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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do Not Make New Year Resolutions

Ignoring New Year resolutions on January 1 is a growing trend. A sign of our times. A sign that we may be losing that good old American drive. A sign that texting is in; challenging is out. After all, if we’re going to break the resolutions anyway, why make them to begin with. Right?

But if we don’t strive to create new habits - healthy habits, goals for our writing, mountains to climb, how will we achieve anything? We are creatures of habit, enamored with the idea that if we wish for it hard enough, it will come true. And there are a plethora of television shows, movies, and books that endorse the concept loudly and clearly.

So, with that in mind, if I wish to complete my short story book this year, I should hang out in the backyard and wish on shooting stars, while I send into infinity thoughts of peace and light. I guess it couldn’t hurt to try that, but unless shooting stars have a gift for plotting and character development, my book will still be a jumble of ideas at the end of 2015.

On the other hand, if I make a list of goals with assigned tasks and deadlines, then don’t check on the list every day to keep me on track, my book will still be a jumble of ideas at the end of 2015.

Let’s see how this idea works with traditional resolutions. If I promise my family, the stars, my dog that I will walk on the treadmill every day so I can catch my breath while walking through the mall, but I get caught up in “Scorpion” or “Madam Secretary” and forget, I should be a svelte size 20 in no time. If I grab one of Hardee’s deluxe burgers every night and send love and light into the universe on the way home, my muffin top will transform to pleasingly plump by the end of 2015.

Habits of every ilk are infuriatingly difficult to break. If they weren’t, we would all eat baked salmon and asparagus every night followed by 30 minutes on the treadmill. Hitting a fast food place, watching television, planning to write are easy, and Western society says our lives should be easy - filled with plenty. And we’ve mastered that concept. Most of us have plenty: plenty of time, plenty of food, plenty of things to do, plenty of places to go, plenty of plenty.

It’s the follow-through that wears on us. Why is change so hard? Because those "little things" we do are habits

Try changing the way you brush your teeth, the route you drive home, which foot you put forward first when you walk. As anyone who has had an accident and needed to make changes to accommodate a broken bone, surgery, etc. will tell you, those little changes have to be thought through to accomplish them. Why would the big changes be any easier?

Does that mean being a plotter is better than being a panster to write? No, it means that whether you diagram every line of your work-in-process or fly by the seat of your pants, you have to have derriere in chair, pen or keyboard in hand, and brain in motion. If you don’t write it, they won’t come. If you don’t think about it in advance, you will have pages of confusion to sort through. Sometimes, our muse puts in an appearance and our writing magically pours onto the page. What happens 95% of the time when our muse is busy watching TV? See cj's excellent ideas on last week's post: 2015 Writers Resolutions.

We all learned the concept of Delayed Gratification in Psych 101. It’s the ability to put off something mildly fun or pleasurable while anticipating something that is greatly fun, pleasurable, or rewarding later, like being able to outrun your kids at the mall, shocking your doctor with healthy cholesterol levels, or seeing your WIP published and selling like crazy. So, we can watch “Scorpion” (a new show I LOVE by the way) or we can put in one hour writing. Guess what 1 x 365 equals? A lot of words on the page, a lot of editing time, a lot of plotting time, a lot of character development, a lot of words for your critique group to read. A whole lot of feeling good. Are you up to the challenge?

To help get me back on track, I joined the 90-Day Writing Challenge that Kelly Stone runs through a group on Yahoo. It helped me immensely last year, and then nine months later, I got lost in writing for clients and disgusted with my book, and yada, yada, yada. So, I’m back for a shot of reality and enthusiasm from other writers.

The Writing Challenge is free, and you can see what other writers are doing to move their dreams forward, shooting star or not. Check it out in Groups on Yahoo. We started on January 2, so you can join in the first week. Then put big red Xs on your calendar for every day you write (a Jerry Seinfeld habit). Being task oriented, I can’t wait to get my red X on the calendar every day.

Succeeding in writing the story you dream about isn’t good luck, it’s GOOD WORK.


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