Writing Comes First

After the Christmas holidays I’m filled with new ideas and energy for writing, spring cleaning, organizing my house, crafting, cooking…you get the idea.  I always overdo it with the new year’s resolutions, but I’m eager to make 2014 the best year ever. Since January first I’ve been reflecting on what I think is important for me to accomplish in 2014.  Instead of resolving to change many aspects of my life as I do almost every year, I want to make one change, one change that will become a habit and produce the success I’m after.

I think I’ve found it, and it’s pretty simple. I’m going to get up ten minutes early so I can write for 45 minutes to an hour before work. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a problem, I know. Right now I wake up at five AM. I spend about half an hour with my dog in the morning sipping my coffee and sometimes reading if I can keep my eyes open. She naps at my feet. Being with her in the early morning gives me a peaceful beginning to an otherwise hectic day centered around my high school students.

My new routine on school days will go something like this: Turn on my computer, pour a cup of coffee, and climb to my loft. Write or revise from 5 AM until 5:45 AM.

Changing my habits won’t be easy for me; I love my sleep and my time with Stella. But I ‘m ready to sail into a new phase of of my life. I’m ready to change to succeed in my writing career (what others see as only a hobby for me I’m sure). I’m tired of answering the question of how’s the writing going with, “Pretty good. I’m revising still.”  By the end of this year, the answer to that question will be, “I’m finishing writing my second book and have an agent who just sold my first manuscript!”

This is my time to make my dreams my reality. My writing life will come first, before work, before exercise, before breakfast… but not before coffee. I think my muse needs coffee. She’s addicted, but she shows up! This year will be full of new possibilities for me.  I am a writer.  I will succeed. 2014 is my year!

What habits are you cultivating this new year? What success are you planning for 2014?

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Only Time Will Tell

Beginning a new year is comforting. It allows us to reinvent ourselves at least for a year, to examine our lives, what we’ve accomplished from the year before and what we want to do in the year ahead. For some reason at the beginning of January, I am still in the Christmas mindset.  Too many indulgences have left their mark on my waistline and on my usually active imagination. I’m sluggish and need time to recharge with a little introspection. Maybe all the hype surrounding the New Year or leaving our tree up until the Epiphany keeps me out of spirit of making a fresh start until the second week of January. I don’t belong to a gym or to Weight Watchers, but perhaps I should. I could certainly stand to lose a few pounds and to get in better shape. Who couldn’t? But that’s not why I make New Year’s resolutions, at least not now. I make resolutions as incentive for change, as goals for my life, to become the person I want to be or at least more like the person I would like to be.

Last year, my husband and I hosted a New Year’s Eve dinner for our friends, something we do most years at our house. Since I had been contemplating what I wanted to change in my life, on a whim I asked everyone to write their new year’s resolutions on pieces of paper. We didn’t sign our names to our resolutions. Then we folded them and threw them into a hat. We took turns passing the hat and trying to guess whose resolution was whose. It was a fun exercise that allowed us to learn more about each other’s aspirations and also have a little fun. Few people guessed which resolution was mine. It was a little vague, but I felt shy about being specific. What I wrote was to be more creative. What I should have written was to take my writing seriously by finishing my novel and starting my blog. I succeeded on one front—starting my blog—and almost succeeded on the other. I have two scenes left to finish my novel, which I am writing today and tomorrow.

Since I made a concerted effort to succeed last year, I am continuing my resolution of being more creative this year, but this time I am being specific. This year I will revise my novel at least once and be brave enough to ask three people to be readers for me. (Scary!) I will write two blog posts a week rather than one and learn to incorporate pictures and media effectively. Also, I committed to making something by hand for three of my friends on Facebook. I’m not sure people know I am actually creative, sort of a repressed artist, because I only had three people respond! The idea was to make something for the first five people who responded to the pay it forward 2013 post. My friend Lee Schultz responded to my post. Talk about pressure to make something really impressive for her! She is a talented artist and also a high school art teacher. Five people responded to her post almost immediately (including me) because everyone knows how creative she is!

One last resolution I am making is health related I resolve to give up eating sugar. There. I said it, in public, in writing even! I have failed miserably in the past when I’ve tried this. Sugar is like crack for me. If I have a little bit, I want whatever sweet is around: cookies, cakes, pies, or divinity. It’s sad really. I’m a cookie junkie, a cake addict. My fix is the white stuff. Look away! Over the past few months, though, I’ve made progress, so maybe this is it. Maybe this is my time to succeed. I no longer take sugar in my coffee, a huge accomplishment for me and no longer sweeten my oatmeal in the morning. Giving up sugar will take sustained effort and vigilance on my part. I don’t know if I can do it, but I will let you know how it goes. Time will tell.

This year my resolutions center on ways I can change my life for the better. My resolution last year was open-ended and allowed for me to make what I would out of it and still claim victory at the end of the year. I have another one like that this year. I want to take time to be grateful and happy each day, but it will include a measurement. I am blessed to have really good friends in my life and don’t show them often enough how important they are to me. This year I will show my appreciation for my friends far and near by doing something, as yet unspecified and very likely tailored to the friend, for someone each week of 2013. Since I am starting a week late, that is 51 gestures of friendship in 51 weeks. To document my progress I will include a post about each person and each gesture this year.

Most of my resolutions will be immediately measureable, but not all, and they will all take time to accomplish or at least to see the effects of the change. When we make resolutions, aren’t we really trying to change our habits? In my January edition of Health Magazine, the statistic that popped out at me was this: 66 days is the average amount of time it took for people to form a new habit. That’s a little over two months, a long time if measured without sugar. J If you make resolutions to lose weight or write everyday or practice yoga or meditate or give up sugar, give yourself enough time to succeed. If you started your resolution on January 1, 2013, then check in with yourself on March seventh to see if your resolution stuck. Check in with me to see how my sugar free existence is going periodically. I’m sure I will have some success and also some failures to report, but I find it more helpful to take change day by day and to forgive myself for inconsistencies in the process.

Will I succeed in changing my life this year? Will 2013 bring me success, happiness, joy, a published novel? Only time will tell, and time is what it takes to make changes. We have 526, 600 minutes to live, 365 days to fill, 52 weeks to enjoy. How will you change your life this year? Will you accomplish what you were meant to do with your life? Will you connect with friends and family you’ve neglected? Will you work toward your dreams? Will you be happy? Only time will tell.