I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions on the whole, though I think it’s better to have goals that we fall short of than to drift purposeless through time and space. I just feel instinctively that spring is better for new ideas than the depths of winter, when it’s probably drizzly and cold, or icy, or white with snow prettily covering everything we should be paying attention to. But then I’m always busy in the spring, and if I don’t get my schedule planned before March it will be too late. And the days are getting longer, after all.
Anyway, when I started thinking about resolutions I got stuck on the word itself. (Which is why I write so slowly, people.) How about instead of defining “resolution” as an intent to act, we consider its other meanings and act on those? I propose:
- The mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose. It is possible to go too far with this sort of thing (flexibility of viewpoint is key), but there are things I could stand to be more resolute about, and I like approaching this sort of firmness as a state of being, something consistently in one’s life, rather than as a goal to which one should strive. “I get things done; I stand up for people who need help; I rise early and start moving around,” rather than, “gee, I really should…”
- The subsiding or termination of an abnormal condition, such as a fever or an inflammation. And indeed yes, I would like there to be literally less inflammation in my life, but speaking metaphorically this can be seen as firmly (resolutely) refusing to accept that the inflamed, bitter-tongued, and constantly warming state of the world is normal, and doing something about it, on the small or the large scale as I can and choose to.
- The act or process of resolving something into constituent or elementary parts. This is the original meaning of the word, from Latin resolutionem, “process of reducing things into simpler forms,” and chemists still use it in that sense. There’s a lot of talk in resolution-world about simplifying one’s life, but honestly, most of us have a pile of stuff to get done (and have fun with) and not a lot we want to slice away. I’ve often tried designating certain days for writing and others to get other work done, in order to limit distractions, but this repeatedly fails: someone else’s schedule interferes with mine, or the day that I plan to spend inside writing is perfect for gardening (which is or at least can be part of my work), or my brain is in fictional-world dreamland on a get-all-the-practical-things-done day, or I have a migraine. Yes, I believe in forcing myself to do some work every day, but I also believe in listening to my head and my body and doing what they feel is best at a particular time, even if it’s not what I planned. Where I can make this work is in knowing what all the individual tasks are, broken into their smallest and least threatening components; how they relate to each other; in what order they need to occur; when the deadlines are; and whether it’s better for me to, say, do one writing-related task every day, or do all the gardening powerpoints in the same week, or clear the guilty list of doctor’s appointments and cleaning the stove before moving on to something else. Which means getting better acquainted with Evernote, and acknowledging the weirdness of my personal mindmaps.
- The fineness of detail that can be distinguished in an image. You know, like pixels. This definition, in an abstract sense at least, is strongly related to the above; we’re all pretty pixelated these days, and need to improve our ability to focus, and to see the larger picture, and to admit that, in the same way you can’t add more pixels into an image with low resolution, there are just some things – a few – that we’re never going to get better at. But sometimes you can still sneak that low-resolution image into your display as a tiny little icon, or go look at it on someone else’s screen, or goddammit just stick it up there in its blocky glory and make it work for you.
Given all that, I do actually have a few resolutions in the ouch-too-many-artisan-beers-last-night sense, which I will briefly list here so I can look back next year this time and hopefully not laugh.
- Exercise and eat well, blah blah. This is actually writing-relevant in that I make up plots and resolve the difficulties in them while walking, but mostly it comes down to: keep doing what works, more of it (Jazzercise, long walks, stretching, more weights, going back to yoga and meditation, all the kale), and avoid a return to physical therapy. (I have the most wonderful PTs, but yeah, would rather not see them.) Don’t slouch, use the stand-up desk (which, for now, consists of a regular desk in the library (a.k.a. the room with more books than space) with a box (full of books) on top of it, on which I place my laptop). Be ruled by the FitBit, limit the carbs. Blah blah. It’s all energy for the other stuff.
- Stop being distracted from writing Book Five. Write Book Five. Also give it a title.
- Write other things too. (Maybe get paid for them!) And give gardening talks. And reinvigorate the Grow It Eat It blog (which I coordinate for University of Maryland Extension). And write in my own gardening blog more than once a month.
- A lot of people resolve to stay away from social media more; I am doing the opposite. I need to increase my presence, my impression, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, maybe GooglePlus, maybe Goodreads, maybe other places. Some of them I have no idea what to do with, but I’ll figure it out. I suspect that I’ll get more followers by posting more, but also by getting more people to read my books: hopefully this will not turn into a vicious circle.
- Designate limited amounts of time for “wasting time” and try to stick with that. I can’t be on “go” all the time, but I also can’t watch as much TV or play as much solitaire as I’ve done in the past. Put it on the list.
- Learn one crafty thing. (In the sense of knitting, not world domination, but one never knows.)
- Volunteer one place new.
- Tidy up. (Interpret as needed.)
That should do it! And now I am going to go stretch and eat something healthy and… work on a powerpoint or something. (“Book Five,” the universe whispers…)