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Resolute

Boat Owners Summarize It…The Ultimate Tweeters…

“Resolute” is the adjective version of “Resolution.” My desk’s version of Webster’s dictionary defines it as “marked by firmness or determination; unwavering.”

The last couple of years, I can’t say that I have been a shining example of that word, but I have also realized I didn’t do a good job of setting myself up for success. The “resolutions” I wrote in my 10-year journal were too broad and unspecific (e.g., send out poems, learn Photoshop), and thus, impossible to accomplish. For example, I did send out poems (a few) but out of those few, none were accepted for publication, which left me with a feeling of complete failure. This year I decided what I needed was specific goals, not RESOLUTIONS; strong as that word appears to be, it didn’t work for me. (I know it doesn’t work for many other people either…how many people join the gym and try to go every day…giving up after a week or two?). So I thought I’d share my process this year in case it might help someone else.

I began by creating categories for different areas of my life: health (which included food, exercise, and spiritual and emotional health); education and career; money and finance; and hobbies/social. I also created an “other” category to be a catch-all for organizational goals and all those practical things we all feel we “should” want to do. Then I took some time and just wrote down whatever came into my head…a type of free writing. After I felt I written down quite a bit, I examined the goals and tried to make them specific: for example: “eat better” became “make a recipe from a cookbook once a week,” which is certainly a relatively easy goal to accomplish. I classified my goals also into “easy,” “doable,” and “stretch.” I also looked for overlaps, which would imply that those were more important goals to me, such as taking classes (which appeared in the education and hobbies category). I knew I couldn’t or maybe didn’t want to accomplish everything I wrote down, so I tried to see which were the ones I felt most strongly about. The ones I wrote up as weekly tasks will be scheduled into my calendar (something I vow to be better at…keeping schedules), making them more likely to get done.

This is the gift I give myself this year: I am setting myself up for success. The “easy” goals will allow me to feel I am accomplishing things; accomplishing them will give me the energy and keep me encouraged enough to tackle some of the harder goals. I think at the end of the year, I will feel more successful and more content.

The other thing I realized when I sat down to write my “summary” of my year in my journal was that I knew I had accomplished a lot of practical chores — thanks to monthly “to do” lists — but because I didn’t keep my lists, I didn’t remember what all those chores were. Again, this kept me from feeling successful. So…I decided to create a “to do ” book instead of just “to do” lists: a “chores” journal I guess you could call it. Now I can write my list weekly, move anything that doesn’t get done to the next page (the next week) and have a record of what I accomplished to look back on at the end of the year. I will be giving myself “homework” assignments for the week.

This may seem like a waste of time and overdoing things, but I think it will teach me a lot about myself: what things do I procrastinate on? Which things do I find are easy for me, and which do I find difficult? Also, maybe I will find that some of the things I tell myself I want to do, just aren’t really important or maybe I have some “fear” issues to overcome. These thoughts lead me to share one of my favorite Joan Didion quotes:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Joan Didion

Happy New Year to all…may you feel it is a successful and productive one!

 

 




I make resolutions every year — or to put it another way — I set goals every year, as most people do with varying degrees of success. I believe the motivation behind the resolution or goal is the key to its success: why do you want to do it? Because you think you should? Because someone else wants you to? Because you feel like circumstances are forcing you to?

As I got ready to set my goals for 2013, and as I hand-wrote a rough draft of this blog in a notebook with aching hands, I pondered my writing habits. I’m thinking the time may have come when I have to change them. I don’t know what is wrong with my hands (tendonitis…arthritis?), but it has already been a few weeks and the pain is not only not subsiding, it seems to be escalating. I could use this as an excuse not to write, but I can’t allow it. Should I get an ergonomic pen? Speak into a dictaphone (which I actually have; I can’t afford Dragon)? Would typing be better?

My current morning pages notebook

My current morning pages notebook

Although I’m a decent typist (having worked as a secretary right after college) I still prefer hand-writing in a spiral-bound notebook with ruled pages. Friends over the years have gifted me with some lovely journals, which sit there like “good china,” waiting for the special occasion, that SOMEDAY when I will feel like I am finally the writer I want to be, when everything I write will be brilliant and worthwhile, clothed between luxuriant covers. SIGH…

My new beautiful journal

My new beautiful journal

I’ve always been like this: saving the “good jewelry” for special occasions that never seem to happen; saving the “good poems” for special publications that I never get up the courage to submit to. When I was a young art major, one of the best drawings I ever created was done on newsprint paper. My art teacher asked me why I did that. There was no creative reason; it wasn’t elemental to the concept or an essential factor in the art produced. My answer: “I didn’t think it was going to come out that good and I didn’t want to waste good paper.” I have to ask myself, “why don’t I think I’m good enough to use good paper or good journals?”

Just change your habits you say; it is simple, just go ahead and write in the good journals. I have tried that a few times. My closet contains some lovely leather-covered journals with a couple of entries, abandoned because their beauty did not inspire me to new heights; their outsides did not elevate what was inside.  Morning pages are just morning pages whether they are written in a cheap cardboard-covered notebook or a leather-bound book with handcrafted paper.

What are “Morning Pages” you might ask, if you have not read Julia Cameron’s books. I have turned to the “Artist’s Way” every year with the best of intentions. This time I’m reading “Finding Water” for a change of pace. Same author, same principles: sit down and hand-write 3 pages as soon as you get up. Get rid of all the random negative thoughts you may have as you start your day. Get in touch with your feelings and your “small still voice” inside. In Julia’s words (from page 14 of  “Finding Water”):

Be trivial, be petty, whine, grump, groan, and complain. Morning Pages siphon off a haze of negativity through which we normally face our day. The negativity goes onto the page instead of just wafting around us as we make our way through our daily lives. “These pages are boring,” you might complain. Write them anyway.

Julia recommends doing it for twelve weeks to make it a habit you will stick with; I never seem to be able to do that. I ultimately fall off to a couple of days a week, and that is the never-ending story of my “journaling” activities. But a funny thing happened as I read the next paragraph, sitting down to write my morning pages. I understood why I prefer to write in the spiral-bound notebooks!

Julia goes on to say: Sometimes we try too hard to have something to say. We feel desperate but we don’t want to act desperate. We want to pose a little–even on the page. Posing gets us nowhere. We do better to just come clean. It can take getting used to, this nakedness on the page…We want to pretend we have momentous things to say when the truth may be that we yearn to say something but we don’t know what.

I think when I write in the beautiful journals I feel like I’m posing. I’m putting pressure on myself; I’m not allowing myself to be “naked” on the page.

I started this post to write about the tendonitis or arthritis I’m having in my hands that is making it difficult for me to write right now, but the actual writing has revealed that this is just the latest excuse. (How can I write in these beautiful journals when my writing is cramped and nearly illegible?)

Breaking the habits seems difficult in itself, but facing the reasons behind those habits is more difficult still, and that confrontation may be the only way new habits can be created after all. Morning pages are worth their weight in gold, even if they are clothed in cardboard covers.



et cetera
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