Writing, Writing & Reading

The Art of Starting Over . . . Again.

New Years

I am a sucker for new beginnings.  In the spirit of the advertising industry’s seductive promise “new year new you”, I revel in the idea of starting over—everything shiny, filled with possibility and the hope that this time, things will be different.  This time I won’t mess up.  This time—unlike all the other times—I will get it right.  Yes, the new year can be a very dangerous time for me.

In mid-December stumbled across Angela Ackerman’s business plan for writers. It was just what I had been looking for—a way of organizing my goals for the new year, of helping me to focus on what I really want—out of writing and out of life.  I worked on it diligently, spelling out my many goals for 2015, among them: blogging more, writing my new novel more, submitting more—not to mention my non-writing goals—exercising, meditating, cleaning, harp playing, art journaling . . .

I know myself, so I tried to keep the goals teeny-tiny and quantitative: 50 blog posts a year, 4 agent queries a month, 1750 novel words a week.  This way I have something real to shoot for and, if I do achieve them, I can’t say to myself, “Well, you really should have done more.”  The goal is the goal.  Full stop.  Still, even though it was list of small goals, it was a long list, and a lot of small goals can add up to well, too much.  So as the new year approached, I became scared.  What if I couldn’t do this?  Again.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve devised regimented, detailed plans in the efforts to get healthier or thinner or more successful.  And just as that clever Scot warned us, my best laid schemes have oft gone a-gley.  A few years ago I came up with a writing plan so demanding that not only was I unable to maintain it, I began to question my desire to write at all anymore!  I don’t remember the writing/life schedule I concocted for myself last year, but that didn’t work either.

The problem is that hope gets me just as much as the fear does.  I want things to be different so badly, that I expect myself to be different, as if deciding could make it so.  When I was in high school and first sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I kept rejoining the cross country team each fall in the unreasonable belief that I could run hard enough to leave my illness in the dust.  And, though, blessedly, I’ve been feeling somewhat better over the past month or so, I still have the same body and, with it, some very real limitations.  I can’t pretend that I can all of a sudden expend 50 percent more energy than I have before.

So, what to do?  The first thing was to write at the top of my list of goals: “Adjust as needed.”  It feels like a little bit of a cop-out, but let’s face it, other things will creep up—important things, fun things, things that cannot be ignored.  While I’m busy making other plans, Life is going to interfere.  That’s its job.  The second thing is to be kind to myself, take heart and pride in any forward progression.  Small actions over time add up.  Thirdly, I have to remember that these goals are not arbitrary.  I have set them because they relate to things that are important to me—things that speak to the best parts of me and, quite possibly, that cause me to have a more positive impact in the world.

So as I work on the first leg of my blogging goal (only 49 more to go!), I still carry both the fear and the hope.  The fear that it will all fall apart, but also the hope that I can carry these goals gently, nurturing them.  It feels good to have a focus.  It feels good to know that I am committing to my pursuits and myself—even if I may have to rejuvenate that focus and commitment over and over.  I know a lot of people stop making resolutions because they can never seem to keep them, but I think the most helpful resolution—for me anyway—is not to be constant and unerring, but always, in some way, to return.

That’s the other thing I wrote atop my list of goals: “It’s okay to fail.  Just keep coming back.  Keep starting over.”

What about you? What are your goals for 2015?  Do any of them include being kinder or more understanding to yourself?