Resolutions Schmesolutions

Well folks, the holidays are over. We are all back to work and back to reality, which means buckling down on all the responsibilities and duties we let slide while we ate turkey, opened presents, and got inappropriately drunk at awkward family functions.

For me personally, 2012 started brilliantly – I rang in the new year at Harry Potter’s Wizarding World at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure in Orlando. It was completely different than any other NYE I’ve experienced since my early college years in that the plan wasn’t to drink heavily in a fancy dress somewhere crowded. This year instead the plan was to cheers to 2012 with a mug of butterbeer outside the Three Broomsticks with my girlfriend and her 13-year-old nephew. And guess what? It was my best New Years Eve ever!

And, this year I also decided to do a 180 on another tradition I always have embraced – creating new years resolutions.

That’s right. You heard me. The ultimate over-planning, list-making, goal-setting, schedule-making, obsessed-with-being-productive freak has decided not to make any resolutions this year. Or you could say that my resolution is not make resolutions. Either way, this year I won’t be making my usual detailed spreadsheet outlining dozens of resolutions designed for bettering myself that I ultimately never meet, leading me to beat myself up for never living up to my potential.

This year, I’m trying something different. I’ve decided that 2012 is the year of the anti-resolution.

In the last year one of the major revelations I’ve had regarding myself is that I spend much more time planning than actually doing. I make lists and set goals all the time, and 99% of the time I tend to over estimate the amount of time I’ll have to do it. For example, I’ll plan to write half of a chapter on my novel one weeknight after work (among other chores) but when I get home from work, mentally exhausted, hungry and tired, the idea of sitting down and writing that much in one evening is so overwhelming that I’ll put off doing it until it is so late I need to get to sleep. The negativity that follows not finishing everything on my to do list causes me to be even less productive because I feel imperfect and frustrated.

So this year, I’ve resolved to not make plans and instead, just do things. Allow myself to do what I can, when I can.  Instead of saying tonight I’ll write a this much, I’ll just sit down when I get home, force myself to open the document and start writing without thinking about reaching a distant goal. Usually once I get into the groove I’m able to output quite a lot, and I certainly enjoy it more if I’m just writing without trying to reach a daily quota. Instead of saying I’ll read a book in two weeks, I’ll just pick it up and start going and I’ll finish it when I finish it. And I am not going to focus on things being perfect, I’m going to focus on things getting done.

I think this shift in mindset is especially important this year, a year that will be a major crossroads for me. The show that I have been working on for over 3 years has made some major changes, which may involve me moving across the country. It is likely that I will be starting a new job or taking time off to write full time after I am finished with this season, and that may mean moving to Florida or even somewhere else. I’m not sure where I’ll be in 6 months and I definitely have no idea where I will be in a year, and I think that focusing on accomplishing things when I can versus overloading myself with unattainable goals will help me adapt to the major changes that I most certainly will be facing this year.

For me, this year is about keeping a positive outlook, letting change happen and going with the flow, so to speak. It is about doing the best with each day as it comes and not focusing too much on the outcome or the future. Of course, I will keep tackling all the projects I already have in my life head on,(my novel most especially) but without worrying if what I’m doing is perfect or is leading me down the right path.

I know, that sounds like a resolution, but trust me, it seems a whole lot more enjoyable than tackling the spreadsheet I made last year. All in all, this year I want to focus on the enjoying the actions I take every day without worrying about their progress towards a distant goal I’ve set for myself.

Oh, and I want to lose 20 pounds.

The Courage To Start

Today, I made history. For myself at least. Today, I started writing my novel.

I sat down, opened up a new word document, and strung together a scene. I didn’t open up my chapter breakdown grid. I didn’t start trudging away on another lengthy character profile. I didn’t even get on facebook to update my facebook status. I just started with one line of dialogue, followed by a bit of exposition, and then some more dialogue, and then a character description and a short action sequence. The next thing I knew, I had a full page of a first draft completed. And then I had three.

This is a personal victory that I cannot begin to exaggerate.

I tend to be a bit of an over-planner. Actually, I’m a violent over-planner, who usually ends up getting tired of a great idea after planning it for so long that I no longer want to execute it. But not today.

Today I was a doer. I was able to actually accomplish something, even if it was mere 1,600 words.

I was spurred on by chapter I read today in the book Pen On Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about the process of rewriting. She says that “You can learn to appreciate revision, especially if you frame it like this: At least you have pages that need revising, a major accomplishment in itself.”

It then occurred to me how silly it was that, even though I’ve been “working” on my novel idea for several months now, creating chapter outlines and writing character histories and maps and timelines and whatnot, I hadn’t actually written anything.

I’d been held back by fear that it wouldn’t be great, that I’d never do my great idea justice. DeMarco-Barrett says that “fledgling writers mistakenly learn that coming up with great ideas is the most important thing, not rewriting. They also believe they should be able to say exactly what they mean the first time out of the gate. Nothing else in life is like this. Who prepares a fabulous meal the first time they cook? Or plays a piano concerto at will?”

She’s right, dammit. I need to get a first draft out there and then beat the crap out of it before it will start looking like I want it to. How ridiculous of me to sit there planning it for months and months, when the only way I’ll get to really know my characters is by writing them, and then rewriting them. The only way I’ll get to that amazing plot is to write a really shitty one first, with a lot of holes and a bunch of poorly written, one-dimensional characters.

Let’s do this. I’m diving in.