Resolution or Solution 14

Every Tuesday night, I join a group of writers online to chat via twitter. The chats are moderated and sponsored by Whole Story Media Group and some fantastically talented folks. Each week, they choose a topic and we gab about it online for an hour. (9 pm EST, #wsmg, join us).  I’ve come to cherish these chats and the writers who chime in as much as I cherish my favorite coffee mug in which my coffee simply tastes better, or that perfect, medium point, ball point pen in blue that makes my letters all fat and curly when I use it.

Last night, we discussed resolutions for the new year and what we wanted to accomplish as writers this year. So much of a writer’s work is internal, isolated and narrowly focused—finding the best word, simile, or character trait, expressing the exact emotion or the shape of a wave—that to hear from others similarly focused is to remind us that we are not alone, that we are not crazy, that we are following our hearts and valiantly. This is part of the value of community: to remind us that the world is large and we are simply moving through it, collecting our people like shells in a bucket.

Writers are, like most, at the mercy of ourselves and our environment; life always gets in the way of our best intentions. There is never a convenient time to train for a marathon, or to have a baby, or to go back to school or to polish off that novel you started in college. There is always a reason to NOT do it. Call it an excuse if you like.

I find I’m not so much interested in the resolutions or the goals, or the whatever-you-want-to-call them, as I am interested in the reasons behind them. I don’t mean I want to know your deepest darkest heart, but I’m all ears if you want to tell me anything juicy. What I mean is that when we set goals, asking ourselves what motivates us can flip a switch of action. Being able to see the behind-the-scenes scaffolding on which we build our goals helps keep that momentum alive, whether the merest hint of a spark, a glowing ember, or a roaring flame of purposeful work.

Last week, I shared that New Year’s resolutions aren’t for me. Not against them entirely. I like a good resolution to lay off the ice cream as much as the next gal. I just don’t want to wait for a lunar reason to move. And I’m interested in exploring the ideas that prompted the goal in the first place. Saying I will finish my novel this year is fantastic. And, I will do it because I know the reasons why I’m writing it. Saying I will run a marathon is different, and it’s one I’m still weighing. I want to do it for the “right” reasons, not because it’s the next logical distance or it’s expected, or it might be fun. (I’m fairly sure it will not, in fact, be fun, to run a marathon, but we’ll just let that slide for now.)

While I ask you how do you find your goals or resolutions, I’m asking myself how I will know I’m ready to commit to a marathon. So? What do you think? Are the reasons behind a goal/resolution important? Are there good or bad reasons? I’m all ears, even if it’s not that juicy.

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14 thoughts on “Resolution or Solution

  • Marni Arnold

    Good Morning, Jen!

    Before the year turned recently, God used a man (Jon Acuff) to challenge me…to finish. The very thing I slack in, for it is a bad habit of mine that I start something with a whole mess of gusto…only to fizzle out halfway because my gusto wasn’t commitment.

    I have done this time and time again…and while I agree that in writing a book, there is a creativity we writers cannot force, there still needs to be a dedication and commitment to finishing (and not just a book…anything).

    It is easy to let life interrupt me…and I do it so often, it completely averted me from writing past the first chapter in my book all last year. So where did this get me thus far? Thankfully not feeling guilty. Instead, it has left me with the tools I needed to find to pick up and utilize to help me press on forward to writing this first book this year. I am not looking for it to be published…but at least to get the words scrawled out. So far…I am on track.

    The same goes for getting back on track with my couch to 5k. I left it hanging because life once again got in the way. I resolve once I am over this cold I have once again to get back on the treadmill (funny after you resolve something…commit to it…the nature of our flesh loves to sneak in and distract us from our goals) – which I am seeking toward the end of the week.

    The reasons behind my resolving…my committing…to achieve certain goals this year is because I know I need this discipline in learning how to finish something significant and worthwhile. Learning to discipline this lazy (in all ways) body of mine to do things it really doesn’t want to do.

    The one thing, however, I am giving myself is enough grace to know if I begin to fail…or outrightly fail…any of these goals, I can reset them anytime (not just in a years time). I don’t make resolutions as a means to make only once per year…but it so happens I am now making them around the beginning of the year because of the physical marking I have in front of me because of seeing the first month of the year on a calendar.

    Honestly, this is all a generational curse (the not finishing something) my family has been stricken with for generations. Every single one of my family members on both sides of my family that I grew up with knowing deeply…they all regret not finishing something significant. God placed in me a resolve….long before the New Year…to break the bonds of this generation curse (and a few more) so they don’t continue and pass down to my son (or any other children I may have).

    So that is my reasoning for these resolutions…these commitments…this one word (finish) to help me keep focus on the journey God has me on to discipline me to be what He created me to be…not what my flesh wants me to be.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Oh, my yes! Grace is the foundation that holds up the purposeful work of man, no? Without grace, when we fail, and we will fail, we don’t have to stay down in the pit of self loathing. We can move on, and up. Yay Marni. You have good reasons, good knowledge and a huge cloud of witnesses!

  • Marni Arnold

    “You’ll never be able to sustain what you’re doing without a constant perspective of why you’re doing it.”

    Tony…exactly! The why is always important…far more than our culture gives it!

  • Shawn Smucker

    Yeah, I enjoy those chats a lot. It pains me to say it. My anti-social reputation being on the line and all.

    Most people don’t succeed a their resolutions or goals because the goals they set are too unwieldy. Write a book. How many people have failed at that? A lot. For me the key is creating a tool that helps me monitor my progress but still allows some margin for slipping and making it up later.

    For example, the daily goal for one of my larger projects is 500 words. I finish this before 9:30 most days, so it’s not difficult to do, and if I miss a day I’ll be able to make it up. The cool thing is, even at 500 words a day, I’ll have the 1st draft of this book written by June. For me, it’s extremely doable, gives me regular opportunities to check on my status, and gives me a lot of wins. That’s something to celebrate.

    • Jennifer Post author

      Shawn, welcome out of the hermetic closet! Those chats are a lifeline for me.

      I agree about the goal setting. We tend to set really really high sights, (perhaps as a way of preparing for failure?) or we set goals that are sort of soft in the middle, unquanitifiable: “I will be a better person.” That means very little to me.

      It’s not difficult to decide to do something, or to create a plan/tool to make it happen. And it can be the one difference between finishing or not finishing.

      Still. I think a why, and you have your why: you ARE a writer, underpins it all. No?

  • Jennifer Post author

    Love this. Fail without apology. Because, yes we surely will fail. Well said, my friend. And of course, you and I both understand the importance of a solid WHY.

  • HopefulLeigh

    The “why” is crucial if we’re actually going to accomplish anything. It’s too easy to set a general goal: lose weight, read more, etc. When we examine why, we have our very motivation in front of us, which is crucial for those days when we feel less than inspired. I’m not making any resolutions this year but I do have goals, which I’ve broken down in to steps. I want to find an agent for my completed novel so that’s what I’m working toward first. We’ll see what happens!

    • Jennifer Post author

      Agreed! Small, achievable goals. Just the way you got the novel written, right? I think it might be semantic, too. Some people respond more positively to some words than I do! 😉 You’re going to have a great year. I like to say “I am going to…” which makes whatever I am aiming at sound like a done deal. Like “I’m going to run a marathon,” rather than “I think I might try to run the distance equal to a marathon, maybe.” See?

  • Ray Hollenbach

    Yep: motives matter. The difficult thing about the little devils is they often appear in disguise. Sometimes, only time can tell (what I would give to know my heart in advance).

    • Jennifer Post author

      That’s a great point, Ray, about the disguise motives wear. I hadn’t thought of it like that, and I really like the image. And knowing my heart in advance? What a boon that might be. I wonder if the motives of our hearts are like the shadows of sun through trees: so many disparate images, all of a piece, inextricable, a muddle of good, bad and beautiful?

  • ed cyzewski

    I’ve been focusing far more on process than on a goal. I’m trying to change my process more than anything else in 2012–focusing on one project at a time. I think the accomplishments will follow… I hope at least.

    • Jennifer Post author

      I really like this phrase: process over goal. That’s one thing I’d love my children to learn as they grow. It’s not about getting the right answer on the math test; it’s about knowing how to do the math. It’s not about “finding happiness” as much as it is about learning contentment. I tend to think when our focus is narrowed on the journey, the steps along the path, we will find the joy of purposeful accomplishment. Thanks, Ed.

  • Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Yes! There is so much truth in this, but somehow I often forget to examine the “why” more closely.

    It’s interesting, though—you were thinking about the “why” mostly as a source of motivation and action; I was thinking that examining the “why” might often lead me to realize what I think I want is not really what I want or need after all. In the end, I think both results are very possible and worthy of the exercise. 🙂 Thanks for pushing me in a new direction.

    • Jennifer Post author

      You are one of my all time favorite people, hands down, because of the way you push my vision, too. No matter WHY we look for the WHY, we see things we either tried not to see, didn’t know were there, or couldn’t see for something else. Thanks, KT.