It’s Almost a New Year!

I’m pretty good at meeting goals and keeping resolutions when I make them. Like the year I vowed to eat fresh (only!) vegetables every day, prepared in a healthy way—no canned, no frozen. I did it for 365 days and beyond. When I was in high school, I stopped eating chocolate for two years. I don’t know how I did that, but I did. I don’t want to do that again. Years ago, I resolved to eat no sugar for a year. I was successful to my knowledge, and the first taste of sugar afterward was sweetly offensive.

Most of my goals over the years have had to do with health and writing. Regarding health, I’m with the rest of the country—“lose weight” and “get fit” are among the most popular resolutions. Regarding writing, I’m in a smaller crowd. One year I vowed to write a column every week. I did it—52 columns—and published all in an online journal I edited and published under the heading “Rhodes Less Traveled.” (Yeah, corny, I know.) Many writers simply go with “I want to get published.”

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I think the secret to keeping new year’s resolutions is to narrow them down and get specific. If they are too general or vague, it’s easy to let a day or a month…or a year…slide without accomplishing anything or staying on track. For example, “eat healthier” is a general goal and not measurable. However, “eat fresh vegetables every day” is specific and clear. You can be held accountable for whether you do or don’t.

As far as writing, what do I want to publish? Pick a particular story or essay and resolve to send it out five times a week until an editor bites. I’m bad about finding the time to send it out once and waiting for the expected rejection. You get nowhere like that. So I vow to pick two essays, and I know which ones they are, and send each out five times a week for three weeks. It’s a start.

In 2013 I want to finish my book manuscript. I want to finish it by March. So—how many words do I want it to be and how many do I have now? If I’ve got 50,000 words left to write and thirteen weeks until March 1, then I must write 3,800 words per week. Doable. It’s time to get serious. Not that I wasn’t. But this is a specific resolution, and I’ve made it public for the whole world to see, and if I don’t reach my goal, then I am a failure. And a vow breaker.

And I don’t break vows.

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