Post-Mortem: Gutting Your New Year’s Resolutions

If this was your list, maybe skip this post.

Here we are, three months into the new year. Is it still new? Or is it a slightly used year now? Previously loved? Whatever, 2015 is now one-quarter over, and you know what that means?

It’s time to check in on those New Year’s Resolutions you made.

Now, before you look guiltily at your running shoes and then dive head-first into a bag or Doritos, I am not here to make you feel bad. I’m quite sure most of you have other people for that.*

All I want you to do is think back. Did you make a resolution? How did it go for you? If you stuck with it, why? And if you didn’t, why not?

Don’t turn away from this stuff, especially if you didn’t follow through on your resolution. Yeah, it might suck to look at what you consider to be a failure, but look anyway. Get down there, rip it open, and sniff the entrails of the failed attempt, because they are fucking full of information.

This is where you learn stuff. About yourself, what motivates you, what doesn’t, what can keep you going when you don’t want to,  and what makes you give up in hopeless frustration.

So do your post-mortem. Did you resolve to write 1,000 words every day and give up halfway through January? Then maybe that’s not the right goal for you. How about 500? Or writing every weekend? Or maybe not writing at all, and spending that time on something you actually enjoy. Or perhaps you need a different type of motivation: writing a flash fiction story and posting on Twitter every day.

Or, if you persevered, why? What kept you going? Because, after three months, I know damn well that there were days you wanted to give up. So what did you use to keep yourself on the path when the going got rougher than off-roading on a bike made of cheese graters?

For my resolutions—finish The Book by July, finish a sketch every day—I’ve been making good progress. I had to take three weeks off from writing due to Serious Health Issue at the end of January/beginning of February, but I got back on the horse and kept going. And I still kept up the sketching during that time. I used things like my sticker motivation calendar and public accountability in the form of posting the daily sketches to Facebook to keep me on track. As of now, I have 89 sketches (missed a day in the hospital) and 70,000 new words on the novel manuscript. Go, me.

Make notes. Examine where you succeeded, and where you failed. And be better prepared for next year, when we’ll do this all over again.

So, that’s me. How about you? Did you make resolutions? Did you stick to them? Did you learn anything from not sticking to them?

*If you don’t, then there is a surcharge for Making You Feel Bad, which comes in Regular, Mocking, and Disappointed Mother Who Only Wants The Best For You flavours.

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Resolution Hangover: Making Your New Writing Habits Stick

Stop trying to make me drink this, every health food advisor ever. It’s not going to happen.

January is winding to a close with its traditional “start with fireworks, end with a cold so deep that you wish you were dead” progression. And with the end of the month comes one thing: the end of resolutions. Empty treadmills at the gym, unused bundles of kale sitting next to a dust-covered blender, desk chairs unwarmed by the buttocks of wannabe writers who swore that this year, the year of our internet overlord 2015, was the year they were going to really start to write.

I’d say it’s sad, but it’s not, really. If someone doesn’t have the minerals to stick with it for a month, then they clearly don’t want to write. They want to have written. And god help the editor who may one day have to deal with their meandering mess of a manuscript.

Resolutions end because the magic of the new year has worn off. Midnight struck, Cinderella, and all the glitter and glamour has gone, leaving only the work behind. This is, as they say in sports, gut check time. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to continue?

Luckily for you, there are ways to prolong the magic just a little. Until you find your own magic in the work, that is. And the sooner you do that, the better.

In the meantime, the following can help you stay on the path of the writer:

1. Make friends with other writers. Find a writing group, reach out online, make Twitter friends, whatever. Find other writers to talk about writing with, and soon the group instinct will take over. You don’t want to be the only one not writing, do you?

2. Worry less about sucking. Just write something that really moves you. Who gives a damn if it’s good at first? You can always edit that shit later. Just work on something that makes you not want to leave the keyboard. Being good comes with practice.

3. Read the right amount of advice. As my father is fond of saying, opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one and they’re usually full of shit. Stick writing advice in that column as well. Read only what resonates with you. Don’t read the blogs that made you afraid, or make you worry. Pick a couple of good books on writing that work for you, find the occasional blog or online community, and let the rest of the no doubt well-intentioned but often contradictory advice go hang.

Don’t let your resolutions go the way of the kale wilting in thousands of crisper drawers around the continent. Keep at it, and soon it will become your new normal.

The Bullshit-Free Guide To Achieving Your Writing Resolutions

THEY’RE COMING.

It is a new year, and while I accept that this date has no significance beyond the social, I know that, out there, writers are busy making their new year’s resolutions.

But what to resolve? To write a novel? To publish a novel? A short story? To write every day? There are so many possible incarnations of this desire to do better that it’s hard to figure out which one you need.

Which is where I come in.

These are not resolutions; they are directions. A path you can choose. A state of mind that will help you mow down all the writing resolutions you made while blitzed on champagne and Red Bull. And you should make these words work for you not just in January, but every day, all year long.

So, get your mirror, look yourself in the bloodshot eye, and repeat after me:

1. I Will Write. No more excuses. Put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, motherfuckers. Arrange words in an order that pleases you and hopefully some other people. Repeat.

2. I Will Finish My Shit. An unfinished project is like a hangnail on your brain. Finish it. Only then can you work on making it pretty.

3. I Will Not Give In To The Soggy Demons Of Despair. I imagine them like wads of other people’s used tissue: gross, useless, and if you touch them, you might pick up something that will take fucking months to shake off. And oddly prevalent during the darker months of the year.
Disgusting though they are, when enough of the Soggy Despair Demons get together, they can cause trouble. You don’t want them in your house. Best solution is to set them on fire with work.* Seriously, if I get taken out, it will be by the Flaming Hellbeast of Spectacular Failure, not the Soggy Formless Tissue-Things of Never Tried At All.

4. I Will Stuff The Haters In A Sack And Then Beat The Sack With A Big Spiky Stick. Metaphorically, people, metaphorically. Don’t try to pin the blame for your assault charges on me.
Common candidates for inclusion in the sack are, of course, enemies, naysayers, the people who tell you to stop wasting your time writing, and the aforementioned Soggy Despair Demons.** But while you are stuffing people into your mental Sack of Hitting, don’t forget to make room for the following: ‘friends’ who think you’re being silly, media outlets that report fiction is dead, and yourself on those bad days when you feel like giving it all up.
All of you: get in the fucking sack.***

5. I Will Fail. Repeatedly. Because failure means I’m still trying, still working, still changing.
After failing? I will try again. And, in the words of Samuel Beckett, fail better.
*They’re pretty damp, so they smoulder a bit, but with enough fiery work, you can reduce those fuckers to ash.
**Not included are people who give you genuine, helpful criticism, even if you don’t want to hear it. Toughen up, princess.
***Thank you, Dara O’Brien.

Monday Challenge: No More Super-Crabs

Hulk (comics)

Also, maybe in a colour other than purple. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ah, the first Monday Challenge of a new year. So what if the year’s almost a week old? The year starts when I say it starts, and I say it starts now, at 6:30 on a cold, dark, windy winter’s morning. Naysayers and argumentative types will be forced into trial by Sunrise Battle Yoga. Losers will be burned for warmth. Winners, too.

I wrestled with what to choose for the year’s first challenge, picking and then discarding several options. Don’t worry, those unripened mind fruit will no doubt find their tainted way onto this page at some later date. By which point they will probably have evolved some interesting new mutations, and be far more compelling than they are now.

There was lots of choice. But in the end, I went with a classic:

Write the New Year’s Resolutions for a fictional character.

It doesn’t have to be your character; you can pick any imaginary beast you like. I promise not to tell anyone. For example, King Lear’s list might include, “Stop treating youngest daughter like shit, because that will definitely come back to haunt me.” Bruce Banner’s might be, “Finish paper on thermonuclear radiation analysis as applied to genetic research, because it’s been sitting on your desk forever. Also, develop super-stretchy fabric to make into underpants. No one wants more Hulk wang in their lives. No one.”*

If I was going to write the New Year’s Resolutions for my current main character, they’d probably run something like this:

1. Stop being so twitchy. Not everyone is out to kill you. Half, tops. And of that half, only about a third stand a chance.

2. Learn to use a weapon. Any weapon. How have you lived this long without knowing this?

3. Unpack. Seriously, you’re not running off before that guy is dead, so you might as well know where the dishtowels are.

So make up an imaginary New Year’s Resolution list for someone. Bonus points if it includes, “Don’t get eaten by super-crabs. Again.” I’m off to gather wood to burn in the hopes that the sun with take the goddamned hint and start doing its fucking job.

*If he could pass this note on to Doctor Manhattan, that would be a bonus.