Chipping Away at New Year’s Resolutions

Fountain pen and letter on wooden background

Well, rest in peace January. We had a good run, but now it’s over. Time to abandon your New Year’s Resolutions, everyone, and go back to the bad habits.

What exactly were my New Year’s Resolutions again? Hopefully not ‘Improve your memory’, because in that case I’ve definitely failed.

In actual fact, my resolution this year was basically just ‘2016 and then some’ (I originally wrote ‘2016+1’, but realised that’s just 2017, which I technically what everyone will be doing). I don’t mean ‘kill beloved celebrities’, though. Last year I took a leap towards unlearning my habit of thinking that progress can only be made in big steps.

I spent a lot of time thinking that I wasn’t getting very far on the second Laslo Kane book. Partly because I managed to get my dates confused and was therefore under the impression Fallen on Good Times came out around five years ago. It’s more like half that. Taking around three years to write another book isn’t bad, in my opinion (assuming, that is, I get it finished this year). Even full time professional authors usually have a couple of years between books. Considering all my other commitments and time drains, I’m doing pretty well.

The bigger issue was that I often didn’t make any progress because the task seemed so big that I couldn’t see the point in writing 100 words or so; in my mind each session should have been a few thousand or it wasn’t worth bothering to switch the computer on. But when you have a baby who could wake up at any second, you can’t guarantee that you’ll have a couple of hours of writing time. Thus, little got done.

At the beginning of last year – downtrodden by the misapprehension that it had been four or so years since Fallen on Good Times had been published – I decided I needed a change of attitude. And so I vowed to do whatever, whenever. I forced myself to view even a single extra sentence as progress. On occasions I wrote just 100 words before closing the document; on others I wrote several thousand.

It worked. On New Year’s Day 2016 I already had around 30,000 words of book II written. By New Year’s Day 2017, the word count had risen to 110,000. I wrote 80,000 words last year, all while learning to value every word typed as a little victory. Fallen on Good Times is just over 65,000 words; so just in terms of word count I wrote more than another book.

It just goes to show that making glacial progress is much more effective than making no progress. I was genuinely surprised last year when I realised just how much I had managed to write.

So my resolution for this year is simply to take that attitude and try and keep at it. I’ve had lots of dormant projects lying in wait for me to have the time to pay them attention. I don’t think I’ll ever have ‘the time’, but from the outside I didn’t really have the time to write 80,000 words last year. I still did.

2017 will be another year of chipping away. Even if I end the year only having added a hundred words or so to each of my other projects (or the equivalent of a hundred words if it’s not a writing project), that’s still an achievement.

Then again, January’s over now. Who keeps their New Year’s resolutions past January? February is the month of ‘Drink a Pint of Cigarettes While Eating Pizza in Your Old Job’.

Good luck, everyone.

Happy New Year, and Why it Should Matter

Many elements of our lives are ruled over by arbitrary constraints. Time is one of them. From a prosaic point of view, the sun rose on exactly the same planet, with exactly the same state of affairs as yesterday. The only real differences, that actually stand testament to the fact that time has passed, are that some people’s milk has gone off, and the postman has been.

Yet January 1st each year marks a change in all of us. It might be a short lived change – some mumbling about losing weight as we wander to the fridge to get another pie – but it might not. In many ways, the duration of our resolutions is irrelevant.

Why ‘It’s just an excuse to celebrate‘ are perhaps the most evil words in history

The thing is, even if God and Stephen Hawking teamed up to give a PowerPoint presentation on why celebrating the New Year is illogical and makes us all look stupid, we should still do it. The idea that a cheap excuse to have a party, or be happy, or decide to improve ourselves, makes those subsequent endeavours worthless is like saying, ‘Well, you didn’t really need to have sex, did you? You had biscuits in the cupboard and a DVD you haven’t watched yet.

If logic ruled the world…

What a dull place we’d all live in. No one would have conversations with their pets (although people who give each other presents ‘from’ the pets are taking it a bit too far even in our enlightened world of selective sensibility), librarians wouldn’t say ‘Shhhhh!‘ really loudly, and none of us would mind the lack of E-Numbers in our food.

No, what we don’t need more of is cold, hard logic. What we need more of is the warm brightness of human spirit.

Why not celebrate and promise to better ourselves?

The New Year breaks up life’s little tediums – going to work, walking the dog, eating cold soup from the tin because we can’t be bothered washing up a bowl. It gives us a chance to evaluate our lives, and remember our desire for something more, something better than what we have.

True, many of us will think small (stop flicking pasta shapes at the Pope), but others will aim high, and some will achieve their goals. And those that don’t still get a reason to party hard once a year with the people (and drinks, crisps, pizza, movies, television and celebrities) they love the most in the world.

Either way, I call that a win for us.

Happy New Year.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Comment and let me know.

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