by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
It’s that time of year when people make resolutions, or at least talk about making resolutions. But there’s something about that word “resolutions” that scares us, makes us feel we are entering into a contract for which we will be punished if/when we break the resolution. It makes us feel as if we must succeed or fail. No middle ground.
I prefer the word “goal.” I belong to a group of writers, who call ourselves Goal Buddies, and we list our goals for a week or month or whatever time period we designate. We email a list of goals to the other buddies, and at the end of the time period, we report on how well we did on those goals and send our next list of goals. I much prefer this system to those once-a-year, sink-or-swim resolutions.
First of all, a list is much better than one mega resolution. If you resolve to do one thing and don’t manage to do it, no matter how much effort you put into the attempt, you feel you have failed. If you have a list and attain only three of five goals, you have accomplished something, and the remaining two goals can be moved into the section for future goals. It is progress. You have succeeded in three goals.
I also try to avoid the “never” resolutions. If you begin the new year with the promise to “never swear in front of the children,” and you hit your thumb with a hammer while you’re hanging Junior’s dart board on January second, you may feel that you’ve blown your entire year’s assignment. So what’s the point of even trying for the rest of the year?
It’s also good to vary your goals, from a few more easily attainable to those far-reaching aspirations that make you shoot for the moon. Because after all, there are those “Right Stuff” kind of people who do reach the moon. Put the opportunity out there, but don’t make it your one-and-only goal for the whole year.
Also, keep in mind that some goals are not in your power to achieve, and word them accordingly. Don’t say, “This is the year I’ll be offered a contract on my novel.” That’s not a goal; it’s a wish, a hope. Make it something you can control. Say instead, “I’ll send my novel manuscript to five different publishing houses, and each time it comes back, I’ll send it to another one.”
With resolutions, as with most aspects of my life, I like the “baloney method.” Don’t sit down and try to eat a pound of baloney. Slice it up and eat it one slice at a time. It’s more realistic. Instead of making a resolution to write a novel, set the goal of writing an outline for one. Or writing a first chapter. Or first paragraph. Work at your own pace. One step at a time. But remember, a writer can’t accomplish anything if he/she doesn’t make time to WRITE. Thinking of a story won’t accomplish any goals until you actually get the words down.
And if you don’t succeed with a goal, don’t beat yourself up over it. Move on and try harder next time.
Finally, don’t limit yourself to only professional goals. We’ve all heard what all-work-and-no-play can lead to.
My remaining goals for 2012:
1) Finish my annual Christmas story.
2) Enjoy my holidays with family and friends.
My initial list of goals for 2013:
1) Submit novel LIKE A RIVER to five editors.
2) Finish rewrite of novel REBECCA’S BRANCH, and submit it.
3) Rethink and rework novel HARD TO TELL.
4) Go over previous Christmas-themed short stories and research possible publishers.
5) Write outline for 1968 novel.
6) Continue research for Harlan novel.
7) Write at least one blog post a month.
8) Attend two conferences or workshops to improve my craft.
9) Attend monthly meetings of two critique groups.
10) Teach a workshop session.
11) Get together with as many Swaggers as I can during 2013.
12) Spend time with loved ones every week.
13) Hug often.
14) Treat myself to some ME time at least once a week.
Maybe I’ll update you on how I’m progressing with my list as 2013 moves along.
Whatever YOUR goals are, take time to enjoy yourself and have a happy 2013!