Kate Flora here, leading off a discussion about New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t make them. I subscribe to the theory that yes, it takes weeks to make or break a habit and I’m usually too busy in January to be doing that. Instead, I use it as a time for three things. First, reflection on the past year, and how I might like the new one to be different. Second, creating a mental list of the things I “meant” to do in the past year, and resolving to schedule some of them into my calendar, like climbing Mt. Katahdin, which is more like a bucket list than a resolution. Last, and most important, January is for leaving all that time with family and friends behind and immersing myself in the delicious obsession of writing.
What about the rest of you? Do you make them? Do you think they’re silly? Do you have
some other ritual you observe instead?
Kaitlyn Dunnett: I don’t make New Year’s resolutions either. But I generally spend part of New Year’s Day closing out the books on the previous year. Sometimes it comes as a real shock to discover how much I spent on “research” (read: books!). And the income column is all over the place from year to year. Lest you think I’m only interested in whether I made any money from my writing or not, I also update all the other records I keep.I look at what projects I worked on during the past year and where they stand on January 1st of the new year. I prioritize (or try to) the projects for the new year, at least to the extent of deciding which one to tackle first. And I take a hard look at my backlist and ask myself if there is more I could be doing to “brand” what’s out there now in ebook format and help those books sell better. If I haven’t done it already, I put together a month-by-month paper calendar. I don’t use the computer for this. I’d never remember to look at it. This one, on the wall next to the computer has all my deadlines on it, together with dates of conferences I hope to attend and deadlines for signing up, registering for a hotel room, and booking airline tickets if I really am going. Family birthdays and anniversaries go on there, too. So do reminders of when it’s time to call for dental appointments or the annual physical or to register the car or pay property, sales, and quarterly taxes. In short, my life at a glance. It’s a great comfort to me every January to believe that I’m all organized for the year ahead. Unfortunately, just like a New Year’s resolution, the best laid plans don’t always work out as expected, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.
Lea Wait: I think we’re all in the same sea, if not the the same boat! I, too, update my calendar and set goals for the new year. I used to also do a “five year plan,” and that worked out well … it got me to Maine and writing full-time, so I may just start doing that again! Since I go through all my tax files in early January, that task gets me thinking, too. I tend to classify my goals: work (aka writing, plus marketing) health (usually weight,) house issues, and then any “fun stuff” that may be planned for, or hoped for, during the new year. Right now it looks as though 2013 is going to be heavily weighted in the “writing” direction … but with a new book out in the spring, there’ll be a lot of marketing, that will have to be scheduled in. So — I guess my New Year’s Resolution is just to follow the British dictim, and “Keep Calm, and Carry On”!
John Clark: I used to make the unholy triumvirate of resolutions-stop drinking, stop smoking, lose weight. That was guaranteed to last a very short while and make everyone run in another direction. Several years ago, I switched to a much more fun type of resolution. I’ve been a sweeper (one who enters and wins sweepstakes) for most of my life. I belong to several online sweepstakes groups and we got in the habit of creating ‘I want to win’ lists every New Years. It has been quite surprising how well that has worked out for members over the years. Sometimes we take it a step further and cut out pictures of things we want to win or places we’d love to go on a trip win and put them on the refrigerator to help with creative visualization. My 2013 wanna win list has the following: 1-a new vehicle so I don’t have to buy one that’s going to be needed pretty soon. 2-Any trip that requires using my passport. 3-lots of gift cards.
Paul Doiron: I don’t tend to make resolutions for the new year. Instead, I tend to step back and reappraise my life after I have completed a new book. Since writing a novel is a yearlong process for me, I have swapped one period of introspection for another. Having just completed my fourth book in the Mike Bowditch series, I find myself thinking about the future at the same time as the rest of the world is making resolutions, so it’s a happy coincidence. I’ve done a lot of marketing over the past three years—speaking, signing, conferences, blogging, etc.—but one thing I learned in 2013 is that the writing always needs to come first. I knew that before but had forgotten in the hurlyburly of the publication cycle. So in the coming year I am going to say “no” a lot more to the things that distract me from writing fiction.
James Hayman: On New Year’s Eve I tend to look back rather than forward and wonder how another year could have slipped away so seamlessly, so many of its days so unnoticed. My only resolution for the new year is to try to value and rejoice in each and every day to the extent I can. Like everyone else, I know that I only have a finite number of days and that number is reduced by one every night when I go to sleep. My resolution? Try not to waste them.
Vicki Doudera: Jim’s advice really resonates with me. I like goal-setting and have always loved the “clean slate” aspect of the New Year, but this year I also vow to live more in the moment , for that moment is fleeting. I think the fact that I will soon be an “empty nester” factors into this! I think my life will be very different once my third child heads to college in the fall, so I will no doubt be thinking about new goals and directions as that day draws nearer. Meanwhile, I am so appreciative of the friendships I’ve made through this blog, am grateful to live in this beautiful state of Maine, and so happy that my lifelong dream of spinning stories continues to bring me such bliss.
Kate Flora: What a great conversation! I’m inspired to do a little organizing as well as planning for the next year. Like Paul, I’m coming off a promotion cycle and looking forward to immersion in the new book. Like Jim, I need to be reminded to step away from the desk and enjoy life now, and not just when the book is done. And like all my fellow writers, I want to be thinking more about how to budget my time so I can live in the now. One year, on January 1st, I sat down with two possible books in my head, not knowing which one I would write, and waited to see which story was more impatient. Joe Burgess won. This year, I plan to finish both a Burgess and a Thea Kozak. I hope they play nicely in my head.
Barb Ross: I wrote pretty extensively about my use of SMART goals here yesterday, so I’ll just add this benediction from Neil Gaiman, whom I happened to hear deliver it at Symphony Hall in Boston a little after midnight, 2010.
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.