(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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Kristy K. JamesJanuary 21, 2013 at 9:06 pm
Glad you’re feeling better. What is it about Christmas and getting sick? I’m still bouncing back from a 2 week ‘thing’…yay. 🙂
It’s good that you’ve figured out what you need to do in order to get your goals in order. If more people took the time to figure out why they can’t stick to resolutions, maybe they wouldn’t be making the same ones every year.
I stopped making resolutions. Now I just have a ‘what I’d like to accomplish this year’ list. Technically it’s not a whole lot different, but for me it makes it less overwhelming. Kind of like it’s great if I hit some of the goals, but it’s okay if I don’t. The less pressure I put on myself, the more likely I am to succeed. Usually.
In some cases it doesn’t help at all, and sometimes putting myself under huge amounts of pressure works like a charm (for instance the last NaNoWriMo).
I think we just have to find what works for us, and work that plan…being willing to adjust it as our needs change.
Kassandra LambJanuary 26, 2013 at 8:38 pm
I’m so sorry, Kristy. I just found your comment in spam purgatory.
I totally get the ‘less pressure, more success’ thing. I’m usually that way as well. And I usually set goals rather than make resolutions, but this year the resolutions are about changing my approach to achieving the goals. I was really making myself crazy there for awhile. So far in 2013, I’m doing a somewhat better job of balancing life. I just need to stick with it until the new routine becomes habit.
Pat O'Dea RosenJanuary 21, 2013 at 9:35 pm
Hi, Kassandra! You, smug? I don’t believe it. Thanks for the
finished “for today” lesson. The hard part is putting it into action every day.
Coleen PatrickJanuary 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm
I have closure needs too. 🙂 And when it comes to the internet and social media, it’s hard to know when you’re finished!
Kassandra LambJanuary 21, 2013 at 11:06 pm
Thanks for stopping by, Pat and Coleen. The hard part is definitely implementation. You notice I gave myself some wiggle room by saying some days the compulsion may win. 😀
Jennette Marie PowellJanuary 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm
I’m still in that “pretend I don’t need to promote and maybe it will go away” phase LOL, even though I know that’s not going to happen. My problem isn’t doing too much, it’s in not doing enough. But I think I need more product out there before it will really be worth spending much time doing promo, so that’s my focus this year. My goals are to get at two more books, and one more short out.
Kassandra LambJanuary 22, 2013 at 3:05 am
LOL Hang on to that denial as long as possible, Jennette. Promoting isn’t nearly as much fun as writing.
Tonight I’m struggling with plans I had to do something fun tomorrow, but I didn’t get as much editing done over the weekend as I’d hoped to. Part of me wants to stay home and ‘finish’ the edit. Again, I am reminding myself that balance is the key.
Good luck with your books! I know they’ll be awesome.
shannon espositoJanuary 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm
Awe 🙂 Yeah, there is definitely no “finish line” in this business. But, the good thing is with the internet, your efforts are always out there for someone to discover. Someone could google new years resolutions three years from now and get this post!
What has come between me and my goals this year so far is germs. LOL. Amazing how sickness throws life into survival mode. I think winter is not a good time for new years resolutions. Next year, I’m making mine in the summer!
K.B. OwenJanuary 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm
Hi, Kassandra! Sounds like you have a solid approach now. Good for you!
For me, blogging was what really got in the way of my writing. I was trying to keep up with a 3x per week blogging schedule, which for my topics involved a whole lotta research and polishing. As a former academic, I can’t help it! And while it was probably a good thing for me to be doing early on, my writing really suffered. But now I’ve built up a lot of good content. At least, I hope it’s good, LOL.
After a successful 2-week Fast Draft challenge last June, where I finished my rough draft of book 2 and didn’t blog during that time, I decided I needed to cut back on the blogging and focus more on the writing. Everyone says that the best thing a writer can do for herself is write more books. Now I’m blogging once a week. I’ve also adapted my schedule so that the social media interactions happen when the kids are home from school and I’m going to be interrupted, anyway. It’s not perfect, and I could always be doing more, but there it is. 😀
Good luck, and hang in there!
Kassandra LambJanuary 23, 2013 at 2:49 am
Yes, summer resolutions! What a great idea, Shannon.
Kathy, I’m a big advocate of slow blogging. It’s just too hard to consistently come up with good material 2 to 3 times a week, and still have a life, that is. It sounds like you have a good system going there with the social media time after school when the kids are home.
And I can definitely relate to the being an academic makes it harder. We just can’t resist researching everything to death! 🙂