Wednesday, January 17, 2018

“Resolved: No Resolutions”

Many of us don’t, but most of us do: that annual ‘promise’ to one’s self to lose it, grow it, change it, stop it, start it, learn it, see it …
I’m in that ‘many of us don’t’ category. 

Nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions; they’re good motivators for renewal to coincide with a new year. I’ve just never been a fan, because those annual promises also (for many of those I associate with) turn out to be semi-annual ‘breaks’ of those promises or recycles of prior-year promises. Not everyone, not all the time—but a good representative sample fits the bill. Two weeks in, I’ve already witnessed a few drop-offs. And hey, that’s fine.

Here's my take on New Year's Resolutions ...
I have a question: Are resolutions just for that year? Do they expire? Does December 31st come, and you’re like, “Okay, enough with being timely. Starting tomorrow, tardiness rules!”?

Like Bucket Lists, New Year’s Resolutions itemize elements of some personal dream (likely to better oneself). But unlike Bucket Lists, NYRs tend to be generalized and not quantitative or measurable. Here’s a list of some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions people make. I’ve included some commentary for the resos that, to me, would deem them more measurable, and maybe more likely to be kept):
  • Lose Weight (How many pounds?)
  • Travel more (Travel where? Locally? Nationally? Overseas?)
  • Be more organized (At home? at the office? This needs a starting point.)
  • Eat out less (Only once a week? Only once a quarter?)
  • Exercise more (‘More’ assumes one is already exercising. So, exercise longer? More intensely?)
  • Save money (How much money?)
  • Spend less money (see ‘Save money.’)
  • Learn something new (Honestly, this is something people do every day (surely, you’ve heard the expression), but learn what? A new language? How to cook? The ‘new’ math?)
  • Enjoy life and all it has to offer (One of the vaguest ones I’ve heard in recent years)
  • Drink less alcohol (Drinks per week? Bottles per month?)
  • Spend more time with family (You can sit in a room with your family for an extra half-hour each day, but if everyone’s on their smart devices, absorbed with the data there … So, spend more quality time maybe? And ‘quality’ still needs quantifying)
  • Write a book (Easier said than done.)
  • Reduce stress (Part of your stress could come from worrying over these resolutions, so why set yourself up?)
If you can get those generalized resolutions nailed down to something specific you can look at and check-off, you’re ahead of the game. And ‘moving’ or ‘bite-sized’ resolutions can be even better.

For example, if you’ve resolved to lose weight, resolve to lose 5 pounds each month (which is healthy, reasonable, and manageable), rather than ‘thirty pounds by spring.’ In line with this thinking, you’d lose 60 pounds by December—twice your springtime goal and a bonus if you wanted to lose more.

Or, maybe the resolution is to save more. Well, put that in weeks. Resolve to put that figurative daily-cup-of-java money in a see-through ‘piggy’ bank. Watch it grow, filling with coins and bills—see that you’re doing the damn thing (instead of holding on to some abstract concept of saving that’s only in your head). But here’s the thing: keep it in the ‘piggy’ and don’t deposit it; not yet. Watching money literally ‘grow’ is hugely satisfying, hugely motivating. If that coffee money runs you about $20 a week, then you’ll have a cool thousand to deposit and grow—next year in your preferred S&L (banks aren’t really paying much in interest nowadays, anyway, so let’s keep the focus where it needs to be: that fat little ‘piggy’).

These are basic examples, but the principles of ‘moving’ or ‘bite-sized’ resolutions remain at the heart of it, and can be applied to most of those generic ones listed.

Here are a few resolutions I believe are cut-and-dried but doable because they're cut-and-dried:
  • Stop smoking (This all depends on the route taken, either cold-turkey or gradual, but by December, there’s no other way of looking at this other than one has stopped smoking, or they haven’t.)
  • Be on time. (Although this could get into specifics (on time to work, to parties?), this is pretty straightforward enough to be easily measurable—by the clock.)
  • Improve sleep (Since this usually means sleeping longer, this too relies on the trusty clock for quantifiable determination.)
  • Stop procrastinating (Similar to being on time, but rather than the clock measuring adherence to the resolution, the lingering pile, list, or evidence of projects needing completion diminishes noticeably.)

Here are a few resolutions that are just good by nature (and should be law, if we stretch our imaginations a little):
  • Smile more (You can be quantifiable with this (if you want to be certifiable), but otherwise, trying to smile every day works all the way around—and can be contagious!)
  • Volunteer or support a charity (Even if only done once, it’s great—and that’s what we’re after. Right?)
  • Read more (Be it periodicals, books, or what-have-you, few can go wrong with this one.)
  • Have more orgasms (You don’t even need a partner to meet this goal. Nuff said.)

But I digress. I don’t make New Year’s Resos—big whoop.

What I do try to do in January, though (as it applies to my writing), is plan for the coming first few months of a year.
Although the best part, putting pen to paper isn’t the only part of a writer’s life. 

A writer's life involves baby-killing (editing), hair-pulling (design/formatting), ego-killing (marketing), nail-biting (reviews), plus abstract extras only serving to exacerbate the killing-pulling-biting agony of being an author.  Click to tweet

For me, focusing on a few months’ time is manageable, more-easily measurable. I’m finding, though, the ‘focus’ has to be spread a bit when multiple books are involved. Just because Like Sweet Buttermilk and Obscure Boundaries are out the gate, they still need care now that I’ve sent them out into the world to make it. So, while I’m finishing Broken Benevolence (my ‘newborn’), my first-quarter plan must include efforts to make sure my first two ‘offspring’ still have the support they need to thrive.

So, what types of ‘plans’ are in the works for my books?

My firstborn. Parents don’t (or rather, shouldn’t) have favorites, but the firstborn has an innate specialness simply by being well, first. This tale of suspense and romance brings a new quirky character in Dr. Naomi Alexander, the psychiatrist needing her own counsel chair, so a key for this book is exposing potential readers to a few of Naomi’s quirks.

Because a ‘newborn’ exists as my third novel, OB, by default, becomes the first in what may be a line of ‘middle children.’ With readers familiar with Dr. Alexander from LSB, OB offers readers more of how she operates, how she treats patients. Obscure Boundaries has suspense but at a different level because while murder isn’t involved (as with Like Sweet Buttermilk), there is familial jeopardy and step-parenting trials, and … ghost-whispering? The key for book 2? TBD (See why I resolve to have no resolutions?)

Broken Benevolence
Ahh … the (current) baby of the family. In this story, where Dr. Alexander provide trauma counseling, the only key for now is to finish with editing, for the novel to be ready for a release later this year. BB opens with the Christmas season upon the characters, so I’d like to take advantage of that tie-in. And so, the ‘baby-killing’ continues …

Whether you make New Year’s resolutions is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but depending on your make-up, that list (big or small) can be the source of a year’s worth of joy … or pain.
In the meantime, betwixt all that ‘resoluting,’ find a book, be it fiction or non-fiction, and de-stress and decompress with a bit of literary indulgence.
Happy reading!

S.F. Powell Books