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Where a new year starts and ends is always a little arbitrary. I’m very happy to celebrate anyone’s idea of where that point is – be it Matariki, Chinese New Year, one’s own birthday or whenever. And it does give a great opportunity to reflect on what’s happened over the past twelve months and think about what we want out of the next.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions so much as compile a sort of “Statement of Intent” ie a (fairly short and simple) plan for the year with a set of realistic goals. Things like “finish third draft of novel” or “spend more time playing the ukulele*”. The key I think is to give yourself something to aim for – a challenge – without making it too unlikely (“win Booker prize” is only going lead to disappointment…)
Goals are, of course, reviewable over the year as circumstances change. And I like to have longer term plans: three year or five year plans, that can be a bit more aspirational (“learn to play ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on ukulele” perhaps. Or perhaps not.)
I love to make lists (not shopping lists, though – I don’t like to feel constrained at the supermarket, preferring the freedom of putting things that take my fancy into the basket and forgetting whatever it was I went in for in the first place). One of the best things about a list is that sense of achievement and satisfaction you can get from crossing things off when you’ve done them. This is where I find it helpful to break goals down into small, manageable chunks. “Finish third draft of novel” can become “read the whole thing out loud to myself again”, “rewrite second half of chapter twelve”, “consider whether I really need character A” and so forth (“learn chords to ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’…”).
Friday is (generally) my writing day and usually I will make myself a list during the week so that when I get to Friday, I’m not sitting there wondering what to work on. It will have things like “finish goldfish poem” and “find a book about amphibians” on it. If I get to Friday and end up writing something for this blog instead, that’s fine. My list will still be there for Saturday or can be incorporated into next Friday’s or I can abandon it altogether if I think of something better. The point is, it’s good to have a plan. Knowing what you want to achieve is the first step towards achieving it.
This is my favourite time of the year: between summer solstice (winter, if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and my birthday in mid January. It feels like a sort of limbo time, tidying up last year’s leftovers and getting ready for the next great adventure. It feels full of promise and opportunity. And satisfaction that I can tick off a considerable portion of what was on last year’s list. Hey. Ho. Let’s Go!
* Peter bought me a new ukulele for Christmas – my old one has been inoperable for some years now, but I’d just like to point out that I was playing it (badly) many years before it became fashionable…