Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Twist on New Year's Resolutions

It's New Year's Resolution time! Most of us, at some point, have made New Year's resolutions, and the majority of those who have done so have, at least once, failed to meet a resolution.

I'm no different. Every time I've resolved to lose weight in the coming year, for example, I've failed. Practically the only times I've been able to keep my New Year's resolutions is when I have resolved only to not break my New Year's resolution.

The problem is that most resolutions are too general, with no clear ending point or concrete indicators of success: lose some weight, watch less TV, not murder the in-laws in their sleep. While those are all nice things to strive for, there isn't really a plan there. There's no accountability, no consequences. They're easy to forget about two days, two weeks, or two months into the year.

So I'm not going to do that anymore.

This year, I'm approaching my resolutions from a different angle. Instead of broad, general resolutions, I'm creating project-based New Year's resolutions. Twelve, to be exact — one for each month.

The idea is simple: By the last day of each month in 2012, I will complete one project. I will list today the type and scope of each project, thus planning an entire year of creativity and productivity from the start.

If all goes as planned, by the end of December 2012 (which, if you believe the Mayans, is December 21), I will be able to look back and say with certainty, "I did these twelve things; the year was not wasted."

Honestly, how many people can look back at the last twelve months and name twelve accomplishments that they're proud of? I hope I will number among those people a year from now, and 2012 will become a year to remember.

So here's the list of what I want plan to do in 2012. I'll be reporting on my progress from time to time as the year passes by.

January: Read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest and Neal Stephenson's REAMDE

English: U.S. novelist Neal Stephenson at Scie...
Neal Stephenson -- Image via Wikipedia
I'm starting off relatively easy, I know. But if you're thinking sarcastically, 'Read two books in January? Big deal,' bear this in mind: These two books combined comprise 2,148 pages. They're both monsters.

[Update: I finally finished Infinite Jest in early August. It took me entirely too long, but I don't regret the read. 8/17/12]

February: Write a solo for unaccompanied clarinet

In case you don't know, music was one of my first loves, and the one I pursued in college. I hold a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance from Ball State University. (If I could do it all over again, I would double-major in Music Composition and Creative Writing.) I've always intended to write a clarinet solo, but this year I'm going to actually do it. Even if it sucks.

March: Finish the first draft of Circles

Circles is the working title of the novel I started for NaNoWriMo 2010. I made it to around 30,000 words, which turned out to be about half the novel. I've pecked at it from time to time — both expanding it and editing what's there — but I haven't made a purposeful effort to get the thing finished. Whether I have to force myself into a NaNoWriMo-like writing regularity or not, I will finish the thing by the end of March.

April: Post on this blog at least five times a week for the entire month

I've tried to be pretty regular with my blog posts, but I haven't always succeeded. (In fact, there's an expressway to Hell paved entirely with my good intentions.) In April, I will plan and focus more than I usually do and post five times a week.

I'll admit now, though, that I will cheat by working ahead and scheduling posts days or weeks in advance. The outcome is more important than the process here.

[Update: Mission accomplished. I thought I had already updated this one but apparently not. But, well, now it has. Check out April's National Grammar Day poems! 8/17/12]

May: Cross something off my bucket list

English: a figure that we can see in Cyanide a...
Image via Wikipedia
There's a link to my bucket list at the top. The first thing on it is "Write a novel." Since I plan to cross that off in March, I'll be trying to cross something else off the list in May.

This could be a tough one because a number of those things involve someone else doing something that affects me. I fear that I might be forced into a tattoo, but I've got a few months to prepare.

June: Create a web comic

This is something I've always wanted to do but have always been apprehensive about. I love web comics like xkcd, Dinosaur Comics, and My First Dictionary, and I've always wanted to be a part of that. In June, I will be.

But I'm not going to aim super-high here. I will consider this project a success if I can post at least five comics. And then I'll decide whether to keep going.

July: Enter a short-story contest

I get a lot of personal pleasure from writing, so I mostly just write for myself. If I ever want to make a career out of writing, though, I know I need to start getting my stuff out there. I haven't entered any writing contests in my adult life, and it's time that changed. It's time to see if my skills can hold up against others'. A short-story contest seems like a good place to start.

August: Get this blog off Blogger and onto a proper domain

I have few problems with Blogger, but I really want my own place for this stuff, if only to give myself room to expand. The main barrier right now is just finding the money.

September: Collect and edit my short stories and consider self-publishing them

I have trepidations about self-publishing, and I have to surmount a learning curve before I can self-publish anything in e-book format. But I do want to bring my stories together, edit them, and prepare them as best I can for future publishing. I'll decide what to do with that collection at the end of September.

October: Draw the sphinx and dragon picture

Earlier this month, my boys and I were talking about neat things that I might be able to draw. We came up with what I think is a great idea for a cute picture of a sphinx and a dragon (it will likely be a wyvern if you insist on mythological accuracy). In October, I will attempt to create this picture in secret, and then present it to them as a gift next Christmas.

November: Write a duet for clarinet and trombone

Iridem for trombone and clarinet
Image via Wikipedia
This will be another Christmas gift, to my elder son, the budding trombonist. He just started playing this past August, so the trombone part will be simpler than the clarinet part, and it will take a while for him to learn it. I hope we can perform it for the family during Christmas 2013. (I'm thinking of calling the piece "The Hound and the Chihuahua.")

December: Finish the first round of editing for Circles

By the end of 2012, I should have a novel that I am ready to show to people and get feedback on. Then I have to decide what to do with it.

What's missing

I said before that one of the problems with regular New Year's resolutions is that there are no real consequences for failure. To keep me motivated, I need to come up with some consequences for failing to follow through on these projects, but I'm stuck. I hope you can help. What type of consequences should I suffer if I fail to live up to my plans? (Punishments that include the loss of a body part will be ignored — unless it's my appendix or vas deferens.)

And feel free to prod me from time to time to make sure I'm staying on track.
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