Writing Resolution for 2015: Let’s All Stop Arguing with Our To-Do Lists, Shall We?

Have you ever kicked a fire hydrant? Pleaded with a cell phone’s dying battery? Shrieked mournfully at that spinning, rainbow-colored pinwheel on your MacBook screen that almost always portends the certain death of the last hour’s worth of work? How well did it work for you?

Perhaps you’re more the pragmatic and even-tempered sort, slower to frustration and ire. Perhaps, unlike the majority of us, you’ve never fantasized about throwing a recalcitrant printer out the office window.

If so, congratulations on your mettle and measure. But don’t start smirking just yet.

You may well be doing something just as silly.

Here’s the thing: most committed writers labor under the aegis of a bigger picture; a closely or even loosely described set of goals for their work: where it will end up, how it will get there, what steps they need to take to make headway on that big idea.

And no time are such Grand Plans more lauded and more discussed and more cherished than at the start of a brand new year. Many writers use the occasion as an opportunity to recommit to doing more and better work, to achieving a few long-sought milestones and taking things to the next level, writing-wise.

And then, January 1 fades into the rearview, life kicks back into Crazy-Normal, and those heartfelt resolutions get left in the dust.

Oh, we still think of them. We still love them. We still scratch out their little footsoldiers – micro-goals – on our weekly to-do lists:

Write for two hours Saturday

Submit three pieces to literary journals

Send out four magazine pitches

Finish draft of novel by spring

And then, life intervenes, family and friends come calling, better-paying work distracts us, laundry piles up, and those very noble intentions get pushed to the bottom of the list before falling off it entirely for another year.

Cue guilt, and annoyance at feeling said guilt, and guilt at feeling annoyed at feeling guilty, and is it really any surprise that, for all intents and purposes, our Grand January Writing Plans are often quietly abandoned before we’ve even turned the calendar to February?

Here’s a thought: in 2015, why not resolve to stop arguing with your Writing To-Do List?

It isn’t a neglected friend to whom you ought to apologize and resolve to revisit next week or next month or next year.

And it isn’t negotiable. And you, in turn, aren’t a bad partner, friend, or parent because you insist on prioritizing its contents.

You’re not selfish. You’re not dreamy. You’re a writer, and your writing goals ought to be approached as inanimate, changeless little buggers. They are to be hewn to; not argued with, talked to, negotiated with under your breath. That’s as silly as chucking a piece of electronic equipment out a second-story window, and you’re above all that nonsense, right?

One last question: have you ever thought about what it is, really, that separates us humans from the rest of the beasts?

One of the biggest things, to my mind, is our ability to store our knowledge for future retrieval. To plan against a reality that doesn’t yet exist. What a gift! And our To-Dos help us to execute this small miracle.

With the ability to make big plans based purely on faith in ourselves comes the ability to fret and worry and lament when we fall short.

I hope you’ll join me, in 2015, in my writing resolution: to stop talking at little bits of paper and get down to work!


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