New Year’s Resolutions: How did I do in 2016? What will I do in 2017?

I’m not a big fan of “New Year, New You!” type posts. I feel like I’m already kind of locked into the groove of being my old me, so I might as well stick with it. But I do make resolutions. For example, these are my resolutions from last year, and how well I did keeping up on them:

1. Reading Challenge Last year was a bad year for me, reading wise. I was in a total funk, and not just one of those “I devoured this book, now nothing else compares” funks. I just had a hard time picking a book and sticking with it. This year, in an attempt to combat that, I’m doing this reading challenge.

I didn’t even come close to finishing the reading challenge. But I did read some great books, like Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, which I think might have been my favorite book all year. But the moment I made a goal to do more reading, I quickly abandoned it. This is going to be a theme in this post.

2. Take Weekends Off Toward the end of 2015, I got serious burnout. Burnout spirals me into depression. Depression makes me a person I don’t like. And when I don’t like myself, the burnout gets even worse. I made an effort to take the month of December off. I didn’t exactly stick to it. But this year, I’m making myself a strictly Monday through Friday gal. Weekends won’t be for work, but for just hanging out and Me Time. Hopefully this prevents further burnout.

I did start taking weekends off, and I pretty much stuck to it, with the exception of a couple of writing retreats. But this didn’t stop me from getting burned out, because my next resolution was:

3. Write 600,000 Words This might seem like it’s in direct contradiction to the whole “Take time off, don’t get burned out” thing, but I think that my new schedule will actually make me more productive, so this is probably totally do-able.

Oh, totally doable, huh? Your new schedule is going to make you “more productive,” you say? I wrote 435,319 words in 2016. That’s a lot. But it’s not 600,000. And I’m still burned out. When it became clear (around September) that I wouldn’t make my goal, everything in my head ground to a screeching halt. More on that later.

4. Tag Things On This Blog The lack of tags infuriates some of you. I understand. I’m just not good at tagging. I’m going to make an effort to tag stuff now. I probably will not go through and retag all my old entries, as this blog was started in 2008 or something and I don’t have that kind of time to devote to it. But I’ll at least try.

I said I would try. I never said I would succeed.

So, those were my resolutions last year. These are my resolutions this year:

1. Stop tracking word counts. This may seem counterintuitive to avoiding burnout. After all, how will I have proof that I’m actually getting anything done. In the past, the thought of not entering my daily totals into a spreadsheet would made my skin crawl. But tracking isn’t helping anymore, as I find myself too focused on the numbers and not on the joy of creating. I came up with a new tracking system, instead. This is the tracking system I used in my bullet journal last year, in addition to the spreadsheet on my computer:

A table with five columns and five rows. The rows are labeled ">1000", ">2000", "Finished a whole scene", "Wrote a blog post," and "felt good about work." In the first two columns, only >1000 words, wrote a blog post, and felt good about work are checked off. The third column, only >1000 words is checked off. The last two columns are empty.

 

Those last two days weren’t forgotten. I didn’t make my word count or finish a scene or blog post on those days. So I didn’t feel good about my work, no matter what I did accomplish. Maybe one of those days I formatted a manuscript or filled out an interview. Maybe I did research. But none of it counted as work to me if I didn’t see numbers in the spreadsheet. Writing doesn’t always mean actually putting down those words, especially if you’re self-published. By discounting everything else I was doing, I was asking myself to work twice as hard. And if I didn’t hit that mark, I didn’t allow myself to feel good about anything I’d gotten done.

This is my new way of tracking my work:

Another table, this time with five columns and four rows. The rows are labeled "Felt creative," "had fun," "didn't give up," and "stayed focused."

Instead of focusing on quantity, I’m going to worry about how I feel. Because entering numbers into a spreadsheet destroyed all the joy I used to feel about writing. Which leads me to my second resolution:

2. Be more forgiving of myself. I talk a good game about self-care and being kind to yourself. But wow, I don’t practice it. I over-extend myself, then get completely negative if I can’t fulfill my own expectations. Then I procrastinate. That just makes things worse. I spiral deeper and deeper into depression. Then nothing gets done, and I get even more depressed. Instead of focusing on times I mess up, I’m going to have to start remembering to look forward without constantly beating myself up or setting unrealistic goals.

For example, here’s a big one: I started homeschooling my teenage son. And yet, I expected myself to have the same output as I used to have. That’s not, you know. Totally absurd, or anything.

3. Spend more time on hobbies. I’ve been viewing hobbies as something I don’t have time for. Things like reading, gaming (which I finally can do again, after four years, now that my seizures are controlled), knitting and crocheting, coloring, needle felting, all those things I like to do? I stopped doing them if I didn’t have a way to make them “useful.” I love soap making, but I turned it into a side business instead of a hobby so that I could justify doing it. I turned my bullet journal and planners into my only non-writing related hobby I regularly made time for, but only because it was necessary to plan my week. Stickers, coloring, etc. were just a bonus. This year, I’m going to train myself to understand that I deserve to take breaks and do things that aren’t just “useful,” but pointless and fun.

4. Resist. In the only way I know how. By reminding people, via social media and the creative energy I put out into the world, that the United States isn’t operating “as usual.” The things we’re seeing here now aren’t normal. They aren’t what we stand for. And while I physically can’t go out and march in protests, I can continue to be a voice. I’ve wanted to give up so many times in 2016 and accept powerlessness. In 2017, I’m going to resist not only that instinct, but the facism my homeland is descending into.

5. Watch more Disney movies. A long time ago, Disney movies–problematic as they can be–gave me a regular escape from reality. Embracing my inner princess just might save my sanity this year, the way twelve rewatches of Galavant and Supernatural got me through 2016.

6. Promote my work, without feeling guilty. I’m one of those authors who goes, “I wrote a thing. Read it, maybe?” Ha ha ha, no. Not anymore. I’m not going to turn into an hourly scheduled tweet, buy my book, buy my book kind of person. But I’m not going to be ashamed of promoting myself anymore, or feel bad if I post here about books that are going onsale. When I sit back and think, “Damn, this author moves way more copies than I do,” it’s almost always because they’re unafraid to sell themselves. I’m not a natural salesperson at all, but there’s a difference between a hard sell and actually being timid and apologetic about self-promotion.

Those are my resolutions for 2017. Do you have any resolutions? Share them in the comments. Maybe other people will see one of yours and go, “Hey, maybe I’ll do that, too!”

20 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions: How did I do in 2016? What will I do in 2017?

  1. I love your tracking spreadsheet beyond all reason. That. I need something like that. I keep making list after list after list of Do Do Do. And I just feel worse and worse. I need to figure out something like that for myself. Thank you!

  2. 2. Be more forgiving of myself. I talk a good game about self-care and being kind to yourself. But wow, I don’t practice it. I over-extend myself, then get completely negative if I can’t fulfill my own expectations. Then I procrastinate. That just makes things worse. I spiral deeper and deeper into depression. Then nothing gets done, and I get even more depressed. Instead of focusing on times I mess up, I’m going to have to start remembering to look forward without constantly beating myself up or setting unrealistic goals.

    This really spoke to me. This happened to me last year, but I thought it was the other way around – I got depressed about other things, so I couldn’t meet my writing goal, so I procrastinated, so I felt worse about myself…etc. But maybe it started the other way around.

    Thanks for sharing, as always!

  3. I’ll join you in the resisting. You’re right, none of this is normal. I’ll do what I can; if all I can do in response to the gaslighting on social media is say, “NO,” then goddammit, I’m gonna say no.

    I lost 27 pounds this year; I need to lose 10 more to be at the ideal weight for my height, so I’m gonna just keep doing the Atkins resolution I started last year.

    I want to learn to draw. I’m gonna watch some YouTube tutorials. Already bought the graphite pencils and squishy erasers.

    I also need to get more organized.

  4. Jenny, I totally feel you on not letting yourself have hobbies that aren’t “useful.” It’s so hard for me to do any sort of creative work, because the assumption I have is unless someone’s going to buy the painting it’s not worthwhile. I’ve been working on this but it’s super hard for me. I support you from afar!

    As for resist — amen. Stay angry, my friends.

  5. I’m pretty good at sales but I also feel really guilty about selling sometimes. Employers really expect sales people to go til the customer says no, and no, and NO. I’m not good at pushy, I’m not good at humiliating myself for a sale, and I’m not willing to manipulate (much).

    What I’ve found helps is framing – instead of doing it because my employer expects it or with negative feelings (desperation, aggression, etc), I think about what my customers want or need and tailor my approach to that. Maybe my sales numbers weren’t the highest all the time, but my customers were satisfied…and loyal and that translated to good, consistent sales over time.

    Your customers (and potential customers!) want to know more about your books! So sharing release dates, teasers, and when things go on sale is for your readers and soon to be readers. Selling your product benefits them, too.

    1. I agree. You are an author and there are really good chances that people on this blog, and Twitter, are following you because they are readers. Of course we’d like to know if there’s something new to read!

  6. I want to make my life less toxic this year. 2016 was just so rage inducing on so many levels in my life.

    I also need to find a way to resist in a way that will fit in with my less toxic goal. I don’t want to spend my free time seeking out rage inducing articles about the Orange Menace. But at the same time, I don’t want to be complacent about the path we are on as a country.

  7. Yeah, I do the ‘setting (unrealistic) goals, not meeting them and beating myself up over it’ thing too. And it’s exhausting. So, I’m definitely going to stop doing that.

    The other thing I want to do is exercise more regularly. I usually do a lot for a while and then nothing at all for a way longer while. This year, I want to just pace myself and keep it up. Also, I’m not going to focus on the losing weight aspect of exercising. Because – very deep down – I don’t give a shit about that. It’s not necessary, because my body is okay and stupidly focusing on losing weight always makes me feel like I’m on my way to finally becoming a worthy person but I never get to that place, which means I feel like a loser all the time. Not good.

    I guess what I’m going for is: new year, old me and that’s fine.

  8. I can relate to some of your resolutions, like needing to be more forgiving of yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I didn’t do/manage this”, and forget the things that you actually did manage to do.

    After I had a major burn out 10 years ago, it’s taken me ages to learn my new limitations, and I very easily get stuck on what I’m not doing, rather than what I am.

    My resolutions/goals for 2017 is to get back to writing, I wrote two novels before I had my burnout, and I’d like to finally revise and publish them. That’s my major goal. Other than that, just finding my way back to writing and then stuff like sorting out our flat. We’ve been here a year now, and I think it’s about time we got some stuff done!

  9. aaaaaaah bullet journal!! i just learned about them like… two weeks ago. hoooooly shit, it’s amazing! AND one of my resolutions is to USE IT. the others are focusing more on art, that i’ve been wanting to do but putting off because i’m “not good enough” and “don’t have the time” and “i’m too old to get better” etc.

  10. As a numbers person, I can guarantee numbers are evil without proper context. I’ve seen way too many people focus on an number without context in a negative way. Like people who are exercising more but not losing weight cos they’ve put on muscle instead. Shifting your focus is definitely a good move in my opinion.

    I want to get back into cross stitch before my illnesses take my ability away. I let most of my craft go for a long time because my husband has been very negative about it because it is a “waste” apparently. I’ve start back up crocheting things, which generally I make for charity so they’re “useful”. With a couple of kids, it’s a lot easier to pick up and put down as well. But I miss making beautiful pictures, so I’ve started going through all my kits and patterns and I’m going to aim to finish one of them by the end of the year.

  11. I recognise so many things you say here! I always do the focusing on what I didn’t do instead of on what I did do. I am going to try to not do that so much anymore.
    I am working on 3 children’s books at the moment, 2 picture books and 1 young fiction book, I just want to keep working on those.
    My biggest plan is to rent an art studio space. I’ve been working from home on my art business for 5 years now and I don’t enjoy working from home on my own as much as I used to. I miss having people around me and I would like to be in contact with like minded people more. This past year I met a wonderful lady at an art fair who rents a studio in a building with 2 whole corridors full of artist studios and the people there are lovely. So I’m getting a part time job so that I can rent a studio there as soon as one becomes vacant. I have no idea when that will be, though.
    I also want to try to keep up with a daily walk because I want to build up some strength in my body. I’ve been sick for 3 quarters of last year and my leg muscles are pudding right now.
    My last one is I want to stop feeling so guilty about liking media with problematic elements. I am aware of all of them and it makes me not enjoy anything anymore. Which is a bit stupid, because there are very very few media out there with no problematic elements. And what bothers me the most is that I’ve fallen into the trap of judging media by and for women more harshly than media by and for men because that is what the rest of the world does too.
    I still have plenty of dealbreakers and media I will not support, but I do have to be able to like some things even while being aware of its troubles.
    Which brings me to your resolution about Disney films. I love Disney films and I’ve been having that issue of feeling guilty about liking them a lot the past years. Even though they are doing so much better lately.
    Moana for instance, omg, I love it soooo much! I related to her so much and I cried through half the movie because it was so beautiful and spoke to me so strongly.
    So, if you haven’t seen it yet, definitely go see it.
    I hope you have a great new year!

  12. I think there are a lot of similarities in our personalities, Jenny, so I want to try your new work tracker, because I too have been feeling really burnt-out on writing.

    I could also really relate to your post about Disney movies, because I did the same thing in 2016 but with Star Trek. I started recapping TNG at my blog as I was inspired by your Buffy recaps, and that’s definitely something that kept me going.

  13. 1. Don’t overspend. I have a little extra money every month, but I overspend and then have to borrow the next month. I want to pay off my credit cards and use them responsibly.

    2. Finish my book. I have to revise it and write another 50,000 words. I need to stop procrastinating.

    3. Do more art. Practice drawing and write more for pleasure.

  14. You should never feel bad about promoting your books, because they are AWESOME!!!! And more people need to hear about them so they can read awesome books.

    A lot of my kinky friends also lament that they can’t find romance books that represent them properly and treat queer people well and I direct all of them to The Boss, they all love it. I don’t know if you’ve done this already or if it would work, but you could contact kink groups and ask them if they’d want to put up a link to The Boss on their websit.

  15. 1. Be kind to myself. Accept my limits. Accept that my worth is not contingent upon what I can do, or how useful I am for others.

    2. Keeping journalling. I started in October, and that stuff is working better than my therapy.

    3. Keep running two to three times a week. I used to HATE running with the fiery heat of a thousand suns, but these 10-15 minutes are sometimes the only times in my week when I’m not feeling anxious, and when I’m actually feeling good about myself and my body. It’s also something I’m doing for myself, because it’s good for me, and not because I have to meet an arbitrary goal, and I have to find more things like that.

  16. I had a horrible time reading last year. In 2015, I read 53 books and more than 20,000 pages. For 2016, I finished 28 books and just over 10,000 pages. Pathetic, but I couldn’t focus for some reason.

  17. I’m going to put together a stack of cards to send to send to my grandmother every week so I can stop feeling guilty about not calling her more often (which makes my mild anxiety disorder flare up uncomfortably and does almost nothing to ease her completely uncontrolled all-consuming anxiety disorder and clearly does discombobulate her even though it’s a thing she wants). Shifting the balance towards cards will work better for both of us, so long as I stick to it, and I’m going to make it as easy for myself as I can. She can’t focus well anymore, so I can’t pressure myself to write anything long and detailed. I won’t be there so she won’t have to pressure herself to respond in the “right” way . She can just have something to hold in her hands in private to help her remember that I love her.

  18. Hey Jenny, what does that 435,000 words include? Is that only finished product, or do you include research, pre-writing, and other behind-the-scenes work as well?

    Either way you’re miles ahead of me. I’m just wondering what all you took into account. I’m fascinated by other writers’ processes.

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