I’m not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions.
The very idea depresses me. If personal resolutions work for other people, encouraging them to strive for self-betterment or greater personal success, that’s terrific. And I can certainly understand the urge to make a new start as the calendar rolls over. I’m not immune to the personal and aesthetic appeal of a clean slate. But I don’t make resolutions.
Why not? It’s really pretty simple. I’m constantly setting goals and personal milestones for myself: constantly trying to find ways to live my life that will make me feel as though I’m improving as a human being, as an adult, as a neighbor, a friend.
And I perpetually fail to achieve those goals. I have a tendency to hold myself to a standard I can’t achieve, much less maintain.
Small goals, sure, those I can handle. Telling myself I’ll write X number of pages before I let myself make a snack. Promising myself I’ll not forget to pick up a carton of milk on the way home. Forcing myself to limit the number of Community back episodes I watch so that I can hit the sack at a decent hour. I do okay with minuscule efforts of that nature.
But I tend to let myself down when it comes to meatier goals. I don’t think it’s a matter of my inability to do things, or to work hard. My problem is an inability to set realistic goals. Part of me knows that it’s just plain silly to tell myself that I’m going to write two short stories AND make major progress on my novel during a single week of vacation. It’s crazy; I don’t multitask well, and I don’t write as quickly as that would require. And yet I can’t stop holding myself to impossible standards.
So, for me, setting New Year’s resolutions is a little pointless. I’m constantly falling short of old resolutions and devising new ones.
It’s weird, too, because I’m fairly happy with where I am in my life. It’s not as though I feel like my life is such an enormous failure, such a tragic waste of oxygen, that I feel the need to redeem my existence through excessive personal betterment. (Maybe it is. I can’t say. It’s hard to gain perspective when you’re living inside the fishbowl.) I have found, over the years, that I hate the sensation of living a static life. I don’t like it when I’m not working toward something. For a long time, school provided a clear path and clear goal. After the student stage of my life came to a conclusion, though, I had to find new short, medium, and long-term goals for myself. I’ve managed to do that, although the goals are more varied. My life is more multifaceted than it was 10 years ago. I’m very fortunate to have a full-time job that enables me to live comfortably with food on the table and a roof over my head. And I’m also extremely lucky to have a second job that brings me, if not exactly tangible wealth, a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment. My day-job career generates its own goals and personal promises to myself, but the writing side of my life is where I scratch that itch to stretch and strive and push myself.
Rereading this post, it seems oddly maudlin to me. Strange. That’s not how I feel. If anything, I have high hopes for 2012. I’m delighted that this year has finally arrived. When I woke up on January 1st, I realized that hey, this is the year I will finally have new books out: paperback editions, audio editions, hardcovers and ebooks and even foreign editions. And that was a very pleasant way to start the year, in light of all the publishing turmoil during the previous 2 years.
Less than three weeks in, this year is off to an exciting start with the audio release of The Coldest War. And I’ve recently turned a corner in my new novel project, such that I’m seeing the project with new eyes and excitement. Even though I’ve been living with the new project for a number of months now, I still haven’t hit the usual point where I start to loathe it. That’s unusual. I tend to hate everything I write. But this new thing may contain some of my favorite work. I’ll finish it this spring. That alone is thrilling to me—I haven’t written so many novels that finishing one doesn’t feel noteworthy. And then I’ll get to spend some time brainstorming over possibilities for new novel projects. That’s a very fun, very exciting feeling, too.
So, yeah. I’m pretty jazzed about 2012. And the Mayan Calendar Apocalypse be damned, I say.