. It’s that time of year when everyone makes resolutions – long lists of things that they WILL do, come hell or high water, during the next year. They WILL diet, they WILL exercise every day, they WILL write a page every day…
I used to do this too, until I made a fortunate discovery – this doesn’t actually work.
Now, I do plan my work. Every other day, I write four or five pages. But if I made this a New Year resolution, I know what would happen. I would do it faithfully the first three times, and feel very proud of myself, and foresee finishing a book by May.
But then I miss a day, perhaps I’m not well, or have to go out. So I work twice as hard to make up. But then I miss another day, and another – for reasons beyond my control. But by then I feel so guilty about missing those days that the entire thing just feels like a chore, and I give up halfway through February, and by May, I’ve written nothing and have nothing but guilt and a feeling of failure.
Not really helpful.
What I do is set looser goals, not about what I must do, but what I want to do. Not ‘I shall write every day’ but ‘I shall finish by May’. There’s no schedule, but there is something to reach for. With no set plan, there’s no guilt about missing a day, or two, so no reason for a sense of failure. And if I get to April and I’m no where near finished – well, there’s still time for one big push.
And my goals are not just about the things I must do. They’re about the things I want to do. Not ‘I must write’ but ‘I want to write’. And they’re in my list of things I want to do this year, alongside go to Venice and learn to tap dance. Writing becomes not a chore, but a pleasure and a treat.
I’ve never kept a New Year’s Resolution in my life. But when I make a list of things ‘I want to do this year’, I always meet them – including writing. And it’s all much more pleasurable.