(Sorry, our hiatus ended up being a little longer than intended due to illness.)
I used to secretly look down on people who made New Year’s resolutions. Obviously they weren’t as in control of their lives as I am.
I’ve always felt that if something needed changing, one should make said change ASAP, not wait until the first of the year. I’m a big believer in taking action and being in control of one’s own destiny. Of course I know that there’s stuff in life we can’t control, but I smugly believed I had a handle on that reality. It was one of my basic rules for life:
We can’t always control what happens to us; we can control how we respond to it.
A little over three years ago, I had one of those ‘life is what happens while you’re making other plans’ experiences. The writing bug that had been nibbling at the edges of my brain for years decided to really sink its teeth in. I went from being a semi-retired psychologist–teaching part-time and enjoying life the rest of the time–to being a full-time writer.
I was okay with that. Yes, writing had pretty much taken over my life, but I was having a blast.
There was one aspect of being a writer that I had put off dealing with, however. Promotion. Finally, I had to face it. So last summer, I did some homework, talked to some more experienced authors, and figured I had a handle on it. I was in control. (Do you see a trend here?)
Ha!!! I’ve never worked so hard in my life as I have this past fall, and at least half the time I was spinning my wheels. Now I’m not adverse to hard work and I understand about learning curves, but this was a lot more than I’d bargained for.
“What happened to being semi-retired?” I whined to my friends.
They all just looked at me as if to say, “You’ve got control over this. If you’re not happy, do something about it.”
But I felt like I had a tiger by the tail. If I stopped promoting then everything I’d accomplished would be for naught. After awhile the readership I’d established would dwindle away. Writing would just become a hobby.
That was not okay. Which bring us to another of my rules for life:
If you don’t like a situation, you have three alternatives: get away from it, change it or change your attitude toward it.
I didn’t want to give up on my writing career in order to get away from the promoting aspect. So obviously I had to change my approach to promoting. Again and again, I vowed to spend only a limited amount of time on it each day, stop at a certain point, take the evening off to wind down so I’d get a good night’s sleep, etc. But day after day I would spend hours tweeting, facebooking, blogging, setting up giveaways, advertising, and have maybe an hour or two to write before falling exhausted into bed.
Okay, vowing to change the behavior wasn’t working. By mid-December I realized that I needed a more concrete plan (I know; sometimes I’m a little slow). So I started a long list of New Year’s resolutions that included concrete plans.
(1) I will spend no more than three hours a day on promotion. (Concrete plan: I will set a timer. When it buzzes, I stop.)
(2) I will never spend an entire day on promotion. (Concrete plan: By 2 p.m. at the latest, I will stop promoting and start writing.)
(3) I will not work or write late into the evening causing me to go to bed too late…
Wait, wait, wait! I’d already tried setting a timer and vowing to stop the promoting at a certain point, and somehow, most days, it didn’t happen. Why not?
I didn’t have a good answer for that, so I gave myself permission to think about it over the Christmas holiday, while taking a break from promoting. The answer finally came to me a few days ago. (Give me a break; I already admitted I can be slow.)
I’m a finisher. I feel compelled to finish things. Once I’ve started something, I cannot stop until I’m finished! This has mostly been a good character trait to have.
But now it’s getting in the way, because the promoting will never be finished. So I have to change my attitude toward finishing. I have to tell myself that I’m finished “for today” when the three hours are up, or at the very least, when 2 o’clock rolls around.
It won’t always be easy. I’ll have to fight my finishing compulsion, and some days it may win. But now I know what the real problem is.
Moral of the story: It isn’t enough to make a resolution to change. Sometimes we have to stop and figure out what’s getting in the way.
So tomorrow I’ll finish my revised list of New Year’s resolutions. Why am I waiting until tomorrow? Because it’s 2:01 p.m.
Time to write!
What are your New Year’s resolutions? What tends to get in your way when you want to change something in your life?
(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)
We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.
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