says that the best is the enemy of the good.
I’ve been struggling with the whole New Year’s resolution thing. While I catch glimpses of what I might want to do in the New Year, I am resisting putting anything into writing. Part of my struggle comes from the distractions in my life. I’ve been working on resolutions while my son jams on his electric guitar, my daughter plays the drums, and the dogs bark at everyone who wanders by the house. But I’ve also been struggling with the tyranny of perfection: I want this to be a great year, so I’ve been trying to discover perfect resolutions. According to Brené Brown, perfection leads to life-paralysis. She says,
“Life paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It’s also all of the dreams that we don’t follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others.” (The Gifts of Imperfection, pp. 56-57)
Sometime this morning, while running (really slowly) on the treadmill it occurred to me: if I wait to create the perfect resolution, I will never do anything. I need to craft the good-enough resolution. I need to create some resolutions that will help me to move forward even if I move slowly and imperfectly! Here are three ways to create good-enough writing (or life) resolutions:
The Small-Step Resolution or The Way of the Turtle. Being a life-long turtle fan, I like the idea of taking small steps. When I started running again a few months ago, I took absurdly small steps: running for 15 seconds every two minutes. As the weeks go on, I’ve been increasing my running time by a few seconds a week. (No need to rush, I’m on the turtle plan.) To apply this to your writing, think about your writing goals and then imagine some small steps toward that goal. Maybe you want to write more. Why not add five minutes to your writing time each day? Perhaps you’d like to learn how to use social media. Take 30 minutes a week to observe one of the social media platforms. Whenever you come up with a small step, ask yourself: is this small enough. If you feel excited, then it probably is. If you’re still afraid, make the step even smaller. Increase or shift your steps by listening to your inner turtle sense!
The Short-Term Resolution or Try Before You Buy. I recently heard about a dog shelter that allows adoptive families to try out dogs for five days before making a final commitment. That allows families the time to see if the new relationship works. Why not use the same technique for your resolution. Try out a resolution for a week or two and see how it goes. Maybe you’re an afternoon writer who’d like to write in the morning. Try it for a few weeks, observe what works and what does not work—and then evaluate the results. Once you’ve collected some data on how the new habit works in your life, you can make a more permanent commitment to your resolution.
The Learning Resolution or Becoming a Student. Sometime we can avoid that scary, “I have to do it perfectly” feeling by switching our role from expert to student. Instead of setting resolutions that put us in the expert seat (I’m going to become the best damn novelist in the world), why not try a learning resolution (I am going to learn about how to create better characters). When we take on a learning resolution, we might decide to take a class, read a book, or connect with a mentor. But we can also approach any resolution with an attitude of learning by getting curious, asking questions, and exploring possibilities. So the novel writer might take a class or simply ask what makes a novel great and work on applying those characteristics to her writing.
A final word. Know this: you never, ever have to live with a resolution forever. Tweak it, dump it, or craft a new one. You’re in charge!
Your turn: What do you do to overcome life-paralysis, set healthy resolutions and move forward? What resolutions are you setting this year? Leave your comment below!