By Jill Chafin
I've always been a fan of New Year's Resolutions. The excitement of a new year, a new number, a new me. It's like hitting reset on life. You can be anything you want this year! Forget last year's mistakes, failings, disappointments, heart breaks. Shake it off, it doesn't matter. Today is a fresh start.
I still believe this, to a certain degree. But I woke up this morning and realized, I'm still me. The same old me. And if I want to change, I need to work my butt off at it.
Year after year I found myself stating the same resolutions, over and over again: This year I will publish my novel. This year I will save X amount of dollars. This year I will be come fluent in Spanish. December 31st would come slamming into my face, and I'd curl up in a defeated ball, sobbing at all the failed promises of the closing year.
Except this year. I woke up today, January 1st, and realized I'd finally achieved one of my long-lasting goals: having X amount of dollars in my savings account. I should say WE achieved this goal since my husband is the main bread winner these days. But it was my goal, it's always been my goal, for as long as I can remember. And yet I failed, we failed, year after year, to have any decent savings account. Being a self-employed, struggling artist who failed to pay quarterly taxes, I simply watched as each year's savings disappeared with a single poof as one lump electronic payment to the IRS. Thanks 15% self-employment tax. Bye-bye savings.
So what did I do differently in 2018? For starters, I made some hefty payments to the IRS so that I could have peace of mind that our savings account was all ours. And we did make more money this past year. But achieving this goal – this resolution – came down to this: writing it down AND writing out a detailed plan. I figured out how much we'd have to save on a monthly basis. I broke that down to weekly deposits, and I worked hard to sock away that money. Because we're both self-employed, our income is continuously sporadic. Some months we saved more. Some we saved much less. And we were even hit with unexpected moving costs. Yet I refused to touch whatever I had set aside, even if it meant not eating out that week.
I've read countless budgeting tips and have downloaded multiple budgeting apps. I use these budgeting apps religiously. But it took actually writing down my goal, and coming up with a very detailed plan, to finally make it happen. There's something to be said about good-old fashioned handwriting – the paper and pen locking you in, like a contract. And then dedicating yourself to look at that paper at least once a week, updating it with your progress.
Now what's in store for 2019? Another persistent goal is to finally publish a novel. I've written a few of them, and they all hang over me, like dirty, crusty dishes that refuse to be scrubbed and put away. My novels all need a lot of work: editing, rewriting, restructuring. Hours and hours loom ahead of me. I often say forget it, and curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea or decide it's time to deep clean the storage closet. And then I have a good cry at the end of the year because I failed, once again. I've been longing to publish one of my novels since I was like 20. That's almost 20 years of streaming tears on New Year's Eve.
How do I make it happen THIS YEAR? How do I make 2019 the year I completely finish a novel, edit it profusely, find an agent, find a publisher, and sit back with a sigh of relief on New Year's Eve with a hard copy safely nestled in my hands?
For starters, I need to jumpstart my writing routine. Yes, I spend a good part of the day chasing two small children, cleaning up the wake of their tornadoes. But there are also plenty of hours spent staring blankly at Facebook or binge-watching the latest Netflix phenomenon. So I think a more tangible, immediate goal is to start blogging. My goal is to post something every week this year. That's 52 blog posts that will be online by the time 2020 rolls around. Do you think I can do it? Yes. I can. And I know it'll get me more connected with the immediate satisfaction of writing.
And finally, the goal of tackling these novels. I need to write a super detailed plan, like a syllabus for my work. I think back to my college days and how diligently I slaved away on whatever assignment was at hand, always turning it in by the deadline, waiting for that A to appear in my grade book. I usually hated the assignment, but I still did it and I did it well. It's time to bring out the paper and pen, to write down a month-by-month plan, and to do it. And that means maybe turning off the TV and gasp – taking a break from Facebook.
Here's my suggestion to you and whatever goal/resolution/aspiration you have for 2019: Write it down. Write it multiple places – notebooks, papers pinned up on the wall, reminders that beep every day on your phone. And write out an actual plan. You want to lose weight? Figure out which days you're going to go to the gym, actually write down the specific time in your calendar, print out meals in advance, write down your desired weight, or have a chart with reward stickers. Do whatever it takes but get those details down in print. And obviously make them realistic (at least somewhat). You could set the goal of saving a million dollars in 2019, but maybe it'll be easier to save five grand first?
So here begins the journey of 2019. We'll meet back on December 31st and celebrate our great year of success.
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist & dancer, food enthusiast, and mama. She was runner-up in the 2012 America's Next Author Competition and holds a BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She's currently working on several novels.
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