Resolved: To, Um, Resolve Some Stuff

I grew up in university towns. My father and grandfather were both professors; when I focus on pop culture, it's likely to be justified with footnotes. Another side effect is the calendar—the school year, the important year, the year that sets grade, due dates, job deadlines—starts in August. January is just back in the saddle after a break (more or less pleasant depending on how much time you had to spend in lab or library). So I never got too worked up about the "New Year's" resolution thing (resolved: to go back for the second semester). I have decided to implement new routines or change habits, but not in January.

These last two years, I've participated in National Novel Writing Month, a group challenge in November to push yourself to write at least 50,000 on a novel, start to finish. The founder says commit yourself to doing this big thing for just one month—that's not taking too much time out of your life. People who study behavior changes, however, say thirty days is about how long it takes to get yourself settled into a new habit, so NaNoWriMocould be a good launch for a writing habit. I've come out of NaNoWriMo each time thinking this writing thing doesn't have to be as hard as I sometimes make it: I can accomplish a lot with the small bits and pieces I have left over after my other obligations have been scheduled. (There's an online word count tracker that you can use to demonstrate this for yourself: you set project goals and it will fill in the daily steps.)

Another aspect of NaNoWriMo that turns out helps me is the public part. You declare to the group that you're doing it—and then here are other people who are doing it too, ready to cheer you on and wrangling with their own problems and coming up with solutions. People who declare New Year's resolutions are building for themselves this kind of support team.

This year over the Christmas hols, I looked back at what I'd done in 2010 and what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be going—and realized that I was getting bored. A phrase popped into my head that could be a resolution: "more pirate, less PTA." I was mainly thinking clothes, I think. But after I made the resolution, I decided to write a TV script, something I've read a lot about but never attempted. My resolution is a test for the invitations that cross my path: will this stretch me, push me? Is it something new, or more of the same? When I'm feeling well-rested, it feels like a fun resolution to keep.

How do you approach resolutions? What do you get out of making them? Do you make long- or short-term goals? How do you implement them?


  1. Hi Ann Marie -

    Funny you should blog about stretching yourself, as I'm thinking a lot about transformation after seeing Black Swan over the weekend. I also met with writer friends over Christmas who give a name to each year, and this year is the Year of Re-invention. So that's been in the forefront of my mind and I have to say it's already having an effect on me already.

    Resolutions when you really feel like making them definitely have more resonance - it sounds like your traditional feeling of a new year starting in September would be your perfect time to make one.

  2. Julia, I've come to respect naming and listing--to verbalize things really seems to make us more attentive.

    And yes, September is a time of realignment for me. Now I have kids in school, and we have to incorporate the new school year's adventures as well as shift out of summer vacation mode.

  3. Hi Anne Marie:

    Great post! I have a new outlook on setting goals too - not so much New Year's resolutions but a set of goals and long and short term - and a plan to get there. It's tough to do - and I've just started - but I think as writers - it helps us a great deal.

    Hope 2011 brings you much creativity!



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