Thursday, October 3, 2013

Resolutions

Status Update: Coffee supplies holding steady, but only just. I need a panic button for coffee emergencies, something big and red that sounds with a large "ahoogah" noise. It would scramble the more easily-bored branches of the military like the Merchant Marines and the National Guard. I would then buy more coffee myself, because to do otherwise would be silly. The only difference would be that I would have a tank escort to the store. Haven't started writing or even brainstorming a story for this week yet. I suspect, given what I know of my schedule, that flash fiction may be in my future.

I just realized (and by "just", it was a few weeks ago) that there's less than a hundred days left in the year. This means that my story-a-week resolution is going to be over soon. I've been putting some thought into what to replace it with. I like having a stick to drive me forward. Left to my own devices, I will do the writerly equivalent of sitting on the couch with a bag of Doritos watching Big Bang Theory reruns until the small hours of the night. My fiction-muscles will atrophy and I will turn into the writing equivalent of a 98-pound weakling. This is a thing to be avoided.

I've done just about all the short fiction I want to do for a while. I really want to get back into novel writing, except this time prepared, practiced, a mean, green, word-grinding machine. I want to set some kind of weekly milestones, something with a big damn stick built right into it, like this year's resolution.

It's always tricky setting reasonable resolutions of any variety. They have to be challenging, but not punishing. There's a truism in the fitness industry that anybody can do anything for two weeks. That grindingly difficult P90X-ish routine? Diet consisting of nothing but vegetables and fish? Crank out 100 pushups a day? It's all fun for about a week, if even that. Most people can push themselves for another week beyond that, after the novelty and fun wear off. After that, though, you've got to have more. Willpower will only carry you for so long, because willpower's a finite quantity.

Resolutions are lifestyle changes. When you set a new resolution, something that you want to use to make yourself a better person, you have to think not in the two week time frame, but in the two year time frame. You have to build in pressure-release valves. If you're giving up something, especially something you enjoy--eating unhealthy foods, or beer, or spending too much time on the couch, you have to build in the option to go back to that bad habit every once in a while in a controlled way, or you'll just revert when your willpower runs out. You have to expect to cheat every once in a while and plan for that...otherwise you will do it anyway and it'll turn into a wipeout which might kill your resolve.*

* Hence, all the flash fiction. I don't know if I'd be able to keep cranking out 5-15k words per week, week after week.

You also have to build in milestones, set points during the journey when you can stop and pat yourself on the back. Little scenic spots where you can pause your progress, look at how far you've gone and feel good about the sacrifices. In my story-a-week, it's all about word count and numbers. I'd also like to think I've cranked out a few good stories in and amongst all the crap. That's a good feeling.

Most of all, a resolution has to be something you really want. I think a lot of people fail at their New Year's resolutions because it's not something they really want, deep down inside. You want to be able to fit into the clothes you wore back in college, or at least you say you do, but deep down inside, you're actually pretty comfortable at your slightly doughy middle-aged weight. You can't really make a longstanding change until you've come to a mental place where you realize, on the surface and deep down inside, that the destination and journey are worth it.

Because the best resolutions, the ones most worth doing and the ones you're most likely to stick with are ones that you wanted to do anyway. The resolution is only a polite fiction. Saying that you have a resolution is a bit of a shield, a social excuse for doing ridiculous things. If you just ran out and bought a hell of a lot of random mountaineering equipment, your friends might wonder what the hell is up. If you just blurt out "something something New Year's resolution", they will nod sagely and then just accept it's going to be an interesting story in a few months.

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