The Resolution Revolution

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of meeting my husband. While we hit it off immediately, there were, and still are, plenty of things upon which we do not always agree. New Year’s Resolutions were one of them back then. My husband is a big picture kind of guy; he loves proposing grand schemes and mobilizing teams to realize them. One might assume I’d be the same way as a professional theater director and playwright, but my greatest strength (and also weakness) is honing the details, reimagining and revising until the overall picture emerges as clear as I can make it. For this reason, lofty resolutions never served me. Empty promises to eat healthier, exercise harder or meet that next milestone in my career seemed too vague, and thereby unattainable. Some resolutions, like ‘drink less coffee’ and ‘be kinder,’ struck me as downright mutually exclusive. Every year, around the last week of December, my husband would ask if I’d set my resolutions yet and every year, I’d roll my eyes and proclaim my distaste for such futile gestures. Two decades and three daughters later, I reexamined my aversion, in keeping with my commitment to allow my girls to pack their own baggage without burdening them with mine. Maybe we could write resolutions without the fear of inevitable failure, if we approached the concept differently.

Here’s where this lesson might serve writers, too. If you find yourself constantly setting goals based on someone else’s expectations—even if that someone else is your inner critic, or a younger, less-encumbered version of yourself—stop! When I started writing resolutions with my family, we focused on new things we’d like to try in the next year: foods, activities, travel destinations. Each person has to include at least one thing that challenges or intimidates them. Maybe instead of demanding your 2022 self stay at the computer for at least eight hours every day in a dark room with no sound, you could commit to something more palatable and motivating, like traveling to a new location for research or writing about something that scares but intrigues you. 

My family and I write our ideas in a journal and review the past year’s entry before writing new ones each New Year’s Eve. We celebrate challenges met, and simply carry forward the ones we have not yet achieved, or sometimes dismiss them as no longer useful. Ironically, the inaugural year of our new tradition was 2020. Little did we know all of our big adventures would be modified, postponed or cancelled outright. Pulling out the journal last New Year’s, I’d expected to feel depressed, but it was actually inspiring to document all the ways we’d adapted, all the new ways of surviving, thriving and celebrating we’d discovered out of necessity. Our list had finally become the kind I desired, morphing from ‘Things I Should Do to Impress Others’ to ‘Things I’d Actually Like to Do This Year in Case the World Ends.’

How often do we as writers start down one path—in our careers, in our manuscripts—only to find ourselves in a wholly new place, often more amazing than we could’ve planned? Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, try this ‘plantser’ approach to goal-setting: don’t be afraid to set lofty goals, but allow room for detours or unexpected destinations. As long as you keep the ‘why’ in mind, the ‘how’ and ‘when’ are mere details. 

Here are a few resolutions I plan to add to my list this year:

Attend a new conference (in addition to RMFW’s Colorado Gold, of course) in a different part of the countrySubmit to at least one more contest/anthology/literary journal than I did last yearRead every new book my closest writer friends publish in 2022, and tell everyone how stellar they are 

Full disclosure, I’ve already booked the conference, so that one is kind of a cheat. That’s okay. Adding a few ‘easy’ items to check off right away boosts confidence and generates momentum. Take a moment now to record a few of your own revolutionary resolutions, and please share below to inspire your fellow writers! May your New Year be filled with astonishing challenges and victories, and above all, the unconditional support of your community. 

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