Happy 2019! Or, a year for practice and process

I love New Year’s Day. It’s not the drinking (although don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good drink), or counting down to midnight, or setting off firecrackers and noise makers.

No, I love New Year’s Day because it’s a fresh start. Ultimately, it’s a completely arbitrary fresh start. It’s a psychological trick that we use to spark change. For some, it works. For others, it doesn’t. Assuming I set realistic and achievable goals for myself, new year’s resolutions work reasonably well for me.

a thin tree with an arrow carved into the bark

I saw this tree on our New Year’s Day hike in North Park. I’m pretty sure it’s an omen for the year ahead.

I am the kind of person who buys a new planner in November, and pilots New Year’s resolutions in December so that I’m ready come January 1. This year was no exception, though I’m shifting my focus away from completing specific, one-time goals toward developing habits.

So, for example, last year I set a goal of finishing my current novel revision. I did not meet that goal (though I’m close!). I didn’t have an official submission goal, but if I had, I doubt I would have met it. I also set myself a goal of finding an agent or publisher for my book—which is a terrible goal, because that’s not something I have control over.

Rather than trying to achieve something like finishing a novel draft, my resolutions for 2019 revolve around developing habits and fostering my creative practice. This doesn’t mean I don’t have any goals, it just means that I’m not tying myself down to a specific timeline for them.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

  1. Write a minimum of 250 words (or revise for 15 minutes) every day, no exceptions.
  2. Submit one thing every day.
  3. Go for one walk every day, no exceptions.*
  4. Develop a regular sleep habit again.

*This resolution is currently on hold, because I sprained my ankle badly, which led to an additional foot injury. I am still allowed and encouraged to go for walks by my orthopedic doctor, but I’m not going to enforce the “every day, no exceptions” rule until I’m healed.

By writing 250 words every day, I’ll hit 1,750 words a week, 7,500 words a month, and 89,000 words per year. That is 14,000 more words than what I wrote last year in fits and starts. So far, my daily word counts have been closer to 500 a day. I decided to add a time element to my goal for tracking time I spend revising. If I do nothing but revise for 15 minutes each day, I’ll hit 89 hours of revision this year.

Any way you slice it, that’s some serious progress at a pace I can easily maintain, even when I have a migraine.

A few people have pointed out that submitting one thing a day is intense, and it’s true. It is. I kept the resolution itself fairly vague, so that it can include a variety of things from submitting a short story to a literary magazine to sending an agent query to pitching a blog for a guest post. And, of course, I won’t be submitting a different story/query/pitch every day—I’ll be sending out the same stories/queries/pitches to multiple magazines/agents/publications.

As far as sleep goes… Since leaving my full-time job at the library in 2017, my sleep habits have been erratic at best. I’m a night owl by nature, but I’m regularly getting only 5 or 6 hours of sleep some nights, then 12 the next. Again, I’m just hoping to regularize that to around 8 hours a night, with a consistent bed time and wake up time. I hate waking up, so I’m taking this one slow. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s my hope that by focusing my efforts on doing a little bit each day, I’ll be able to achieve my big goals. I’m also hoping that doing a little each day will keep me motivated by turning these actions into habits I don’t have to think about.

What are your resolutions or goals for 2019?

 

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