I hate resolutions, not just New Year’s resolutions but resolutions in general. They are often made with the best of intentions, but collapse in the face of reality, which is often random and relentless and abrupt and all-encompassing. Reality doesn’t give a damn what you promised: accidents happen, emergencies erupt, loved ones need solace, exhaustion makes relaxation mandatory. And all those well-intentioned resolutions, confronted with all this, are nothing but stress and guilt inducers.
Nevertheless, people must make plans, set goals, work towards a vision. Without a vision there is only apathy. So how do we resolve the idealism of setting goals with the goal-shattering, seemingly insurmountable wall of reality?
You’re expecting some answers here, perhaps. Ha. I’m not sure I have any. One of the main goals I set from time to time involves my writing. When I feel sufficiently guilty that I am not getting enough work done, I impose daily word counts on myself. One summer it actually worked. I already had the bare bones of the plot outline of a novel on paper, I had already done some research, and so I determined to write at least 1000 words a day five days a week until I finished the book. Usually I managed around 1500, and it was complete by the end of the summer.
That was an exception, however. Tales of failure are far more common. Several times I have set a goal of a story a week, but I could not sustain it for long. Too many emergencies screamed for my attention. Often the day after I set a goal something came up and it was already in the dust before it was even fully born.
The key, I think, is to be realistic about your capabilities: your talent, your time, your environment, your obligations. What are you really capable of? How much time do you have on a regular basis, taking emergency time-drains into account, to accomplish it? What might come up to prevent the goal’s fulfillment? (Believe me, whatever can come up, will.) What have you already committed yourself to in terms of job, family, and so on?
This all erupted because the new year is drawing nigh, and I started wondering what I could set as a doable but challenging writing goal for 2012. I’d like to publish a minimum of three more books. That I can do – that is doable – because I already have that much material ready or nearly ready. But the big question is: what about new material? How much can I write of first draft original material in 2012, without neglecting the other writing-related things I need to do, like proofreading, marketing, formatting, searching for cover pictures and designing covers, maintaining my blog/website, updating data as needed – and the list goes on. Not to mention all the other things in my life that are not writing-related.
Yes, it’s a dilemma. Does one commit to a resolution? Or is it a waste of time?
Well, let’s put it this way: a resolution is a means to an end, but it is not the end. And the moment the resolution becomes more of a hindrance than a help it should be scrapped. Resolutions serve you; you are not meant to serve resolutions. They are a tool to help you get the job done, and not the job itself. The minute they outlive their usefulness they should be abandoned. The ambiguity comes in when you are not sure whether the resolution is really out of reach or you are just being lethargic and irresolute.
So, though I hate resolutions I hate lethargy more, so I will continue to set goals for myself, continually changing and revamping as environment, circumstances, people, and greater worldly trends change around me. The key is to not be afraid to adjust those goals if need warrants.
Three books published in 2012: Definite goal. More if possible.
Stories marketed to traditional publishing: Definite goal. But whether or not those stories are published is not in my hands, therefore the publication of them cannot be a goal.
As far as minimum word count of original material, I am not sure. So many factors are involved it is hard to make a call on this. We need money so badly these days I have to take on any private English teaching lessons I am offered, in addition to the teaching hours I have at my regular jobs at two private schools. These teaching hours sap my strength and creativity, but they are vital for the well-being of my family. No, the word count may have to vary from time to time, according to circumstance. But I will do what I can – of that I am resolved. I will focus intently on my writing, whether short stories, novelettes, novellas, novels, memoirs, blog posts, or whatever else might come my way. From time to time I may impose word counts on myself if I am involved in a long project, if it is possible and expedient to do so. I may decide to write a story a week for as long as I can. Writing defines me. I can’t not write. Even when circumstances take me away from the keyboard I write in my head, jot notes, and so on, until I can get back to the typing.
But life is too short to impose strictures upon myself that will only cause misery and guilt. I want to enjoy the time I have left, come what may.