wonder if Tolkien got enough pleasure out of Middle Earth without writing The Hobbit and the LOTR. Many of his friends thought he was nuts, I’m sure.
I still get immense pleasure out of each finished scene, and out of knowing it should lock into its place in the puzzle. But I did manage to publish something I will be proud of to my dying day – and that gives me rest. I just hope the good Lord has decided the rest will also see the light.
Keep at it. That’s all you can do. That, and knowing that sometimes we planners and plotters can come out ahead. And, of course, couldn’t do it any other way, not even to be fast.
The problem with writing epics is that the proof is in the final work, when it all comes together, and the intermediate steps, completed, are not predictive of the quality of the final product.
I feel this way about writing in general, and that this is the reason writing is such a lonely pursuit compared to other forms of art. If you stand behind a painter while they are roughing out the lines of a masterpiece, this interim stage is still interesting.
If you listen in while a musician is picking out the melody of a new song, this interim stage is still interesting.
There is nothing that’s interesting about a novel in progress. Just a bunch of words on a page that may sound pretty enough but have no context divorced from the larger work as a whole. Story excerpts are really quite dull. Even as a writer myself – and especially as a reader – I really can’t stand them.
I too take pleasure from each completed scene (actually each completed chapter – I know that scenes are the building blocks of stories, but I was a reader before I was a writer, so chapters are the division I find most satisfying for measuring progress). But I don’t expect anyone else to, even those who are actively interested in my writing process.
Otherwise, yes, leaving time for the unpredictable and continually assessing my progress on all my resolutions is great advise. I’m used to re-assessing them in February, but I need to get better at continuing to do so over the entire year – maybe once a quarter or some such.
Well, I guess if you’re into structure, as I am, you can also take pleasure in laying out that structure, and knowing that your plot will make sense and tell a story beginning to end.
The art part, though, doesn’t come until the writing. As I look at it, I’m completing anywhere from 100 to 200 individual stories (scenes), and I get satisfaction from the overall structure, the internal structure of chapters (when they’re finished), and the regular completion of whole tiny structures (scenes) – these last have all the artistry I can put in them, because they are FINISHED before I move on.
I can go back to any place, pick up reading, and like what I have.
People who leave all their work fuzzy from beginning to end, and then start editing for various things, don’t get this completion feeling, because, as you said, it isn’t until the whole is finished that you have your proof.
I don’t understand writing that way, probably because I can’t do it. I hope it works that way for you, because I know you have planned full-book edits (all those cute little colored tags), and you sound as if you get satisfaction from them.
Each of us writes her own way, and no one but ourselves, in SP, tells us when it’s right. Huge freedom.
I wish I could crawl inside your brain for a bit while you work to see how you’re able to create a scene that is FINISHED before moving on. I wonder if you are an N on the S-N domain in the Myers-Briggs to be able to see that scene #17 is as it should be long before you’ve written scene #200. For all I know, you and I spend the same amount of time on individual scenes, but for me, writing is always iterative at the draft level. And even then, once I’ve moved on from a scene, I’m still constantly going back and tweaking a word here, a sentence there.
But as you say, do all have the freedom to write our own way. I do enjoy my coloured paperclips and the satisfaction of each time through a draft getting closer to my vision.
INFJ here. Because I know the finished story, and have known it since the very beginning when the thing came to me as a whole. The individual pieces only need the HOW – the WHAT is a flagstone on a path of similar stones.
It is hard to explain unless you think of a scene as a short story; then it makes more sense to finish one at a time.
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