Viva la Resolution

Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fu...

I’ve never liked New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not against the idea of resolutions themselves but most people that make New Year’s resolutions are just blowing smoke.  They’re counting on some mystical power of January 1 that just isn’t there folks.  They call it resolution but it’s usually self-pitying wishful thinking.  It lacks intent.

That said, I find myself at a spot where I need a little evaluation and revitalization in my writing habits.  It happens to be days away from New Year’s so I won’t be able to avoid it really being a New Year’s Resolution.  I’ll share some of my thoughts on making resolutions stick with you while simultaneously making my deadline for this blog.  I’m slick like that.

Write it down. It might seem odd to tell people who are writers to write stuff down but I’ll say it again.  Write it down.  This advice is given in all sorts of life-coach situations (fitness, therapy, business…).  It’s probably the most useful, easiest to use, and most often ignored tool around.  It feels dorky.  Hell it is dorky.  It’s also effective.  Effective out of all proportion to the effort required.  Seriously, write it down.

Be specific. ‘Write more’ is not specific.  ‘Start novel’ or ‘finish novel’ is better but you need specific goals within that category.  ‘Write everyday’ sounds specific but when?  ‘Monday thru Friday.  6pm to 7pm.  Phone off.  Door closed.  1000 word minimum.’  That’s specific.  Also be specific about what you’re working on.  If you like to revise as you go, schedule time for that.  Maybe ‘Saturday mornings.  8am.  Revise all pages from the previous week.’

Be realistic.  The goal of a serious writer is to write everyday.  That’s a good goal but if you really can’t make it be honest.  If you have to drive the kids to TaeKwonDo on Thursdays and wait around while they kick each other don’t schedule writing on that day.  If you can only get three days a week commit to those days and write on those days.  You’ll be more productive actually writing for three days than wishing you were writing for seven and only getting it done on two.  Make sense?

Build in assessment. Every month is a good time to reassess.  If whatever you tried is working keep at it.  If it’s not working, why?  Be honest, make adjustments, write them down and keep at it.

Failure is not the end. I’ve said this elsewhere but it bears repeating here.  If you skip a day, don’t waste time telling yourself how much you suck.  Definitely don’t stop.  That day is gone.  Forever.  There’s nothing you can do about it but you can write today.  So do that.

Be positive. Lose weight.  Quit smoking.  Stop cheating on my wife.  Most resolutions are to fix things people don’t like about themselves.  That’s fine but it’s counterproductive to hold on to all that negative energy.  Acknowledge the bad and then move on with the good.  Build good habits and celebrate your little victories along the way.  While you’re at it try and have some fun.

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Bah, Humbug!

I don’t like Christmas. Okay, that’s not entirely true. To be precise, I don’t like what Christmas has become: the slick, sappy, overly-commercialized capitalistic extravaganza that now constitutes the holiday season—a season that begins shortly after Labor Day and runs through the end of January.

I didn’t always feel this way. Looking back, I have some wonderful memories of childhood Christmases in Indiana. There was snow on the ground, presents around the tree, a dinner table covered with food, and rooms filled with family and friends. For me, things changed when I took a job in a grocery store. From that day on, I began to associate Christmas with cranky customers, howling kids, long hours, and even longer lines of people purchasing things they didn’t need for people they didn’t particularly like. And all this in the name of “Peace” and “Good Will” to our fellow humans beings. Even among church-goers, the slogan “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” has become a commercially successful shibboleth which has helped line the pockets of many a Christian bookstore owner.

At its heart, Christmas is an inherently bittersweet event—as well it should be if viewed from a theological perspective. A baby (the incarnate Creator of the universe) is born to an unwed mother and her fiancé in a backwater town at the edge of the Roman Empire. The birth is met with rejoicing by the local shepherds and a host of angelic visitors, yet three decades later, that same boy would grow up to die as a criminal on a Roman cross. Likewise, that baby’s mother would live to see her husband die and her beloved son tortured and killed at the behest of an angry mob. We give presents to our loved ones today in imitation of the astrologers who traveled from the east bearing gifts for that Hebrew child. But somehow, these aspects of the story are lost amid the twinkling lights and the department store Santa Clauses and songs about chestnuts and red-nosed reindeer. What went wrong?

The story of Christmas is the story of redemption, and at this time of year, people are encouraged to demonstrate the better aspects of human nature. As a result, charities get more donations, the needy are cared for, and people generally tend to be a bit nicer to each other—at least for awhile. For a few individuals, the redemptive aspect of the season lives on throughout the year, and it is their goodness and generosity which makes our society’s materialistic excesses seem even more distasteful.

In retrospect, perhaps it’s not Christmas I dislike as much as it is the noise that drowns out the newborn baby’s cry from the dusty stable in Bethlehem. Perhaps this year will be different. Given the current state of the economy, people don’t seem to have as much money to spend this Yuletide season. This may be bad news for the economy, but in a spiritual sense, maybe it’s a good thing. With fewer gifts to unwrap, people might actually begin to realize what the season is truly all about. I’m sure if Santa were here, he would agree.

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