The thing about New Years’ resolutions, and why they fall by the wayside, is that they tend not to be decisions. They tend to be hopes and dreams. ‘I’ll go to the gym every day.’ It doesn’t sound like a hope and dream, but it is – it’s the result that’s the hope and dream. Health, fitness, whatever. ‘I’ll quit smoking/drinking/whatever.’ The dream behind it – the improvement – is the thing.
Nobody walks into suffering willingly. Being acclimatized to misery and onerous work, if possible, is hardly something to aspire to. We aspire to health, wellness, possessing some new skill – not making the sacrifices necessary to get there. This is natural, and this is okay. Everyone aspires to a lot of things. That’s how you eventually find the aspirations that click for you – by trying them on like clothes at a store until you find one that fits, looks good on you, and feels good to wear.
The trick is, we can make the decision to suffer in exchange for what we aspire to. But this requires two things: that the decision is wise and one we can trust as we contemplate it over and over again, and that we maintain our passion for the thing we aspire to.
If you know, with absolute and perfect clarity, that slapping yourself sharply across the face once a day will render you functionally immortal, it’s not going to be that difficult to make it a part of your daily routine. For the rest of us, without that clarity, we might try it once and resolve not to try it again. (I just tried it rather half-heartedly – even half-heartedly I do not recommend it as a health routine.)
So the trick is that you find an aspiration that is important and feels real to you, and you make a wise decision, one you’ll agree with every day, to pursue that aspiration. Easy? Not that easy – the you-of-right-now has a privileged decision-making power over the you-of-yesterday and the you-of-tomorrow. That wise decision needs to hold up against all the difficulties of life – which means that part of that decision needs to include some mistake tolerance to make sure that you can get by when your transportation, whether public or private, breaks down. When you need some extra time for yourself, that decision needs to have factored in that you’ll need it – or that decision wasn’t very wise. Don’t decide that you-of-tomorrow doesn’t get any time off unless that aspiration is so important that you’re willing not to get any time off today, too.
Sometimes I go through phases of trying on every aspiration I see around me, almost habitually dreaming about it. School teacher, shaping young minds? I can see myself doing that. Astronaut? Well it’s a late start now, but back when I was a kid working up steam to try and get good at math, sure, that’s plausible. Fireman? EMT? Craftsperson? Lawyer? Programmer? Physicist? Cyberneticist? Journalist? Surgeon? All of these things and more. From working as a chef to being a welder on an oil rig, it’s all passed through my head. Very little of them have stuck, because, for one reason or another, they don’t feel real after awhile. They certainly don’t feel real after investigating what it takes to get there. (In the case of math-based things, I found that pursuing academic math-ness shut down/hurt the artistic side of me. Still not sure how or why that was.)
So trying on, and putting aside, all those aspirations isn’t a good thing, or a bad thing. It’s just… a thing. Part of finding the aspirations that are important to you. The ones that, when you weigh the effort and sacrifices required to make them at all likely, you go… Yeah, that’s a trade that makes sense. And you feel that way again and again when you think about it. Not constantly, but most days. Whenever you sit down and think about the decisions you’ve made.
(One of the big things about depression is that it interferes with the brain’s reward system. And if what you aspire to feels unrewarding or unlikely to pay off, pursuing it is never a wise decision. I’m better with that, but it does creep back in sometimes.)
So. All of the above? That’s stuff that’s been factoring in to some decisions I’ve been making lately, although as pre-New-Year resolutions, if you will.
I’m instituting a new working schedule with some room for sanity, and that working schedule is less about forcing myself to do X or Y number of hours, and more about making a decision about how to use my time ahead of time. Writing books and all… it’s a very long term process. Sitting down and doing something about it today isn’t going to achieve very much – the trick is to find a way to sit down and do something about it for dozens and dozens of days, whether or not they’re sequential.
My system, such as it is, is to divide the year into three writing seasons – each one lasting about four months – and each one is dedicated to a given project. I have a lot of projects and settings I want to work on, and hopefully this will reduce the decision-paralysis. We’ll see.
So far it’s resulted in some more pecking at the Troy test-project, and I’ll naturally keep you all updated on how my productivity goes. Even though productivity is starting to rise, it’s not quite at the level where I’m comfortable unpausing the Patreon, but maybe in a few months more. So, for now, still paused.
In the meanwhile, I hope you all the best of luck with any resolutions you aspire to and wisely decide to pursue, and the best 2020 possible.
Finally, here’s a practice-swing I took at a scene opening in the Troy test-project I’m noodling on:
“Why aren’t you using the one you used last time, Troy?”
“Yeah. I never got to hear that one,” Philadelphia said.
“It was really good,” Dallas contributed. “Really hard to listen to, but good.”
Troy flipped a much-folded sheet of smart paper over and over between his fingers, right hand steady, left trembling. “I still have the notes, but, uhm.” He licked his teeth anxiously. “I can never get through that one without going, uhm. Y’know. Off-script.”
“How did it start?” Orleans asked Saigon.
“He started with that pre-emancipation report? Model organism group eighty, serial number, blah blah blah. Population twenty-four. Three dissected over course of research.” Saigon sucked at his teeth for a moment. “Then Troy started talking about the incinerator shafts.”
“Yeah, I, I. That wasn’t in the script. That was me going off the script.” Troy crushed the smartpaper between his fingers, until black lines began to flicker at the fold.
“I hated those things. Even before anybody died. They were scary.”
“Yeah. They obviously went somewhere that wasn’t any of our floors.”
“When we went to the behavioural testing floor, I thought that might be where the incinerator shafts went.” “Me too! I was scared all the trash would be there.” “I was scared that one of those data pads Dr. Hawes gave us were there and Ms. Betchett was going to find it.” “Why’d you put one in the incinerator?” “Ms. Betchett was coming. If she found out we had one unsupervised… y’know. So I put it in the hatch.”