I Do Declare: New Year’s Eve needs to happen more often because I have resolutions to make

I love New Year’s Eve. All that freshness and newness and potential of it all. You get to put away the old year – and won’t we be so happy to do that to this year? – and embrace the new year.

You can throw your arms around the upcoming 12 months and start afresh. The new year is like a big, wrapped box waiting to be opened. It holds a glimmer of excitement, a whisper of something better to come. Possibilities. A shiny new world is tucked inside that word.

Here at the last day of August, this is my New Year’s Eve.

I’ve always felt that September is when the new year happens. School starts. After the lazy meandering of summer, September brings routine and structure. And office supplies! Packs of paper, sticky notes, new notebooks, freshly sharpened pencils, pens in a variety of colors.

It’s a checklist time of year – my idea of heaven – which means things are getting real. Only X number of days until Halloween, until Thanksgiving, until Christmas. No time to waste. To-do lists abound.

So tonight is my New Year’s Eve. Setting resolutions, dining on steak and lobster, popping a bottle of champagne, setting off fireworks at midnight. Just kidding. I won’t go that far. Supper will be the usual fare and fireworks will not be happening (no sense in alarming the neighbors, who might not understand my moving NYE around on the calendar).

But there will be resolutions. And bubbly, probably.

Resolutions are the best part of New Year’s Eve. Intention takes center stage. Resolutions are the great do-over, and for one night at least, you get to feel like a master planner.

Most standard resolutions are about taking better care of yourself or improving yourself in some way:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Exercise more.
  • Get organized.
  • Save money.

Writer resolutions are different. Sure, we could apply the list above and see some progress and be better people for it, but we writers tend to have a different focus. And a different focus begets different goals.

Here are some resolutions I’ve made in the past. Feel free to adopt for your use.

  • Get organized. By which I mean meet those deadlines – even those that are self-imposed – and remember that you’re on the clock. Yes, it’s your clock, but that doesn’t mean you can fritter away your time. People are waiting to read your work. Getting organized also means avoiding rabbit holes, or at least knowing how to jump back up out of them quickly. When you need to do some research, set a timer. When it dings, close out Google.
  • Feed yourself. Not just your body but your mind. Nourish your thoughts with prose and poetry. If you’re a screenwriter, read as many scripts as you can. If you’re a novelist, dig into books. Read everything you can get your hands on, good or bad. (Yes, the bad too. You need to be able to spot bad writing so you can do better.)
  • Seek peace with your enemies – but make use of the anger. Of course it’s important to let bygones be bygones and forgive those who’ve wronged you. But while you’re working on your peacemaking skills, why not pour all those feelings into your work-in-progress? Give one or more of your characters the same traits as your foes and have at it. Here’s your chance to blast them into next week. (p.s. I’d advise against giving your characters the same names as your real-life foes. You don’t want to spend your future royalties in legal battles over libel.)
  • Use dysfunction to your advantage. Got weird relatives? Of course you do. (Who doesn’t?) Great! You’ve got a ready-made cast of characters. Pull some of that craziness into your work-in-progress. Remember: Normal is  boring. Nobody wants to read about normal. Mentally re-label your family gatherings “Dysfunction Junction” and get on that train. If you’re in therapy, take copious notes. Ask questions like, “What if I didn’t work on these issues? What would that lead to?”
  • Connect with others. Unless you’re collaborating with a cowriter, writing can be a solitary endeavor. It’s important to avert the isolation that comes with it. Get out and about. Do lunch with a friend. At a bare minimum, go walk around a mall or museum or park and be a people-watcher. Observe how they move and what they’re wearing and how they talk. Listen in on their conversations if you can. You need these details for your work.

These resolutions may be a bit on the atypical side, but they’re doable – and you’re more likely to keep at it than a gym membership.

Now I need to set the timer and go look up the words to “Auld Lang Syne.”

Happy New Year!

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