The Best Laid PLans
It’s never too late and New Year can begin anytime you want it to. If your New Year Resolutions have been derailed then fear not. It’s all just an illusion anyway. Why follow the herd and think you can only begin new things with enthusiasm on January 1st. Break the rules, go on, you rebel you! Make your resolutions on the 11th or the 21st, hell why not plump for the 13th, might as well really go to town while we’re at it. There’s so much pressure surrounding almost everything these days so why not kick back and give yourself a little more time (but not too much all you procrastinators out there – you know who you are). January 1st is a rubbish day to start resolving to do anything anyway, too much food, too tired, too stressed. Give yourself a break, after all most of use feel far too frazzled to even think clearly let alone set out our ultimate life goals. First goal on your list: To be kind to yourself.
I’m going to take time out over the next few days to review the past year and plan for this one. I can do this anytime I like – and so can you. I find this gives me a confidence boost and sets me up to make the most of the coming months.
How I get back on track
First of all I’ll take a pen and paper and find some quiet time to reflect on the things I achieved last year.
If you are anything like me you’ll sometimes think you haven’t made much progress but by sitting down and contemplating what we have done we can often surprise ourselves. So, I’ll make sure I have my diary and journal to hand and I’ll slowly go through them, making a note of all the things I have completed, focussing purely on my writing achievements – not the wonderful days I’ve had with family and friends – but the things I have done that are moving me towards my writing goals. But you can choose to focus on whatever aspect of your life you want to improve. There are no rules. None that won’t take a little gentle bending anyway.
I’ll make a note of short stories and articles sold and published, my writing income, progress made on novels and non-fiction works, books I’ve read that have helped my ideas grow and flourish. To that I’ll add workshops I’ve attended or facilitated, talks I’ve given; people I’ve met who have helped me with my writing in some way – that could be an author talk at a local bookshop or library or some inspirational person I met in a class. Any tiny thing that is remotely writing related goes into the pot.
Writing a review of the past year always boosts my confidence. It’s all too easy to think, ‘Well, I never finished that novel or short story. I didn’t write every day as I had wanted to.’ But what about the days when you did write? I’ll bet they were far more than you think when all is accounted for. Did you make notes for your novel? Did you write most days?
Having a review also helps me focus on what I want to achieve for the coming 12 months but I don’t tend to start working on that until the following day. It’s funny but often other things will occur to me as I go about my day and I can add them to my review – the more things I can celebrate the better.
The following day I will set my goals for the year.
I’ll jot down small and large goals and everything in between; it all goes onto the first list. Some things will be easily achievable (I like goals like that don’t you?) and others make time some time and lots of effort. They may only be completed in part. That’s why you need the easy ones in between – they give you a sense of completion – very important – and they build confidence.
We need to guard ourselves against the inner doubter and small successes build a path toward the larger ones.
Once I’ve got a list to play with I will start to expand and give definition to my goals e.g. how many more talks I want to give. This will lead me to what I need to do to market myself and my skills, possible societies and writers’ groups in my area and out of county.
I may earmark a couple of short stories I want to finish and find the notes I have on them and any ideas that have flourished since I last worked on them.
And I will also include something really simple like finding the time to write at least one paragraph in my journal each day. And sometimes that tiny goal may be the most difficult one to keep – and I remember that I can only do the best I can. Some days there won’t be time for a variety of reasons – all valid – but making that commitment keeps me on track. It will niggle at me until I get back to the routine of writing that one paragraph a day – and that niggle is a powerful ally if you act on it when you can.
We moved house last year and most of the time I have been kept busy carving out a place, let alone a time, to write. But I feel good that I managed to be creative even though I worked to the sound of hammers and drills and the constant disruption of my writing space. In a couple of weeks I will have my own space again, a space to close the door on the rest of the world and spend time with my imagination.
I’ll have my goals to keep me focussed and my review to remind me that I can do this, among the chaos, distraction and disruption and the many calls on my time – good as well and not so good.
I can do this – and you can too. Give it a go and see if it works for you.
And Happy New Year – start it when you can!