Actually, that title's a misnomer. Because once again, I'm not making any new year's resolutions.
I used to make resolutions. I'd spend much of December contemplating what my resolutions would be. And they would always turn out to be the same old resolutions. Writing more. Weighing less. Getting fit. Getting fiscally fit. Being a better housekeeper. Being a better friend. Being a better citizen of the universe.
I'm not dissing any of these resolutions. All worth doing, and my hat is off to anyone who makes and keeps any of them. But for me, resolutions never worked.
I've found something that does work, though. I set goals.
And if you think the difference is merely a trivial matter of wordsmithing . . . well, wordsmithing's what I do for a living. Nothing trivial about it.
Words have power. For me, the connotations of the word resolution almost guarantee failure. You make a resolution. You keep a resolution . . . or you break it. I've never heard of anyone mending a resolution. It can be done, but once broken, a resolution is never quite the same. How lovely to be able to say "I haven't bitten my nails since New Year's Day" or "I've written at least a page every day this year!" Until the day when you forget and nibble, or have a three day case of flu. "I've only bitten my nails half a dozen times since New Year's Day" just doesn't have the same magic. "I've written at least a page every day except for when I had the flu, and the day my car broke doiwn and I didn't get home till midnight, and that week at the beach when my laptop was broken and . . . " You get the idea.
Resolutions are all or nothing. I imagine that when you break a resolution, it makes a sort of brittle tinkling sound, like shattering glass, that you could hear if you listened closely enough. Mending it's the last thing you think of; all you want to do is sweep up the pieces, dump them in the trash, and pretend the beautiful resolution never existed. "Oh, well; maybe I can try again next year."
Which is a pretty stupid way to think if you're, say, eleven months from the next opportunity to make another new year's resolution, but a lot of us think that way.
Goals, now. They're not brittle. They're weighty and obdurate, like stone monuments. They may be so far off that you can barely see them in the distance and can't imagine how you'll ever get there. So you start plodding toward them. Plod steadily enough and the odds are you'll reach them.
After many years of making resolutions to write more, to finish various projects, and to get published, I sat down and made it a goal to finish the first draft of my book that year. And then I thought about the path it would take to reach that goal—I figured out how many words I had to write to finish, and then I divided that into twelve monthly chunks, and I started plodding along. It didn't matter whether I wrote ever day, as long as I wrote often enough for long enough of finish each month's quota.
That year, I finished Murder with Peacocks, submitted it to the St. Martin's contest and it was the start of my now decade-long writing career.
I plan on setting a few goals for 2009. I haven't done it yet, because I've got a book due in a few days. My superstitious, dreamer side—the side that still thinks there's something magic about the turning of the year--wants to take time away from my revising and polishing to come up with my goals for the coming years. My practical side, which sets goals and keeps on till it achieves them, says there's time enough to work on my 2009 goals when the book's in my editor's hands. Since that's the side that has finished fourteen books in ten years--soon to be fifteen--I listen to that part.
But I don't want to make the dreamer side too miserable, so I'm writing tonight about goals and resolutions.
So what are your 2009 goals—or resolutions, or plans, or hopes and dreams?