This is about the time of year when I post a big rant about New Year’s Resolutions. But not this year. This year? I’ve got enough of my own sharknado going on to worry about starting in on anybody else, let alone myself. You want to make a resolution? Go ahead. You want to be one of the throng that’s overwhelming every gym in the country during the month of January? Do you.
The only thing I’m going to say about resolutions this year is: finish what you start.
It’s simple advice, but I forget it myself from time to time, and there’s sure as hell a lot of unfinished business in the world to testify for it.
Finish what you start.
This is the year you decide to start doing the thing? Great. Be real specific about what that thing is. Make sure it’s a thing you actually can finish, and then start doing it with the goal in mind.
You’re going to take up running? Nah, that’s not specific enough. Decide instead that you’re going to run a 5k. Then, instead of going out on Jan. 1 (or, okay, Jan. 2 if you’re hung over), padding around in the cold a bit and deciding this whole “running” thing isn’t for you, you start down a path. You go out, run a bit, and it sucks, but you’ve still got that 5k distance looming, and you’re not there yet. Probably won’t be for some time. So the next day, you’re compelled to lace up again and try a little harder, until you can finish what you start.
Taking up writing? Super. Put a goal on it. If it’s a blog, make it a post a week, or a post every three days, or a post every time Saturn is in the house of whatever bullshirt astrology thing tickles your toes. If it’s a novel, well, then, it’s a novel; that means 50,000 words on a conservative estimate. If it’s just “writing”, nebulous and dreamlike, well, technically, you write an e-mail every couple of days, right? Or a shopping list? Or a note to yourself in the fog of the shower mirror? And that’s real easy to do, except that’s not what you meant by “writing”, and you know it. Writing 500 words a day, every day, until you have 50,000 words? That’s 100 days. That’s an accomplishment. That’s a thing that, when it’s finished, will feel solid in the hands, like a participation trophy or the trunk of the neighbor’s tree that hangs over your yard when you finally cut it down.
Me? I’ve got a handful of things that I’ve started, but I haven’t yet finished. Chief among them are several writing projects, but I’m not worried about that, because even though I’m in a lull right now (man, it’s hard maintaining a daily word count when you’re a teacher on holiday break) (make that nigh impossible) (okay fine I took a week off from my project, are you happy now??), I know I have the momentum to finish anyway.
Not because writing novels, or short stories, or even blog posts is easy. It isn’t. But I can write 500 words a day. (Okay, FINE, I can write 500 words a day when I’m not on vacation.) And when I’m in those 500 words, I finish what I start.
Then, the next day, I start again.
By the end of a month, I’ve started and finished over twenty 500-word sessions, and that goes a long way toward finishing the 80,000-word first draft I started some five or six months ago. Two more months should just about do it. Two more months to finish what I started in the middle of last year, even though the end of that particular road wasn’t even visible from the starting line.
Manageable, achievable goals. Baby steps. Small successes lead to big successes.
This is why you won’t find me vowing to write and publish three novels next year, or resolving to cut all the carbs out of my diet, or promising myself that I’m really going to keep in touch with my friends this year. Those aren’t things I can reasonably finish.
But I can finish this draft I’m in.
Starting a project and finishing one actually feel very much alike. Lots of confused looking around, waiting and hoping for directions from on high, for the disembodied voice of god or the angels or your conscience to say, “look, this is what you need to be doing, so just get to it”. The blank page is disorienting in its perfection, its vastness. The completed page is disorienting as well, in that you’re suddenly untethered from this thing you’ve been attached to. There’s a lostness.
But if you never get lost, you never feel the high of finding yourself again.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.